5 Must-Haves for Bow Hunting Turkeys
Feature Photo: Adam Tungsrud
Bow hunting turkeys in the spring is an exciting time. Last fall’s November bow hunts are a fading memory and work for next fall is right around the corner. The lull of midwinter is over, and there is a breath of fresh air as spring arrives. For many folks around the country, springtime means turkey hunting, and turkey hunting in the spring is a thrilling time to look forward to. Around the country, turkey hunting is full of tradition and heritage. Many folks grow up hunting turkeys from an early age, tagging along with dad, grandpa, or an uncle. Recently bow hunting spring turkeys has become its own tradition. More and more, folks are hitting the turkey woods with bow in hand hoping to come full draw with a nice tom turkey inside the thirty-yard mark. There are obvious items that should be included with every turkey hunt such as your game tag and hunting license, camouflage, and bow and arrow. However, some items are maybe not so obvious. Here is a list of five items to help make your turkey bow hunt successful.
5 Must-Haves when Bow Hunting Turkeys
Make sure you’ve got your favorite turkey call and a spare. Probably the most thrilling and appealing aspect of spring turkey hunting is their responsiveness to calling. Getting a tom turkey on the line of your call, responding with gobbles and closing the distance is a great way to get your blood pumping. The need to have a call you are comfortable with and its ease of use is critical when bow hunting turkeys. It is important to consider the application and techniques planned for the hunt and the use of archery equipment when choosing a call. Due to the unique challenges that bow hunting spring time turkeys presents, a mouth call is often the most practical. Using a mouth call keeps both hands free to hold the bow, steady a nocked arrow and to draw the bow. Juggling a box or slate call along with the bow, arrow and release can be daunting at best. A mouth call gives the turkey bow hunter the freedom to use both hands during the hunt, whether from a blind, or tucked up against natural cover. Also critical to any turkey hunter is having along a second call.
Having a second turkey call in your vest is almost as important as having the first. A second turkey call in your vest is a level of insurance most hunters can afford. Not only does having a second call on a hunt assure you have a backup in the event that one call fails or is left behind when moving setups, but having two calls in different pitches and tones can help give the illusion of multiple birds. One thing that a spring tom hates more than a hen moved from the flock is two hens moved from the flock. Often times just a little change or adjustment in calling tone is all it takes to get that tom to commit.
The second item to make sure you’ve got in your vest for bow hunting turkeys is a rangefinder. Watching a group of turkeys work along the edge of a winter wheat field, or alfalfa patch is exciting and magical, but open fields and edges often make it difficult to accurately judge distances. Bow hunters are a dedicated and methodical bunch, honing their skill and putting in hours of practice. Much of that practice is learning to shoot at varying ranges, and accurately judging the distance to a target. Arguably the most defining factor of the archery shot is the distance to the target. A quality rangefinder used both in practice and in hunting situations is a critical piece of equipment when hunting turkeys. Having a rangefinder you are confident in and familiar with is critical for the bow hunter, and don’t forget a spare battery!
If you are using turkey decoys in your setup, know the distance to your decoys before the action starts. Just like when deer hunting, associating distances with reference points cuts out both time and movement before it is time for the shot.
Decoys are obviously critical when turkey hunting. Whether you prefer using a hen or a jake decoy by themselves, a tom decoy with a hen, or any combination of the three, the use of a decoy on a turkey hunt can be extremely productive. Tom turkeys are very territorial and seeing a strange turkey near their flock is more than they can handle. Young toms and jakes often follow along just outside of the flock’s range hoping to get a chance with a hen. Creating a scenario with a decoy of an unwelcome Jake moving in on a tom’s flock and territory is a great tactic. The turkey decoy serves essentially two purposes for the turkey bow hunter.
- Decoys act as an attractant to tom turkeys and help to draw them into bow range. Ideally when bow hunting , a decoy can be placed inside of twenty yards from the shooter, offering the opportunity of a shot well within bow range.
- A turkey decoy used when bow hunting springtime turkeys also acts as a distraction for the turkeys. Decoys give turkeys working into your setup and to your call something to focus on. A tom turkey following your calls and coming into your area to see a decoy is much more likely to focus on the decoy than the hunter. The distraction of the decoy is often necessary for the hunter to be able to draw their bow, especially when the hunt does not allow for the use of a blind. More often than not dominant birds competing with you decoy will work all the way around your set. This is ideal as a strutting tom loses sight directly behind his fan.
There are many styles of decoys on the market. Be sure to consider realism, weight, and ease of use, not to mention your hunting style when choosing a decoy.
Hunting turkeys with a bow comes with its own challenges. Concealment is even more paramount when pursuing turkeys with a bow. One item to be sure and keep in your turkey vest is some sort of face concealment. Hunting from a blind, tucked under a tree or along a brushy fencerow, being able to hide yourself from the turkey is critical. When bow hunting turkeys, a camouflage face mask or camo face paint should always be along for the hunt. Camouflage has come a long way in recent years, but often times hunters forget to conceal their face. Bow hunting turkeys is difficult enough without proper camouflage, adding this simple item to your arsenal will go a long way to getting birds within range on your next hunt.
Another strong consideration for an item to have in your vest or pack that can be associated with concealment would be a camo ground blind. Essentially a net or very thin fabric, the net creates just enough cover to hide nocking an arrow, bringing up your bow, and even drawing the bow back.
Bow hunting turkeys brings with it equipment associated with the archery setup. Most modern bow hunters shoot a mechanic release when hunting. There are few archers left who remain loyal to finger shooting. Mechanical releases increase accuracy and provide a level of consistency to firing a bow that finger shooting cannot possibly compete with. The improved accuracy and extended range are welcome aspects of using a mechanical release. However, the need for an additional tool, something to break or get left behind or lost can ruin a hunt. When choosing a release to hunt with, make sure to consider purchasing at least two identical releases, and having a spare on every hunt. Too many hunts have been spoiled by a release left at home, or by a malfunction. Crawling along a plowed field behind a turkey decoy, bouncing around in a pickup and firing shot after shot at the practice range can take its toll on your release. Keeping a good working spare release in your pack or vest that is identical to the release you practice and hunt with can go a long way to providing insurance for your hunt.
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Turkey hunting with a bow is a unique endeavor filled with challenges but also filled with equal satisfaction. Chasing long beards with archery equipment has many similarities to traditional turkey hunting, but brings with it unique aspects that require unique tools. Be sure to put these 5 things in your vest before your next turkey hunting adventure.