- Published on Tuesday, 15 May 2012 13:15
- Written by BILL VAZNIS
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Tagging a gobbler with archery tackle is no easy task. In fact, it is nearly impossible for the average bow bender to settle a sight pin on a gobbling long beard and then release a razor-tipped shaft into his vitals without a well thought out strategy. Not only do turkeys have excellent hearing and phenomenal eye sight, they seem to possess an almost supernatural power to detect a human in their midst. One false move, one unwanted noise, and a gobbler will disappear from sight like a bolt of lightning.
So, just how do you get the drop on a mature gobbler? We asked three of the country’s leading turkey hunting experts this very same question, and here is what we learned.
LONG DISTANCE SCOUTING
Garret Armstrong, vice president of Elite Archery, gave up hunting turkeys with a shotgun many years ago and now pursues long beards exclusively with archery tackle. "You don't want to go hunting just for the sake of hunting," explains Armstrong. "You need a plan, and for me that means scouting...lots of scouting..and from a long distance. Indeed, I will scout five days to hunt one, looking primarily for places where turkeys are comfortable in open fields. Why? It is so much easier to decoy a bird to where he wants to be than to try and lure a gobbler to a place he is not comfortable.
"When I find such a field, I set up a blind right in the middle, not near fence rows, barbed wire fences of along a wooded edge where predators are likely to be. I also set the blind up cognizant of the rising sun. You don't want sunlight to penetrate the blind as the birds will see you moving about inside.
"I use realistic looking Dave Smith decoys," adds Armstrong," and make sure one of the decoy birds is always a male. I use it to challenge the pecking order of the local flock. Turkeys present a small kill zone, so I put the decoys out only 5 to 7 yards from the blind, and when the moment of truth arrives, I aim for the head using a guillotine type broadhead."
Mike Arajakis, president of GamePlan Gear, believes that to be consistently successful bowhunting wild turkeys you must take your shot from a ground blind. "I prefer a natural blind, like a dead fall," says Arajakis. "You must be careful however that you are not sky lined or a gobbler will easily pick up on any movements you might make when you are preparing for the shot. The brush behind you is just as important as what is in front of you. Even so, I always prefer to shoot from a sitting position, and rely heavily on a stool with telescopic legs and a triangular seat. As a right-handed shooter, this allows me to drop my left knee to the ground yet keep the lower bow limb off the ground for an accurate shot.
"Nonetheless, you must keep in mind that the kill zone on a mature bird is about the size of a nerf football," cautions Arajakis."I position my decoys close in order to increase my chances of an ethical kill, generally ten to 15 yards out in front of me.
"Many bowhunters who start out trying to bag a gobbler are already fantastic deer hunters, but they can lose their bird if they do not know where to shoot. Head shots are cool when the bird is all fanned out is exciting, but I have found that the best place to aim is at the wing butt straight up at the top of the leg. Pick that spot to aim for before you come to full draw, and your chances of a perfect kill shot are excellent!"
USE A TRIPOD
Jim Kempf, president of Scorpyd Crossbows, is also an avid turkey hunter and believes scouting is paramount to success.
"It is no secret that hunters can up their odds for success by packing a decoy or two into the field with them," says Kempf.
"Sure, you can take a tom without the aid of decoys, but it is a lot of fun watching a boss gobbler come in and attack a decoy. Taking him them with a well-aimed shot is simply tons of fun.
"Nonetheless, it is important for turkey hunters to get out opening weekend when their chances of bagging a long beard are best. Gobblers get educated real fast. They remember danger and will avoid most set-ups once the season gets well underway. Be aware however that one of the biggest mistakes a turkey hunter can make is to over call. Keep it slow and your choice of all calls to a minimum. In areas where hunting pressure is already heavy, excessive calling will also quickly drive birds far away to parts unknown."
Kempf"s real secret to successfully bow-bagging gobbling birds however is taking up an ambush from inside a ground blind and then relying on a tripod to hold his crossbow securely in place inside the blind. "I aim my crossbow in the general direction I expect a bird to appear, " says Kempf. "This leaves my hands free to call and reduces all other unwanted movement to a minimum. It also means I do not have to hold a heavy crossbow in the ready position for a long time. Indeed, you can sit comfortably all morning long, and if the situation demands you can shoot 50 or even 60 yards accurately, further than you can with a compound bow because of the crossbow's increased speed and that fact that there is less movement required to get off a shot."