Successfully taking spring turkeys with a bow requires planning, practice and the right gear. Here are 6 things every bowhunter should do right now to get ready for gobbler season.
Last year’s turkey season treated me very well, with four longbeards falling to my arrows in three different states. A bit of luck certainly played into my success, but I also spent a few months in the pre-season working on my gear and scouting specific spots. The culmination of the planning was that I spent some amazing time in my blinds, but the highlight of the entire season occurred when I shot a tom while one of my seven-year-old daughters hunted with me.
This month, I’m starting the pre-season turkey process all over again to ensure that my shooting skills and equipment are in top-shape before the season opens in April.
I’m also starting to think about taking a few leisurely walks through some of my hunting grounds to take note of where the wintering flocks are right now, because many of those birds will be around when the opening bell rings. If you’re interested in having a killer turkey season this year, you might want to adopt a similar strategy, which starts by planning some appropriate practice sessions.
When it comes to spring turkeys, most of us bowhunt from a hub-style blind. This means that you must be able to draw your bow straight back to your anchor point without lifting your bow arm. In other words, you need to be shooting a bow that is set to a draw weight you can easily handle.
The easiest way to figure this out is to set up a target and hold your bow arm out while loosely aiming your 20-yard pin at the target. Slowly draw the bow while trying to move as little as possible. If you struggle at all, you’re pulling too much weight and should back out your limb bolts by a full turn or maybe two.
Once you can draw this way without struggling in the least, grab your blind chair or an office chair and make sure that when you’re seated, nothing changes in your drawing motion. Eventually, I like to practice wearing all of my gear while shooting out of my blind at a 3D turkey target. If you do this once or twice a week, you’ll be deadly in the field.
Quick Tip: Practicing at all distances can help you become a better shot on turkeys, but to be the most effective make sure you’re truly dialed at close ranges before anything else.
And speaking target practice, consider buying at least one 3D target. They come in full strut or walking/standing turkey options. Either way a life-sized, anatomically correct target will allow you to concentrate on exactly where you should aim on a real bird, and will help you become a better bow shot overall. I like to set up my decoys for close shots, but I always practice with these turkey targets from maybe five yards to 40. This keeps things fun and really allows me to really dial in before the season opens.
Quick Tip: The perfect spot to aim at a turkey is just behind the wing butt on a broadside turkey. For a shot facing straight on or straight away, envision a line between the wing butts and split the difference.
Bowhunting turkeys is also perfect for testing out a single-pin sight, because most shots will be close. If you’ve considered using a single-pin mover for big game but are cautious, try it out during the turkey pre-season and then throughout your hunting season. A lot of archers benefit greatly from an uncluttered sight window as well as a single, vertical pin, which makes target acquisition quick and easy.
Three Mistakes Every New Turkey Bowhunter Should Avoid
1. Not Practicing With Broadheads: Don’t assume that because you choose a mechanical head that it will fly just like your field points. Practice with your broadheads to match arrows to specific heads so you know exactly where your point-of-impact will be.
2. Rushing Your Shot: When a gobbler approaches your decoys, be patient. If you’re using quality fakes, he’ll commit and eventually focus solely on your decoys—usually your jake decoy if you have one out. At that point, you’ll have a perfect opportunity to draw, settle and pick your shot.
3. Not Brushing In Your Blind: Lots of people will tell you that you don’t need to brush your blind in when it comes to turkeys, but don’t believe that. Tuck your blind into the cover well before the season opens if possible, and then brush it in so it truly blends into the environment and won’t flare in the bright sunlight and spook approaching birds.
The biggest considerations for spring turkey hunts are blinds and decoys. When it comes to decoys, I always recommend people buy the best quality, most realistic options available. They are always worth the expense when you’re trying to trick a tom into range.
When it comes to blinds, size, weight, and window configuration are important considerations. If you’ll be hunting with a partner, bigger is always better. If you’ll be by yourself, you won’t need too big of a blind, but no matter what, you’ll want to practice shooting from it regularly before the season starts. Shooting through a blind window can be tricky, and more than a few of us have sent an arrow through the side of our blinds in a panic.
Quick Tip: If you’re shopping for a new turkey blind, pay close attention to the hub-to-hub width and overall blind height. It’s usually a good idea to err on the side that bigger is better.
Not only should you set up your blinds to shoot from them, you should do it just to get used to the process of putting them up and breaking them down. Familiarity here can lead to a lot less stress when it’s dawn and you’re scrambling in the gloaming to quietly erect a blind while birds are gobbling from the roost 150 yards away.
The other thing worth mentioning here is that February is a great time to mess with new calls, or learn to master the ones you already own. I carry several mouth calls in my truck at all times to practice with while I’m driving somewhere by myself. At home, as long as it won’t drive my family or my dog nuts, I’ll spend some time practicing with my slate and box calls as well. As with shooting, a little calling practice each week now will lead to more confidence and success in a couple of months when it’s showtime.
You have a couple of months to get everything dialed before turkey season if you start right now. Consider everything from your bow setup to blind choice to all of your equipment needs now, so that by the time you’re setting a 3:30 a.m. alarm in anticipation of opening morning, you’ll be ready to go.
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About the Author: Tony J. Peterson has written hundreds of articles for over two dozen national and local publications. Although he covers topics related to all forms of hunting and fishing, his passion lies in do-it-yourself bowhunting for whitetail deer and western big game. Peterson is an accomplished outdoor photographer and currently serves as the Equipment Editor for Bowhunter magazine and Bowhunter TV.