Far too many turkeys are wounded with archery equipment each spring and never recovered. As hunters, it’s our responsibility to know the game we pursue and be proficient with our equipment to make a clean and humane kill. And we owe it to ourselves. We spend too much time at the range honing our accuracy, in the field scouting and with our noses in books and magazines studying turkey behavior to let a poorly placed shot be the culprit of a failed hunt.
A turkey’s vital zone is miniscule, about the size of a softball, meaning the margin for error is high. Subtle variances in a tom’s posture or how he’s oriented in relation to you can spell the difference between a wounded bird and a filled tag. Here are some tips on where to shoot a turkey to ensure a proper kill.
Standing Upright, Facing Away
A spine shot, breaking the backbone, will immediately immobilize the bird. While the tom will expire quickly, the shot is highly situational. Wait until the gobbler is standing erect, with his back toward you. If he’s in a feeding position or walking with his head down, that means the spine is in motion - a poor target for an archer. A few sharp but quiet putts or clucks may entice him to lift his head. A low shot will clip the vitals and still likely result in a clean kill, especially when using a wide-cutting mechanical broadhead like the Jak-Knife or Jak-Hammer.
Maybe you have heard the saying, “Hit him high and watch him die, hit him low and watch him go.” Turkey vitals are positioned farther back and higher than most people realize. The best place to aim on a broadside bird is where the butt of the wing connects to the body. Your broadhead will likely break both wings and pierce the heart and/or lungs while it lodges in the bird (which can prevent it from flying) or passes through.
Standing Upright, Facing Towards
Shooting a tom staring you down can be tough, simply because his eyes are honed in on you. When he turns his head, aim four inches below the base of his neck. This will result in a broken back and inflict damage to the vitals as well.
Strutting, Facing away
The old “Texas heart shot” is a great opportunity if the turkey is walking away in full strut. Place a jake decoy 15-20 yards directly in front of and facing you, since most toms will approach a decoy head on. Add a hen or two to increase the realism.
Draw back your bow (his fan will block his ability to see you) and aim for the vent (base of the tail/anus). A solid fixed-blade, such as the Drone, fits the bill in this scenario for a hard-hitting, deep-penetrating broadhead.
Strutting, Facing Towards You
The aforementioned decoy set up will entice a tom to strut in, looking for a fight. Aim slightly below the base of the gobbler’s beard where it protrudes from his chest, which will result in a broken back and damage to the vitals. A wide-cutting mechanical broadhead is a good choice for this angle.
Strutting, Broadside Turkey
This isn’t an ideal shot scenario. Since turkey’s feathers are bristled during a strut, it can be difficult to determine the location of the vitals while they’re broadside. So, wait until his feathers are relaxed or he turns before letting an arrow fly.
Becoming comfortable with your archery equipment and being dialed in before turkey season is the best way to filling your spring tags. Practice with a 3D turkey target and exercise these varying shots. Then, instead of struggling to determine the best shot while afield, it’ll be insintucal.