Turkey Time: 2013
With "Big Game 2012" seasons in the rearview mirror—the next "quest" for many bowhunters will be Spring gobblers in the coming months. With that in mind, we gathered up some "tips & tricks" and advice from some experienced "bow bird" hunters.
Not unlike deer hunting, it seems there are endless products and "tactics" hunters employ in an effort to bag a bird. Whether it's calling, or trying to figure out a "best combination" and/or number of decoys to set out—what works for one may or may not work for another turkey hunter elsewhere. Heck, one setup may work great today … not at all tomorrow. So, while there are no guarantees—it never hurts to try new things. In an effort to maybe share some knowledge with our fellow hunters—I reached out to 4 bowhunters whom I know have had excellent success bagging birds with their bows—and would likely have some meaningful advice to share.
I broke things down into 3-4 basic categories: calling technique, decoy placement, shot placement/preference as well as any "go to" gear for turkey!
Shawn Luchtel, Heartland Bowhunter with a 2012 gobbler
"I typically place a jake or tom decoy out with two hen decoys. I place the male decoy in between the hen decoys and where I think the tom is coming from that I am hunting. The purpose of this is to anger the tom I am hunting by seeing there is a male bird in between him and the hens. Most Midwestern birds are very territorial and aggressive—so having a male decoy usually tends to work.
We used Dakota Decoys last Spring for the first time and loved them. They have a very realistic looking jake that drives the toms crazy. Any dominant bird that comes within sight of this thing would come running"—Shawn Luchtel / Heartland Bowhunter
"Something I have learned over the years as far as decoy placement is to set a half strut jake facing you—as it seems the males want to go face-to-face and fight or intimidate each other. Facing him at you sets up the perfect shot as he gives you that perfect bullseye in full-strut facing away from you"—Art Helin / Art Helin Outdoors
New Archery Nation Field Staff member, Josh Martin, with his sons Hunter & Logan in Kansas
"I believe we all learn from our mistakes and my #1 mistake that I made when first starting to bowhunt turkeys was that I set up my decoys too far from the blind. I was thinking like a deer hunter and didn't realize how oblivious turkeys are to the blinds. I have learned that I want my decoys no farther than 12-15 yards from the blind—that way if the birds get nervous and hang up—they are usually still in range"—Josh Martin / New Archery Nation
"When setting your decoys and blind, you have to visualize how the encounter will play out as best you can in order to have the right windows open and shooting lanes. But … always have a backup plan for shooting option #2"—Joe Diestel / New Archery Nation
"Most importantly, you want the bird to be strutting and NOT moving. If he is moving, give him a few clucks or putts to stop and look to see where the call is coming from. My favorite shot is facing away where you have a clear shot at his spine and vitals. Another good shot is perfectly broadside where you can aim at his wing joint. Once the wing joint is broken he can’t fly and is very easy to finish or will typically die if you have pierced his vitals. Again, my number one tip is to make sure he is not moving when you take the shot. Turkeys tend to move around a lot and A LOT can happen between your arrow leaving the bow and connecting with the bird"—Shawn Luchtel
New Archery Nation Field Staff member, Art Helin with a Wisconsin gobbler
"One tip would be to use a big expandable broadhead—as the vitals are small on a bird. For a side shot, aim center-body, right above the leg. Straight away in-strut—aim at the bullseye!"—Art Helin
"My favorite shot is actually facing in full-strut. The bright red at the base of the neck is very good for putting a pin on him and letting her eat. My most common is the broadside, not strutting. I like to describe the "Stop Button" as couple inches back from what looks like the base of wing. Your up-and-down should be in the very middle of the Bird. Their vitals are the size of a softball—but their G.I. tract is the whole rear of the turkey that isn't feathers—and is very deadly if you give them 3 hrs and a follow-up shot. Last is the facing away shot—strutting or not—center mass!"—Joe Diestel
"No preference on shot placement, but one thing I will do while I'm in the blind is study turkey anatomy on my smartphone at different angles so its fresh in my mind if I do get a shot that day"—Josh Martin
"I’m big on getting a bird to answer and fired up or responsive, then being quiet to make him wonder where I went. Once he can see my decoys I don’t tend to call much at all and let the decoys do the rest of the work"—Shawn Luchtel
"As for calling ... Don't over call! Less calling the better. I've taken guys out that wanted to do their own calling and they sounded absolutely horrible. But, with the only piece of advice I gave them, they still called in and killed their bird; "call very little" ... it seems as though no matter how bad you sound, as long as you don't overcall, you're still okay"—Josh Martin
Shawn Luchtel with the Spitfire MAXX he used on a 2012 Spring gobbler
NAP Turkey Tools:
The Spitfire Gobbler Getter: Available in 100 & 125 grain offerings—and a 1-3/4" cutting diameter—the Gobbler Getter offers the same razor sharp, accurate and deadly punch as the legendary Spitfire®—with the added bonus of a blunted "turkey tip" for increased knockdown power. The concept is simple … since in the case of turkeys, our quarry "can" take flight after the shot—the Gobbler Getter is ideally designed to provide hard-hitting performance—putting the bird down for good, decreasing the likelihood of possibly having to "bloodtrail"/track a wounded bird.
KillZone® Broadheads: Featuring a 2" cutting diameter and razor-sharp blades—the KillZone proved in 2012 to be an excellent large-cut broadhead on everything from turkey to Elk! The standard KillZone is available in 100 and 125gr. offerings, with two optional tip designs—Trophy Tip® or C.O.C. For 2013, there are also 3 new models available for even more options.
F.O.C. Turkey: This bad-boy features a cutting diameter nearing 3 inches—delivered by way of two thick, razor sharp blades. Like the Spitfire Gobbler Getter, the F.O.C. Turkey features a blunted "turkey tip"—and tips the scales @ 170gr.—a lethal combination that delivers hard-hitting knockdown performance.
Last, but certainly not least is one factor that always plays a part in any hunters success afield …
"I used the KillZone last spring and loved it. I killed my birds with no tracking involved. An expandable broadhead is a must when hunting turkeys in my opinion. I have a ton of confidence in my head for any marginal shots I might make. Anyone that seriously bowhunts can count on having a marginal shot somewhere down the road. Preparation and practice are key to avoid losing an animal"—Shawn Luchtel
New Archery Nation Field Staff member, Joe Diestel
"Bowhunting spring turkeys is about one thing: making the shot. The key is proper preparation before he breaks into bow range. The one thing to remember is to "Eliminate Hindsight"—which starts with making sure your bow is tuned and you are dead nuts before heading out. Next I practice how I play. I shoot sitting in my blind chair at 3d turkey targets. Right before season ill shoot out of my blind. The repetition of settling the pin on the turkey target is key for when you have to make a crack shot and let instincts take over"—Joe Diestel
Hopefully something here will prove "new and useful" for our fellow bowhunters. As always, good luck afield and safe hunting!