Stick and String Gobblers

April 4, 2013 - Mathews Inc

If you’re up for the archery challenge this spring, try these tips and tactics to increase your odds.

By Travis Byrd

Pursuing turkeys with archery equipment is considered one of hunting’s greatest challenges. It requires great patience and constant focus. The reward, however, can be a great accomplishment. Matching wits with the sharply honed senses of spring’s monarch is a true test of your ability.

Here are some tips and tactics to help increase your odds of filling your tag with archery equipment this spring.

First, let’s look at the bow. The ideal bow for turkey hunting has a fairly short axle-to-axle length, about 30 to 33 inches, and a high let-off, such as 80 percent.

A shorter axle-to-axle bow will allow for better maneuverability inside a blind or when positioning for a shot. Shorter bows are also less likely to hit the top of the your blind or an unseen branch when shooting, which could make your arrow stray from the target.

A high percentage let-off comes into play when you come to full draw, allowing for a more comfortable, controlled shot.

When selecting a poundage, choose a weight you can draw comfortably and without wasted movement. A good rule of thumb is to pick a poundage you can easily draw while sitting, with the bow directly in front, and then drawing straight back.

For accessories, I highly recommend a fiber-optic sight. With the growth and advancement of the archery industry the past 10 to 15 years, fiber-optic sights have become the norm. Choose a pin size you can see easily, and use no more than five pins. More pins can clutter the sight window and cause confusion on picking the correct pin when aiming. Fiber-optic sights also increase pin visibility during low light, which is a major factor at fly-down time.

Go with a full-capture, drop-away rest, which will help ensure the arrow stays on the rest at all times while you draw and maneuver the bow. Many rests on the market combine these elements. This style of rest also provides increased accuracy, and I don’t know of any bowhunter who doesn’t want increased accuracy.

You have three options for arrows: aluminum, carbon and aluminum/carbon arrows. Aluminum arrows have been pushed to the wayside. Nowadays, it’s much easier to find a dozen carbon arrows than a dozen aluminum arrows, which is opposite of 20 years ago. Carbon arrows are more durable because they don’t bend like aluminum arrows. An unseen bend in an aluminum arrow can go unnoticed until the arrow is fired and wobbles off course.

Turkey TrioThere are two basic types of broadheads: mechanical and fixed-blade. You’ll hear many opinions about both types, but it boils downs to one factor: consistency. If a broadhead does not consistently fly straight and hit the same location as your field points, your odds of success decrease by 99.9 percent. Usually, to achieve such consistent accuracy, you must shoot a lot, make adjustments when needed and ensure that your rig is dialed in. Sometimes, you’ll have to shoot many broadhead models before finding one that achieves that consistent accuracy. When you find the best combo, practice a lot to build confidence in your setup and ability.

Setup Considerations

When your bow setup is lined out, it’s time to find turkeys. There’s no better way of doing that than to use some boot leather.

I scout all the likely spots, including fields, ridges and cow pastures. I’m not only scouting for turkeys but seeking set-up locations. As a bowhunter, your setup is critical, as you must be concealed from the keen eyes of a gobbler when drawing your bow. A portable pop-up blind provides many more options for concealed setups and greatly increases your odds of coming to full draw undetected.

When scouting for setups, also try to determine how turkeys naturally move through the area. It’s better to set up where turkeys want to be instead of trying to call them into an unnatural area.

After I’ve determined where a gobbler is hanging out and have a set-up location, it’s time to hunt. I like to use decoys. Highly detailed, life-like fakes can make the difference between a gobbler coming into range or staying just beyond range. Typically, I’ll use three decoys at my setups. This gives the appearance of, “Hey, something is going on over there,” instead of, “Oh look, there’s a hen.” With several decoys, a gobbler will have less urge to call a hen (decoy) to him and will instead strut in to the action. Decoys will also give a gobbler something to focus on, again providing a greater chance to draw your bow.

I place decoys at various distances from 15 to 25 yards from my setup so they also serve as yardage markers. That way, you already know how far a bird is and can focus on making the shot instead of worrying about the range.

Turkey OrgansMaking the Shot
When shooting a turkey with a bow, there are only a few good spots to aim. The first is the base of the tail fan on a strutting tom that’s facing away. In this scenario, the gobbler’s fan helps conceal your movement when drawing. This shot will likely hit the bird’s vitals or break its back, which instantly immobilizes it.

Another good aiming point is the lower part of the base of the wing when a bird is standing broadside. The vitals on a strutting tom are a little lower than you might think, which is why I aim at the lower portion of the base of the wing. If you break the wing and hit the vitals, all the better.

The third shot should only be taken at a gobbler that’s very close: the head. This shot will typically result in instant death or a clean miss.

Remember, even a tom in full strut rarely stays still, so never attempt a shot that’s out of your comfort zone. Always be confident in the shot you’re about to take, or let down and wait for a better opportunity.

There’s no better time to be in the woods than spring turkey season, and there’s no better feeling than walking up on a downed gobbler that just fell to a well-placed arrow. Use these tips and tactics this spring when attempting one of hunting’s greatest challenges: killing a gobbler with your bow.

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