Why do most bowhunters leave their archery equipment at home during the spring? I have heard numerous bowhunters say “Using a gun is cheating”. Then that same individual packs a shotgun into the turkey woods the very next spring. Self proclaimed “Bow Only Hunters” tote shotguns to the turkey woods because its easier. Period. I’d like to think seasoned bowhunters caught bragging about their archery skills would’t be scared to go after a silly little bird with one too!
Bowhunters thrive on going the extra mile. After all, we are all in the woods for the experience. That’s why we took up archery in the first place. So why take a shortcut with turkeys? It wasn’t easy with deer at first. You shouldn’t expect it to be any different with a bird with vision as good as a deer’s smell; not to mention the turkey numbers in Louisiana are nowhere near the deer numbers. So for some, kill opportunities are few and far between. We tell new bowhunters that you have to be willing to completely give up your gun to get a buck with a bow. The same goes for their smaller feathered friends. So here’s a few tips to set yourself up for success this spring while jumping in head first.
Like I mentioned earlier turkeys #1 strength is their eyesight. Not only do you have to be camo head to toe but it helps to remove all you super fashionable neon accessories from your bow. You’ve got some movement to make before you can kill a bird within archery distance and these wary birds can see in color; sharp, vivid, ultra HD color. So don’t help them by bringing your flourescent pink bow to the woods. I also recommend gloves and a full face mask, or facepaint if you’re a makeup kind of guy. (sarcastic font) The next step in camouflage mastery is hiding your movement. Some bowhunters opt to use a full groundblind. I prefer to stay mobile on a turkey hunt so I pack light and use natural cover to my advatage. I throw pine needles, leaves, and sticks in my lap, hide behind freshly greened bushes or low hanging limbs. ASAT camo is a favorite of mine in the spring as well to help destroy the ever so visible human outline. Coming to full draw while a bird with Superman vision is 20 yards from you is no easy task.
DECOYS AND CALLS
Decoys and call use for deer have limited results and are spotty tools in some cases; most useful for specific situations. For turkeys, your decoys and calls are a must! You don’t stand a spikes chance in a Tensas lottery hunt of tagging out without being confident in your decoy setup and calling ability. Talkin’ the Talk Custom calls makes the only calls I use for both deer and turkey. Be sure to check them out. There are 3 main calls you need to know to get a turkey located and into bow range: an owl hoot, a crow caw, and a hen yelp. The owl hoot will get them to give up their location early in the morning. It’s the first sound I make out of the truck. It’s important to do this one first because you can be soft with it. If you have no idea where the birds you’re after are roosted be subtle with your first hoot. They may be right over you! After the sun comes up a little or if I hear a gobble in the distance I switch to the louder crow “caw”. This one will keep them gobbling while you’re getting in place to cut them off. Be carfeul not to get too close when setting up. Bring them to you. Don’t go to them. As for my choice in decoy sets I usually go with 2 hens and a jake. It has worked for me in the past multiple times so I’m sticking with it. Once you are completely set up, THEN and ONLY then do you switch to a simple yelp. This will start them in your direction. The worst thing you can do is start with a turkey call too soon and end up with birds spotting you or in your set before you are completely ready. Be patient.
It’s very easy to over call for turkeys. Listen close to the gobbles. Learn to recognize what it sounds like in the tree, and on the ground. Learn to notice the directional difference when they’re on the move. If they get lighter and it seems like they’re going the opposite direction it’s ok to ramp up the intensity or even pick up and move. If the gobbles are progressivly getting louder and closer together a yelp here and there will be more than sufficient. They’re probably already coming right towards you! Once your birds have arrived into your spread don’t panic. Wait for a clear shot, move slowly and enjoy the show. Watching a turkey attack your decoy or come to full strut, tail fanned out and puffed up is one of the most beautiful displays nature has to offer. They don’t leave good blood trails though so you’ve got to make a lethal shot the first time. Get familiar with the vital kill zones before you head into the woods. A good way to do this is by practicing at a lifesize turkey target like the ones from Yo Buddy Targets. The safest shots are either, take his head off, or shoot him square in the chest between the beard and wattle. (the red fleshy, dangly thing on his neck) Both of the shots will result in an instant flop and that’s what you want. If it’s a broadside shot I recommend the shoot and run method. As soon as you shoot, GET HIM! They are fast runners and a wounded turkey can get away in a hurry.
I hope this article will give you some confidence and maybe a sense of direction on where to start if you’ve considered turkey hunting this spring, especially with your bow. Some of our WMA’s are loaded with them, and I bet a few early morning visits to your deer lease will result in hearing a gobble or two. Good luck, and don’t be afraid of failure. Take the lessons you learn and make your next shot a sucess. On another note our neighbors to the west have an abundance of Rio’s. Texas is a great place to get your feet wet!