Spring Turkeys…The Archer’s Way

By John Arman, Co-Host of Ultimate Outdoor Adventures TV


The majority of bowhunters I know began their archery careers by hunting whitetail deer, and then eventually, as their archery skills improved they chose to pursue other big game. However, wild turkey numbers having been on the increase making it an overlooked goldmine for most bowhunters. If you have never hunted turkeys with archery equipment, you just might be missing out on some of the most abundant and thrilling hunting you can imagine. WesternEastern

As a hunter sets out in pursuit of these weary birds he/she will soon come to realize that turkeys are in the running for one of the toughest quarries a bowhunter can face. These shifty birds are known for their legendary eye sight which is second to none. They are able to see in almost a complete circle and have the ability to pick up the slightest movement from near or a far. Their hearing is better than average and they have the uncanny ability to pin point where the sound is coming from. These sometimes awkward looking long legged birds can reach speeds of 18-20 miles per hour on the ground and 50 miles per hour while flying. No wonder wild turkeys have left many hunters, myself included, just shaking their heads. Thank goodness they don’t have a nose like a whitetail or we might be eating chicken for Thanksgiving.

Although there may not be the “perfect" archery setup for hunting spring strutting longbeards, I recommend using the same setup you are comfortable with and have used for your other outings.

Although there may not be the “perfect” archery setup for hunting spring strutting longbeards, I recommend using the same setup you are comfortable with and have used for your other outings.

Archery equipment for turkeys…

Although there may not be the “perfect” archery setup for hunting spring strutting longbeards, I recommend using the same setup you are comfortable with and have used for your other outings.  My preferred setup begins with my Hoyt Carbon Spyder 30 which works great while hunting from within a ground blind and/or while using natural cover for concealment.  Teamed up with my Easton Carbon Deep Six Injexion arrow I prefer a mechanical broadhead such as the NAP D6 Spitfire Maxx because of the extra shock on impact. However, a fixed blade will also do the trick. Shot placement is the key no matter the quarry and it’s especially important when shooting turkeys. The trick is to do as much damage as possible. I like to aim just below the back and the base of the neck when presented with a broadside shot. However, my favorite is shooting them as they are facing away and taking them through the back. When hitting the spine you disable the bird completely and prevent him from flying away.

Pre-Scouting…

Like any hunting situation, the more time spent out in the field scouting, the bigger and better the end results. It is a good idea to spend several days in the area you will be hunting in order to locate and pattern these birds. One thing I like about hunting strutting longbeards is that they are very visible and are somewhat habitual in their daily routine. Unlike whitetails and other big game, turkeys for the most part, are visible throughout the day here in North Dakota.

First try and locate their preferred area of roosting. Oftentimes, especially while hunting in areas that don’t have many large trees, these birds can be predictable where they roost. They seem to prefer areas close to water and like to roost in large cotton woods, 50-60 feet tall with lots of smaller branches. Whatever the type of tree you need not look far to find the obvious signs. Look under the trees and you will find it littered with droppings and most often feathers. Finding the roosting area isn’t always tough but being able to set up in a good location can be…the closer the better. And, when possible try and set up within gliding distance of the roost. Yet not so close that the birds will see you before they glide down from their roost. The second area I like to look for is their strutting areas or feeding areas. These are good places to set your blinds up the day before.

Turkeys tend to stick to the same areas as long as they are not disturbed. By driving around in the afternoons and glassing the field edges you can pick up on some of their favorite hangouts.

Don’t be afraid to keep it simple…

After locating the birds and strategically setting a ground blind such as an Ameristep Bone Collector Blind, it’s time to put your skills to the test.  I like to set up a couple of hen decoys as well as one jake decoy. Setting the decoys in an open area 12-15 yards from the blind will allow them to be highly visible and give you a shot that’s within twenty yards.  If at all possible, set your hen decoys up facing the opposite direction of the toms approach and the jake facing him. This will help to keep the tom’s attention as he tries to entice the ladies to come his direction. Not being able to get the attention of the hen decoy, the mature tom will assume the inferior Jake is a threat which will get his blood pumping.

Like any hunting situation, the more time spent out in the field scouting, the bigger and better the end results.

Like any hunting situation, the more time spent out in the field scouting, the bigger and better the end results.

Calling Turkeys…

Now believe me, I am no champion turkey caller, but what I have learned from others and my own experiences is you don’t have to be a world champion to call in daddy long beard. I like to use a combination of a diaphragm, slate and a box calls and would highly recommend asking the experts at Scheels when it comes to purchasing calls that will best meet your needs. The first thing I have figured out is there is no such thing as calling to softly but you can call too much.  Soft yelps and a little excitable cutting are the two sounds I am comfortable using along with a soft purr.  A common mistake made by many hunters is rushing things. Give the gobbler some time. Once you have his attention, don’t rush, but rather, try to relax and think it through. There are times you need to hustle and move; however, more times than not, you need to be patient and wait.

Just remember, like all things, practice makes you better and if you don’t try you will never succeed. Just do your homework, practice your skills and I guarantee that you will find the challenge and thrills of turkey hunting with your archery equipment an addictive spring activity.  Spring turkey hunts can also be the best time to introduce and young or new hunter to the sport of hunting.

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