As an avid turkey hunter and guide for 15+ years, I have certainly made and seen my fair share of archery turkey mistakes. Bow hunting wild turkeys certainly comes with its own unique set challenges with shot placement being the biggest. In this article we share some major key points that will increase your chances of a successful turkey recovery with a bow.
With turkey season in full swing across the country more and more turkey hunters are hitting the field with a bow as their method of take. Well equipped and properly set up archery tackle can certainly do the job but it is important to have a good understanding of shot placement when using archery equipment. To have proper shot placement you must have a solid understanding of turkey anatomy.
Not including the spine, turkeys vitals are roughly the size of two fists closed together. Much smaller than any of the top game animals pursued in the US with archery equipment. Understanding the location of this area is the key for proper shot placement. The vitals in a turkey are high in the body cavity. A good rule of thumb on a broadside turkey is to aim straight up the leg at the wing crease. For a more precise and visual example check out the video below.
Keep in mind that if the gobbler is in full strut, you have to account for an area above the vitals that will be just feathers, and an area below that is just breast meat. A bird in full strut greatly exaggerates his size and is often the reason an archer misplaces the shot.
One of the best shots you can take on a turkey is when he is directly facing away from you. Turkeys have a 270 degree field of vision, so your only opportunity to get away with any movement is when he is behind a tree, or in full strut facing away from you. This is the perfect time to send an arrow directly up his vent. The tail fan, and rear feathers make a perfect bullseye, and as long as this shot is centered, your bird should go down immediately. This shot will often take out the neck vertebrae as well if you get enough penetration.
Another popular shot is right above the beard as the turkey is facing you. This shot also can take out the spine, as well as entering directly into the vitals, resulting in a fast recovery. This is a deadly shot but if you are in the open or in a blind with a large window, be cautious of being seen. Not only by the bird you are targeting but by any other birds close by as well.
Head shots with today's decapitating broadheads are also very effective and speak for themselves. Patience is paramount when using a decapitating head with most hunters aiming for just below the gobblers head, at an outstretched neck. For those of you brave enough to take head shots with your normal fixed or mechanical broadheads, good for you! This is either a hit or miss scenario and is awesome when it comes together!
Turkey hunting brings a high level of adrenaline which can often lead to rushing the shot. Take your time, and wait for the perfect moment. I know that is easier said than done, as I myself have let the arrow fly as soon as a gobbler got in range leading to a missed shot. I have also been so excited that I have ignored obstacles such as brush and briars because I was so focused on the bird and releasing an arrow. These were failed hunts, but great learning experiences.
AFTER YOU RELEASE THE ARROW
One of the most important tips I can give you is about after your shot. Whether you get a passthrough or your bird runs off seemingly uninjured with your arrow, resist the urge to run after it! Sit tight, softly call, and try to calm the birds down. Often the injured bird won't go far and you will find him close to where you last saw him. If you run out of the blind and give chase, you will have a high risk of that bird making it to the next county before he expires. Use the same patience it took you to get your shot to just sit and give your bird time to expire. Give a turkey as much time as you would any big game animal.
Bowhunting turkeys can be a real challenge and at times it may seem impossible but I promise you this...Stay persistent, stay patient, keep working in positive spirits, and good things will come. Most of all remember to have fun, enjoy the spring and your fellow hunting friends! Good luck out there!
Author: Chris Creed, Afflictor Broaheads