By Jackie Holbrook
Shot placement is everything in bowhunting, and bowhunters must always aim for quick and ethical kills.
That usually means hitting what hunters call “the vitals,” an animal’s heart-and-lung region. A deer’s vitals are about the size of a paper plate. A turkey’s vitals, however, are only the size of a baseball.
Wild turkeys are fun and challenging to hunt with archery equipment. Toms come in to calls and decoys, and often put on a show. When a bowhunter’s adrenaline is pumping, and the turkey’s feathers are swaying, aiming becomes challenging.
Don’t despair. If you’re packing your bow when hunting gobblers this spring, read this breakdown to learn where to place lethal shots.
You’re in the woods well before shooting light, and you set up close to where you saw a big tom roost the night before. When it struts into range with its puffed-up feathers, you think, “This is it!”
Be patient. When at full strut, a tom thinks it looks something special to hens. But those puffed-up proportions are a problem for bowhunters. They make it hard to pinpoint the tom’s heart and lungs.
A turkey’s heart and lungs are just behind the wing where it joins the body. If you’re a seasoned deer hunter, think of that spot as the turkey’s shoulder. As with deer, the ideal broadside shot is right behind the shoulder.
When aiming at a gobbler that’s quartering toward you, picture two intersecting lines. Their intersection marks the spot. The experts at Mathews Archery recommend “drawing” a horizontal line backward from the base of the tom’s beard. Next, “draw” a second line straight up from the offside leg. The lines’ intersection puts a bull’s-eye on the tom’s vitals.
If you’re at full draw and the tom suddenly faces you head-on, aim just above its beard and just below the base of its neck. An arrow striking that spot devastates a turkey’s vitals.
If all you see is the turkey’s fan moving away, you still have a shot. When the tom comes out of strut, place your sightpin in the middle of its back. This shot breaks the spine and strikes the vitals.
You would never take a headshot with a bow on big-game animals, but it’s an ethical shot on turkeys because the wounding risk is low. Shots aimed there usually cause a clean miss or quick kill. It’s a good option for anyone worried about wounding a turkey.
A turkey’s head makes a small target, and the bird’s erratic moves make it challenging to shoot at the right time. Try to call the tom in close, and aim where the head joins the neck. Ask the experts at an archery shop about broadheads designed for head-shooting a turkey.
Before your bowhunt, study shot placements on gobblers from every angle, and carefully determine your limitations. Shots from the front or rear, and to the head, make for lethal but small targets. If you’re a beginner, those shots might not be ideal. Even broadside shots present small targets, so know your effective range. For help with calls, decoys, broadheads or other equipment, visit an archery store.
Turkey hunting with a bow is tough, but each success rewards you with an exciting encounter and delicious meat.