Turkey Hunting: The Art of Bowhunting Turkeys

Turkey Hunting: The Art of Bowhunting Turkeys

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the art of bowhunting turkeys! If you are a hunting enthusiast looking to enhance your skills and take on the exhilarating challenge of hunting turkeys with a bow, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will delve into various aspects of turkey hunting, including essential techniques, equipment recommendations, and expert tips to help you succeed in your bowhunting endeavors. So, grab your bow, get ready to immerse yourself in the thrilling world of turkey hunting, and let’s explore the art of bowhunting turkeys together!

Understanding Turkey Behavior

Types of Turkeys

When it comes to turkey hunting, it is essential to have an understanding of the different types of turkeys. There are mainly two species of turkeys that hunters encounter in North America:

  1. Eastern Turkeys: This species is the most widespread and can be found in the eastern parts of the United States and Canada. Eastern turkeys are known for their large size and dark plumage.

  2. Rio Grande Turkeys: These turkeys are primarily found in the southwestern parts of the United States and northern Mexico. They have lighter plumage compared to Eastern turkeys and are slightly smaller in size.

Turkey Habitat

Knowing the preferred habitat of turkeys is crucial for a successful hunt. Turkeys are adaptable birds and can be found in various habitats across North America. Some common turkey habitats include:

  1. Forests: Turkeys are often found in mature forests with a mix of hardwoods and coniferous trees. They rely on these habitats for roosting, nesting, and finding food.

  2. Open Fields: Turkeys also venture into open fields, especially during the breeding season. They use these areas for feeding and displaying their courtship behavior.

  3. Edge Habitats: Edge habitats, such as the border between forests and fields, are also popular among turkeys. These areas provide a mix of cover and open space, making them attractive for feeding and roosting.

Turkey Behavior Patterns

Understanding the behavior patterns of turkeys is crucial for a successful bowhunt. Here are some key behavior patterns to keep in mind:

  1. Roosting: Turkeys roost high up in trees during the night for protection from predators. They prefer sturdy trees with thick branches for roosting.

  2. Strutting: Male turkeys, also known as toms, strut to attract females during the breeding season. They puff up their feathers, fan out their tails, and make impressive displays to establish dominance.

  3. Feeding: Turkeys feed primarily on a variety of seeds, nuts, berries, insects, and small reptiles. They scratch the ground to uncover food and can cover a considerable distance while foraging.

  4. Gobbling: Male turkeys gobble to communicate with other turkeys, especially during the mating season. Gobbling is a distinct vocalization that can help hunters locate and call in turkeys.

By understanding the different types of turkeys, their preferred habitats, and behavior patterns, hunters can enhance their chances of a successful bowhunt. It is essential to study and observe turkey behavior to make informed decisions while out in the field.

Choosing the Right Bow and Arrows

Bow Selection

When it comes to turkey hunting with a bow, selecting the right bow is crucial. The bow you choose should be specifically designed for hunting purposes, offering the necessary power and accuracy to effectively take down a turkey.

Consider opting for a compound bow, as it provides a good balance between power and maneuverability. Compound bows are known for their high velocity and kinetic energy, which are essential for ensuring a clean kill. Additionally, they offer adjustable draw weights and lengths, allowing you to customize your setup according to your comfort and shooting style.

Arrow Selection

Equally important as the bow is the selection of arrows. Choosing the right arrows can greatly impact your success in bowhunting turkeys. Look for arrows that are specifically designed for hunting, as they are designed to penetrate the tough feathers and skin of turkeys.

It is recommended to use carbon arrows, as they are lightweight, durable, and have excellent accuracy. Carbon arrows also provide better speed and kinetic energy compared to aluminum arrows. Make sure to select arrows with the appropriate spine stiffness and length for your bow, as this will ensure optimal performance and accuracy.

Broadhead Selection

Selecting the right broadheads is crucial for a clean and ethical kill when bowhunting turkeys. Broadheads are the cutting tips that attach to the end of your arrows, and they play a vital role in ensuring a swift and efficient kill.

For turkey hunting, consider using broadheads with a small cutting diameter. This is because turkeys have relatively small vital areas, and a smaller cutting diameter will result in better accuracy and penetration. Look for broadheads specifically designed for turkey hunting, as they often feature special designs such as wide-cutting blades or unique tip shapes to enhance their effectiveness.

Remember to always check the regulations in your area regarding broadhead types, as some regions may have specific requirements or restrictions.

By carefully selecting the right bow, arrows, and broadheads, you can significantly increase your chances of success while bowhunting turkeys. Make sure to invest time in researching and testing different options to find the perfect combination that suits your hunting style and preferences.

Preparing for the Hunt


Before going on a turkey hunting trip, it is essential to spend some time scouting the area. Scouting helps you identify the best locations to set up your hunting blind or tree stand. Look for signs of turkey activity such as tracks, feathers, droppings, and scratching in the ground. Pay attention to roosting areas, feeding sites, and travel routes. By understanding the turkey’s behavior and habitat, you can increase your chances of a successful hunt.

Camouflage and Concealment

Turkeys have incredibly keen eyesight and can quickly detect any movement or unusual colors. Therefore, proper camouflage and concealment are crucial for a successful turkey hunt. Choose camouflage clothing that matches the surroundings of your hunting area. Opt for patterns that mimic the foliage and terrain. Additionally, consider using a camouflage face mask, hat, and gloves to further blend in with your surroundings. It is important to remain as still as possible and avoid any sudden movements to avoid alerting the turkeys.

Calling Techniques

Mastering the art of turkey calling is essential for a successful bowhunting experience. There are various types of turkey calls, including box calls, slate calls, diaphragm calls, and locator calls. Each call produces different sounds, imitating different turkey vocalizations. Practice using these calls to mimic hen yelps, clucks, purrs, and gobbles. It is crucial to sound natural and realistic to attract turkeys. Additionally, learn the proper cadence and rhythm of each call to create an enticing and convincing turkey language.

Remember, practicing patience, persistence, and safety are equally important aspects of turkey hunting. By thoroughly preparing for the hunt, scouting the area, camouflaging yourself effectively, and mastering calling techniques, you can enhance your chances of a successful bowhunting experience.

Shot Placement and Ethical Considerations

When it comes to turkey hunting, shot placement is crucial for both a successful and ethical hunt. As responsible hunters, it is essential to ensure a clean and humane kill. Understanding the vital areas to target, shot angles, and how to avoid inhumane shots are all vital aspects of ethical turkey hunting.

Vital Areas to Target

Knowing the vital areas to target on a turkey is essential for an effective shot. The main goal is to deliver a lethal shot that ensures a quick and humane kill. The vital areas on a turkey include the head, neck, and upper body. The headshot is the most effective and humane shot, as it instantly incapacitates the turkey, resulting in a swift and ethical kill. However, headshots can be challenging due to the small target area and the quick movements of turkeys. In such cases, targeting the neck or upper body is also effective, as these areas contain vital organs and arteries that, when hit accurately, will lead to a quick and ethical kill.

Shot Angles

Shot angles play a crucial role in shot placement and determining the effectiveness and ethics of the shot. The ideal shot angle for turkey hunting is broadside or slightly quartering away. A broadside shot refers to a turkey facing directly away or towards the hunter, providing the best opportunity to hit the vital areas accurately. A slightly quartering away shot allows for a clear line of sight to the vital areas, ensuring a clean and ethical kill. Hunters should avoid taking shots at turkeys facing directly towards them, as this increases the risk of non-lethal shots or injuring the turkey without a clean kill.

Avoiding Inhumane Shots

As ethical hunters, it is our responsibility to avoid inhumane shots that may cause unnecessary suffering to the turkey. Inhumane shots include shooting at long distances where accuracy may be compromised, shooting at turkeys facing directly towards the hunter, or shooting at non-vital areas. It is important to practice patience and wait for the right moment to take the shot, ensuring a high chance of accuracy and an ethical kill. Additionally, hunters should consider using appropriate equipment, such as high-quality bows and arrows, to maximize accuracy and minimize the risk of non-lethal shots.

In conclusion, shot placement and ethical considerations are crucial aspects of turkey hunting. Understanding the vital areas to target, shot angles, and how to avoid inhumane shots is essential for a successful and ethical hunt. By prioritizing clean and humane kills, we can contribute to the preservation of the sport while showing respect for the turkeys we pursue.

Tracking and Recovering

In the thrilling world of turkey hunting, tracking and recovering a shot turkey is an essential skill that every bowhunter should master. It not only ensures a successful hunt but also promotes ethical hunting practices. This article will delve into the various aspects of tracking and recovering turkeys, including blood trailing, tracking techniques, and post-shot considerations.

Blood Trailing

One of the primary methods used for tracking wounded turkeys is blood trailing. When an arrow penetrates the turkey’s body, it often leaves a trail of blood behind. This blood trail can be a vital clue in locating the wounded bird. As a bowhunter, it is crucial to recognize and interpret different types of bloodstains to determine the severity of the shot and the direction the turkey might be heading.

To effectively blood trail a turkey, pay attention to the color, consistency, and quantity of the blood. Bright red blood usually indicates a superficial wound, while dark red or maroon blood may suggest a deeper, more critical hit. Thin and watery blood may indicate a flesh wound, while thick and frothy blood can be a sign of a lung or heart shot.

Tracking Techniques

Apart from blood trailing, mastering various tracking techniques can significantly increase your chances of recovering a shot turkey. Here are a few effective tracking techniques to consider:

  1. Signs of Disturbance: Look for signs of disturbance in the surrounding vegetation, such as broken branches, displaced leaves, or disturbed dirt. These signs can indicate the direction the turkey took after being shot.

  2. Feather Scattering: When an arrow hits a turkey, it often causes feathers to scatter in the area. Pay close attention to the direction in which the feathers disperse, as it can help you determine the turkey’s path.

  3. Footprint Identification: Familiarize yourself with the different tracks left by turkeys. By identifying their footprints, you can gain insights into their direction of travel and estimate the severity of the injury based on the turkey’s gait pattern.

  4. Listening for Vocalizations: A wounded turkey may emit distress calls or gobbling sounds while trying to escape. Listen attentively for any vocalizations that can guide you towards the injured bird.

Post-Shot Considerations

After taking a shot at a turkey, it is essential to carefully consider your next steps to maximize the chances of recovering the bird. Here are some post-shot considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Wait and Observe: Once you’ve made your shot, resist the temptation to immediately pursue the turkey. Instead, stay put and allow some time for the wounded bird to settle down. This will prevent further spooking and increase the probability of a successful recovery.

  2. Mark the Spot: Mark the location where you took the shot to easily identify the starting point of your tracking. Use a GPS device, brightly colored flagging tape, or any other method that will help you remember the precise location.

  3. Enlist a Tracking Dog: If available and legal in your hunting area, consider utilizing a well-trained tracking dog to assist in the recovery process. These dogs have a remarkable sense of smell and can efficiently track down wounded turkeys.

  4. Stay Persistent: Tracking wounded turkeys can be challenging and time-consuming. Don’t give up easily and be prepared to invest the necessary effort in locating the bird. Remember, persistence is often the key to a successful recovery.

Mastering the art of tracking and recovering turkeys is an essential skill for any bowhunter. By understanding blood trailing, employing effective tracking techniques, and considering post-shot factors, you can enhance your chances of locating and retrieving a shot turkey. Happy hunting!

Tips and Strategies for Success

Decoy Setups

When it comes to turkey hunting, using decoys can greatly increase your chances of success. By setting up realistic decoys, you can lure turkeys into range and create opportunities for a successful shot. Here are some tips for effective decoy setups:

  • Use a hen decoy: A lifelike hen decoy can attract both gobblers and hens. Place it in a visible location, preferably facing towards your hiding spot, to catch the attention of passing turkeys.

  • Add a jake or tom decoy: To simulate competition or provoke a territorial response, consider adding a jake or tom decoy near the hen. This can trigger aggressive behavior in gobblers and increase their likelihood of approaching your setup.

  • Pay attention to decoy positioning: Place the decoys within shooting range but not too close to your hiding spot. This will prevent turkeys from spotting your position and raising suspicion. Experiment with different distances and angles to find the most effective setup.

Blind Placement

A well-placed hunting blind can be a game-changer in turkey hunting. It provides concealment, allows for better shot opportunities, and increases your chances of remaining undetected by wary turkeys. Consider the following tips for blind placement:

  • Choose a strategic location: Look for areas with high turkey activity, such as feeding areas, strutting zones, or roosting sites. Set up your blind in a spot that offers good visibility and is within shooting range of these high-traffic areas.

  • Conceal your blind: Camouflage your blind with natural materials like branches, leaves, or grass to blend it into the surroundings. Avoid any reflective surfaces that could give away your position.

  • Set up early: Arrive at your hunting spot well before sunrise to ensure a quiet and undisturbed setup. Turkeys are sensitive to movement and noise, so being in place early will increase your chances of a successful hunt.

Hunting Techniques for Challenging Situations

Turkey hunting can present various challenging situations, such as hunting in heavily pressured areas or dealing with educated turkeys. Here are some techniques to overcome these challenges:

  • Change your calling strategy: Educated turkeys may become call-shy, so try using less aggressive or more subtle calls. Use softer purrs, clucks, or gentle yelps to entice the turkeys without alarming them.

  • Utilize locator calls: In heavily pressured areas, turkeys may not respond to traditional calls. Instead, use locator calls such as owl hoots, crow calls, or coyote howls to locate gobblers and pinpoint their roosting spots.

  • Employ stealth tactics: When dealing with wary turkeys, move slowly and silently. Avoid sudden movements or unnecessary sounds that could startle them. Use natural cover or terrain features to approach turkeys undetected.

  • Patience is key: Challenging situations require extra patience. If turkeys are not responding to your calls or decoys, resist the temptation to move around too much. Stay hidden, observe their behavior, and wait for the right opportunity to make your move.

Remember, turkey hunting is both an art and a science. By implementing these tips and strategies, you can enhance your chances of a successful bowhunting experience.

In conclusion, turkey hunting with a bow is an art that requires skill, patience, and dedication. It is a challenging yet rewarding experience that allows hunters to connect with nature and test their abilities. By understanding the behavior of turkeys and mastering the techniques of bowhunting, hunters can increase their chances of success. Whether it is the thrill of the chase or the satisfaction of a successful harvest, bowhunting turkeys is a pursuit that offers both excitement and a deep appreciation for the natural world. So, grab your bow, study the patterns, and immerse yourself in the art of turkey hunting. Happy hunting!