Bowhunting Turkey Tips—The Do’s And The Don’ts

In Bowhunting by Devin N.

For many hunters, the bow gets packed away as soon as deer season comes to an end, but for the ones who have too much of a passion for the sport and just cannot simply get enough, we keep the bows out.

Having to wait all year just to be able to hunt a few months out of it can be a very difficult thing to do when you truly have a deep love for bowhunting, but it doesn’t have to stop there.  There are other game animals that we can hunt that can hold us over until deer hunting season starts back up and that can even give us a good challenge while doing so.

There are many animals to hunt while deer season is over depending on where you’re located and what time of year it is, including coyote, squirrel, crows, and more, but if you’re looking to give yourself a really good time, then wild turkey hunting is the way to go.

Just like all the other animals listed, the wild turkey is an animal that you will likely hunt during a specific season between certain months, but let me tell you, the hunt is worth it.

Deer are fun to hunt and have given almost every hunter who’s ever headed out to the field a challenge, but smaller game animals such as the turkey can be just as, if not, more challenging to hunt than that.

If you’re new to hunting wild turkey or you just want some tips to keep in mind for when you’re heading out for your next trip, then I’ve got you covered.

I’m going to break down everything you need to know from looking out for what signs to look at and the things you definitely shouldn’t do while you hunt them.  So, just sit back, relax, and take some notes.  

The Scouting Phase

Just like hunting deer, or any animal for that matter, there are signs to look out for and use while you hunt wild turkey.  Scouting for turkey will use a lot of precision planning and a good amount of patience, but if you’re good at looking for other animals and you know how to practice healthy scouting procedures, then this shouldn’t be too hard.

Take into consideration the signs and things around you and you are well on your way to tagging your first or next wild turkey.    

Scoping Out The Area

Scope The Field Out For Moving Turkeys

Before your hunt, you’ll want to identify yourself with the land you will be hunting on.  Using a map to help you navigate throughout where you will be hunting can help with finding areas that the turkey frequent and can also be good for tracking how they move.

Although this is not the actual hunt, you’ll still want to use caution during this step.  Scouting too openly or too loudly can scare the turkey away, therefore, giving you a harder time at checking where they will be located.

So, hunt from the perimeters of the land and use your optics to scope out the rest of the field. 

Hunt At Specific Times

It wouldn’t make much sense to scout for turkey at one time of the day just to hunt at another time, so when performing your scout, you’ll want to go at the same time of day you plan on hunting them at.

This will allow you to accurately track how they move, when they move, and where exactly you need to be set up at.  Different factors can determine a turkey’s movement, so be smart about this part of the scouting process and only go when it makes sense.

Scouting for turkey at one part of the day and then showing up to hunt on another can give you totally different results than you expected.

Resting Area Clues

If you want to find the goldmine for where turkeys spend a lot of their time, then you’ll want to find a resting area.  Resting areas can be hard to spot, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the land, but if you do a good job at looking out for clues, it should be a lot easier.

What you can expect to look for when searching for resting areas are scratchings, droppings, and loose feathers.  If you find an area where you see an abundant of any of the three, then take a picture of or memorize the site as a potential spot to hunt.

To be on the safe side, I’ll usually scout out a few areas I feel turkey are before choosing one definite location to set up at just in case the first spot doesn’t quite work out.

Check Where They Eat

Just like any other living creature, turkey’s have to eat.  Like resting areas, food sources are where you know for a fact that the turkey will be at.  A food source is another goldmine for finding turkey and can be a great spot to hunt as they will likely return here to feed throughout the day until the food runs out.

Choosing Where To Hunt

After all the scouting is finished and you found an area you think will be good enough to hunt, you’ll now want to find the best spot to set up shop at. 

Turkey have eyes that can pick up color the same way we can and are great at spotting predators from a great distance away.  In fact, they can actually see three times better than we can during certain times of the day.

If you want to stay out of the way and hunt from a spot where you will have the most concealment, then hiding under or in a large bush, underneath a huge tree or pretty much anywhere else that can give you a good amount of cover will be your best bet.

Also, make sure the spot you decide to hunt from doesn’t have too many obstacles in front of where the turkey are or where you have set up at so that you are able to make clear shots each time.

You could find the best angle to shoot from in the world, but if there are too many things in the way that could mess up your shot or easily blow your cover, you’ll have to find somewhere else to get situated at. 

Don’t Let Them See you

Hunting From A Blind Will Give You The Ultimate Concealment

As stated before, turkey’s have great eyesight.  If you normally hunt with clothes that are too flashy or in a vest that can easily be spotted, such as an orange blazer, the chances of you being caught will increase tremendously.

Unlike deer, turkey’s have no issue with seeing color, so the only way to hunt them is to blend in with the environment as much as possible.  This means that anything that is brightly colored such as vanes on an arrow or vibrant vests that you typically would use to hunt other animals needs to be replaced.

Fortunately, there are turkey vests that are made specifically for hunting them, so pick one up if you can.  It will make your hunt a lot easier.

As far as covering up colored vanes go, you can just simply take a black marker and color them in until the original color of the vane is no longer visible.    

Scouting In Advance

I guess it’d be common sense to scout a couple days or the day before the hunt, but this is not a good idea for a few reasons.  Turkey can and will move differently from one day to the other depending on the circumstances and can completely mess up your hunting trip if not scouted properly.

For example, if you’ve found a food source that you feel is great to hunt at and within a day that food source runs out, they will likely not go to that spot again until there is more food there.  

Also, if the turkey are too far from a decent supply of water or the water source they were drinking from drys out, they will move for that reason, too.  Turkey will typically always be found by a nearby food and water source, whether that be a mile or two out, and should always be watched just in case either of these run out.

This will also help you understand there moving patterns more, giving you an advantage for when you start the actual hunt.

Only See Hens? Don’t Worry

If hens are the only thing you spot when hunting for turkey, don’t be worried, you are not out of luck yet.  It can be discouraging and disappointing to go on a scouting trip for turkey just to find hens, but the good thing with this is that wherever the hens are, toms will likely be there as well.

Toms can sometimes be found roosting near hens and should always be taken into consideration when you’re scouting for them.  Wherever the hens go, the toms will usually follow, so keep a good eye out for hen populated locations.

The Hunting Phase

There are some things you will want to make sure you bring, do, and wear in order to ensure an awesome turkey hunting experience.  If you utilize the tips and tactics properly, you’ll be more than ready and there will be no reason you won’t be able to make a kill.

You’ll Want Them Close

Having The Turkey Near Your Position Will Make Shooting Them Easier

When hunting for turkey, you’ll want to get fairly close to them. Unfortunately, turkey have a much smaller area to aim at, and hunting them with a bow can be very difficult, so to ensure you get the best shot you can possibly get, and a clean one at that, you’ll have to get close to them.

Missing a shot can scare the whole group away and will make tracking them down again even more difficult and frustrating.  If you’re lucky, you may get another chance at making another shot, but sadly, this isn’t always the case.

Unfortunately, baiting turkey is illegal in most states in America, so if you want to get them close, you’ll have to incorporate some good calls.

Use A Blind

Blinds are awesome to use in any wild game hunting situation and are very handy when you know how to use them, but in my opinion, using them to hunt turkey is mandatory. 

Though it can limit your mobility, it is always recommended to set up a good, man-made blind that is constructed from the resources you have around you to ensure the ultimate amount of coverage.

You may have to adjust your blind or move it in a better location the day of the hunt, so build one that is easy to carry around so that you won’t be confined to one spot the whole trip.

3-D Turkey Target

What better way to prepare for a turkey hunting trip than to shoot at a turkey.  Well, not an actual turkey, but a 3-D target.  Live turkey can be difficult to hit for any hunter, so using a target can help a little with getting your practice in and your kill shots down.

It is said by gun hunters that hunting turkey with a shotgun is even difficult, so if you’re able to get one with a bow, then you’ll likely go down as a legend.  So, with that being said, practicing as much as you can is highly recommended as turkey are known to put up a challenge.

Bring Out The Decoys

If set up properly, decoys can be great for fooling a turkey to fall into your trap.  Most hunters will either set up a single turkey or a group of turkeys and will try their luck at hunting them that way.

When setting up your decoy or decoys, you’ll want to place them in a position to where they are in front of you and in plain sight.  If they aren’t, then don’t put them up.  If you can’t get a clear shot then it isn’t worth the effort.

Decoys can track hens that are ready to take on a duel or a tom that will strut around looking to show off for a hen or show dominance.  So, if you’re on a turkey hunt and your main goal is to tag a tom, then this is a really effective way of doing so.

Turkey Hunting Arrows

Mechanical Broadheads Will Inflict Serious Damage To The Vitals

You’re going to want to go with the cleanest, flesh and feather cutting arrows as possible.  So, when hunting turkey, it is a good idea to have some mechanical broadheads on hand.  Mechanical broadheads that expand are great because they cut into the turkey and then expand causing it to rip away at the turkey’s vitals and also prevent them from flying away or finding cover.

The main objective of using mechanical broadheads is to sustain as much damage as possible when the shot enters the turkey, so pick you up a few and get the absolute most out of your shot on your next trip.

You could score the best shot known to man when it comes to turkey hunting, but if the arrow doesn’t get the job done right on the spot, then you, my friend, will likely be looking at lost game. 

Shoot At The Right Time

Before making your shot, you’ll want to make sure you are getting the best shot that you could possibly get.  Shooting at a turkey is not an easy thing to do, so to reduce the chances of you missing the shot and missing out on everything you’ve prepared so hard for, you need to shoot when the turkey is standing completely still.

If you don’t wait for the right time to make that shot,  you could either miss the target completely or hit the target in an area that’s not vital.  Again, this shot will take precision and practice, so if possible, prepare shooting at 3-d target weeks in advance so that you can make sure your aim is on point and your accuracy is up to par for hunting this extremely challenging animal.    

Imitate Positions

You may end up on your back, stomach, sitting down, or standing from a tree stump when hunting for turkey.  So, to prepare hunting in these particular positions, it is best to practice before the hunt in these particular positions.

You never know what crazy positions you might get into just to get at the right angle to shoot your next shot, so being ready for this is important and can help you a lot in the case that you actually do have to get into one.

While you practice your shot at home, incorporate these hunting positions while you do, so that you can be ready and well-prepared for anything the turkey throw at you.

Shoot For The Sweet Spots

Aiming for the right spots and actually landing them can be difficult to do when hunting turkey, especially for beginners.  But when you do decide to take on that challenge, this is where you’ll aim.

  • Base Of The Neck (When Bird Is Facing you)
  • Anal Vent
  • Wing Butt

These three spots are what I consider the sweet spots and if executed correctly with the right arrows, you should have absolutely no problem taking one of these little guys down.

Remember though, practice your shot extensively before making the trip.  Missing a shot will likely ruin your whole hunt within a matter of a few seconds, so it’s important to get it right the first time around.

Dress To Stay Hidden

Wear The Proper Gear Will Keep You Undetected

Staying hidden is the name of the game when it comes to any hunt, but when dealing with animals that possess the vision that turkey’s do, you’re going to want to take it a step further.

Since turkeys are able to see three times better than we can in the daytime, it is safe to say that moving too much or wearing colors that are too bright will likely blow our cover, so you want to wear gear that will camouflage you well with your environment and will also keep you comfortable at the same time.

Comfortability is just as important as any other aspect of hunting, so make sure you have that right clothing before leaving for your trip, you’ll thank yourself later.

Finish The Job

After you’ve done your scouting, set up where you wanted to hunt, and then got the kill, it’s time to finish the job off.  Turkeys will likely squirm and flap around for a while before they finally die, so placing them on a flat, hard surface and decapitating their head to end their life is always recommended before removing any arrows from their body.

Some hunters suggest just simply stepping on the head, but if you’re not comfortable with this and want to make it a clean kill, then use a small hatchet and cut right at the throat with enough force to smoothly take it off.

What Not To Do

There are a lot of things that can go right when hunting, but there are also a lot of things that could go wrong.  And this will almost always depend on how well you are at dealing with certain hunting situations and how responsible you are when it comes to preparation.

So, if you don’t want to make things potentially harder on yourself, avoid these mistakes and show exactly where you stand as a hunter.

Being Overly Disappointed

Stay Quiet After A Failed Shot To Have A Chance At Another One

I know it’s easy to get frustrated after missing a shot and also know that one can be careless about a hunt after blowing it from a misplaced arrow, but this doesn’t mean that we should react in an upset way.

Once you lose a kill, you may get a little careless with the way you hunt by making noise and doing other things that could blow your cover.  You might think that since you made the shot and lost the group that you’re out of the game, but if you’re quiet enough, you can come back within a day or a few hours and try again.

Being loud will completely scare the birds away from your current hunting position and will ruin your chances of catching one in that same position again anytime soon.

End the trip silently just as you did when entering it and you may just have a second chance at bringing home that kill.

 Not Having Enough Patience

I understand that a little impatience might happen when you are camping out in one spot waiting for the right time to make that perfect shot, but you can’t let it get the best of you. Turkey are very alert animals, so when they feel something is off, whether it be because of you or because or another predator, they’ll be on the defense.

Also, if you’re using any luring mechanisms such as calling, they could get too used to this and eventually not respond anymore.  In that case, ease off the calling and wait and see if they move any closer.

If you haven’t been spotted, then don’t worry about having lost your animal.  Usually, all it takes is a bit more patience and they’ll move in towards you, giving you an opportunity at the shot you’ve been waiting for. 

 Too Out In The Open

Since we know that turkey have great eyesight, we must also know that because of this they are able to spot things a lot easier than other game animals, so it is very important that we stay heavily concealed when hunting them.

Turkey may not be the smartest animals in the world, but their instinctual behavior allow them to easily pick up on any predator and are always on the lookout when they move.  Crafting a blind, finding great cover, and wearing clothes meant for hunting them is crucial to a successful hunt and if you’re too out in the open or have gear that is easily visible, then you might just blow your chance before you even start.

Don’t make the mistake of being too out there and everything should work in your favor. 

Getting Too Close

You’ll Blow Your Shot Pretty Quickly If You’re Too Close

It is great to get as close as possible when hunting for turkey, but too close can be a problem.  Being right on top of the turkey will increase your chances of having your cover blown and will give you little wiggle room for making any mistakes.

Ultimately, how far away you shoot will come down to how comfortable you are with your shot and if you think you can make one that’s clean, but being too far or too close is never a good idea.

Not Enough Preparation

We all can be great hunters when it comes to taking down certain animals, but when dealing with turkey, you better be extremely prepared.  Just because you might know where to shoot at doesn’t mean you’re actually ready to go for the kill.

Practicing your shot, going over your hunting strategies, setting up equipment, and learning how to stay properly hidden will all play a huge role in hunting for turkey and should all be taken into consideration and practiced extensively before you head out to the field.

It’s okay to be a confident hunter, but if that confidence means not preparing for hunts anymore because you feel you don’t need it, then having too much confidence can actually hurt you.

Forgetting Essentials

You’d be surprised at how many people forget the most basic gear such as gloves, hats, and extra arrows when hunting.  Not having these could make a hunt rough and will have you packing up sooner than you thought.

So, with that being said, have extra gear in your bag at all times so that when you do forget, you’ll be covered.

Conclusion

Experienced or not, turkey hunting is nothing to take lightly.  Hard to shoot, difficult to track, and having the capability of spotting predators from great distances away, any hunter will be faced with a challenge.  So, if you’re looking for one, you’ve found it.

Incorporate smart hunting techniques and carry equipment that will help give you the advantage over these birds and you’re in the door.  If you make common mistakes, then you could very well be paying for it.

Use your hunting skills to the best of your ability and there is absolutely no reason you can’t tag a nice, big bird.