Spring turkey hunting is easy – or is it?
Birds often don’t get the respect they deserve as challenging quarry especially when they weigh 18 pounds and stand in the middle of the road looking stupid – really stupid. In parts of Montana like the Bitterroot Valley where I spend much of my time turkeys have become a nuisance for landowners. Here, turkey poop plagues the back porches and driveways of homeowners where flower beds become dusting sites and gardens are perfect scratching areas. This is bad for homeowners but good for bowhunters. At least in theory.
Bowhunting turkeys is more acceptable by homeowners living in cozy neighborhoods than gun hunting because a loud bang at 6:30 in the morning isn’t exactly the best way to introduce oneself. But bowhunting is much more complicated than shotgunning. It’s tougher – way tougher. I cringe when I hear that new bowhunters are “going to try turkey hunting first then work up to bigger animals.” After two decades of hunting turkeys from the east coast to the west coast the idea that turkeys are easier to kill with a bow than a deer is completely backwards.
Turkeys absorb the impact with feathers and body movement, their vitals are tiny and poor broadheads with great marketing confuse the issue. I’ll go on record as stating that turkeys are NOT a good first bowhunt but here is what bowhunters need to know about shooting turkeys.
HITTING THE MARK
The vitals on a turkey are tiny and if you miss there’s a good chance the arrow will leave with the bird. Archery targets of the 3D variety often have the ten ring right about on the wing bone and I’ve read a hundred articles or so about waiting for a “broadside shot”. I’ve seen the effects of broadside shots when #70 compound bows fail to penetrate more than two inches with broad side shots and I’ve watched arrows from #50 pound recurves deflect off wing bones.
Now to be fair I’ve also watched arrows blow through turkeys like tissue paper. But after watching dozens of arrows fly after turkeys the front – on shot at a strutting turkey has proven to be the most effective. There isn’t a heavy wing bone or massive feathers to get through to reach those well protected vitals and when the arrow goes through the bird the chance for hitting the spine are pretty good which puts the big birds down fast.
Fast arrows don’t mean squat if they don’t weigh much. Too many bowhunters get sold on the idea that a fast arrow is a well penetrating one. That is simply not true especially when it comes to a light animal bundled in impact-absorbing-feathers.
Turkey hunters should use arrows NO LESS THAN 10 grains per pound of bow weight. To put that into perspective if I have a #50 pound bow my arrow should weigh 500 grains. Why? Because heavy arrows penetrate best. Period.
At the risk of sounding blunt – some broadheads suck. There, I said it. There are broadheads on the market that are absolutely horrible for turkey hunting but the marketing is equally incredible. This article is about using the right equipment for quick kills and not free ink for broad head companies but a fixed blade broadhead – NOT MECHANICALS – (sorry mechanical broad head companies but a mechanical shot from a kids #40 pound bow is not good).
I know that somewhere there is a guy or gal reading this with a story about a turkey hunt that went great with a mechanical and that somewhere along the way another hunter they know shot 80 yards at a buffalo and the arrow went through leaving a great blood trail. I also know a guy who landed an #80 pound salmon on 2 pound test line. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to take a new salmon fisherman out and put a rod in his hand that is set up for brook trout fishing.
There are many broad heads available that will penetrate turkeys effectively. Fixed blade broad heads are the best especially for new bowhunters. (note the judo point pictured here should never be used for turkey hunting)
If you can hit a dime sized target from your ground blind every time and have 20 years experience behind a bow that’s great – take your bow hunting tackle and go for it. But when you are helping a new bowhunter think about increasing the odds for success not increasing the challenge. Just shooting an animal is challenge enough.
Bowhunting is hard but bowhunting turkeys can be down right miserable unless the bowhunter put a lot of thought into his or her equipment. Heavy arrows, fixed blade broadheads and waiting for a frontal shot are going to go a long way to making your first turkey hunting experience a positive one.