Turkey Hunting With a Bow

Turkey hunting with a bow requires a heightened level of prowess paired with flawless execution. There’s no room for mistakes. Second chances are rare. It’s why experienced turkey hunters do everything within reason to give themselves an edge while afield.

For starters, tune your bow for turkeys. It’s quick and easy. However, many hunters enter the woods with the exact setup they used for whitetails. They’ll also carry slate and box calls without stopping to think how they’ll use them with a bow and release in their hands. You can also forget about shooting out to 40 or 50 yards. In fact, think of it as a separate pursuit from bowhunting big game.

Adjust Draw Weight 

A turkey has less bone mass than a deer, so adjust your draw weight to no more than 55 pounds. Anything more is overkill. In fact, excessive kinetic energy can hurt the likelihood of finding a tom hit even with a well-placed shot. A pass-through may allow the bird to run or fly. While turkeys are not the most graceful creatures ever to take flight, they can still get far enough away to make recovery difficult, if not impossible. A slower arrow, resulting from a lower draw weight, will often embed itself in the bird, making escape much tougher. With a lower draw weight, you’ll have the ability to move slowly and hold longer.

Adjusting your draw weight is a good idea to reduce your arrow's kinetic energy, thus increasing your chances of harvesting a tom.

Choose the Right Broadheads

Some manufacturers produce a turkey hunting broadhead with barbs to impede penetration. This isn’t ideal because the damage inflicted is far less when compared to traditional fixed blade and expandable broadheads. Many states don’t allow barbed heads, either. So choosing the right broadheads is another important step in tuning your bow.

The Z-Force, with a 1 5/8-inch cutting diameter, inflicts enough damage to ensure a clean recovery. The Jak-Hammer, with a 1 ¾-inch cutting diameter, offers a huge benefit for bow hunters since a turkey’s vital area is so small. The Hammer SST is an excellent fixed-blade choice. Its 1 3/16-inch cutting diameter is paired perfectly with traditional bows delivering lower kinetic energy.

Use the Right Gear

While a shotgun easily rests upon your knees when setup, a bow will always occupy one hand and a release the other. This makes using a box or slate call impractical, whereas a diaphragm call allows you to remain hands free. When you’re at full draw, you’ll also have the opportunity to cluck lowly a time or two to stop the tom in his tracks and allow for a shot.

Using a decoy offers several advantages. Use it as a yardage marker, out to 20 or 30 yards from your blind. Due to a turkey’s small kill zone, most shots will need to be within 40 yards for a clean harvest. Pair a jake with a receptive hen, a combination that’ll drive a gobbler mad.

When turkey hunting with a bow, a jake and hen decoy combination is hard to beat.
When turkey hunting with a bow, a jake and hen decoy combination is hard to beat.

Unlike deer and other big game, turkeys can see the full color spectrum, including UVA light. That means the bright fletching on your arrows will stick out to a gobbler. Use earth-colored fletchings like olive drab or brown. You can even opt for camouflage arrows instead of black shafts.

Stay Concealed

A turkey’s vision is about three times better than a human due to its telescopic eyesight. Its field of vision spans 270 degrees. That makes camouflage perhaps the most important factor when turkey hunting. Wear a facemask, hat, gloves, a long shirt and pants to conceal every inch of your skin. Plus, if you’re hunting in the South, it’ll make the mosquitos work harder to get to you (they still will regardless of what you do).   

A pop-up blind gives you an incredible amount of mobility and concealment while turkey hunting. Many ground blinds available these days are light and small enough to stick in your turkey vest or will sling over your shoulder with ease. No brushing necessary.

If you prefer to hunt light, you can always build a makeshift blind out of natural materials and camo netting. Regardless, take all steps necessary to break up your silhouette. Because even if you’re the best caller in the world, if you don’t take all the necessary precautions, you may be heading to the truck empty-handed all spring.