Practice Make Perfect When Bowhunting Turkeys
Its definitely cliché, but theres no doubt that how you practice — and the more you practice — with your bow will help come turkey season. Ive had the chance to bowhunt turkeys in different parts of the country, and no matter where you are or what subspecies youre dealing with, its no walk in the park. And I think my lack of practicing the right way has lead to more than one errant arrow.
Dont be fooled by what you see on TV, bowhunting turkeys takes patience, time and lots of practice. Some of the best archery deer hunters I know wont even look at their bow come turkey season because theyve been burned too many times.
Given that, here are some tips for how to practice for bowhunting turkeys.
Practice the way you hunt. If that sounds self-explanatory, it is. But, youd be amazed at how many people Ive talked to who miss turkeys because the bird came in from the left and that hunter had only practiced situations where the bird came in from the right. Because of this, the hunter was out of his element and therefore took a bad shot. A hunter needs to practice not only accuracy, but for different scenarios as well. Shooting from a half-crouch, from your knees, standing behind a tree, drawing and releasing quickly… each scenario will allow you to be calm under pressure.
Draw, anchor, aim, let down. One of the best exercises I can recommend for practicing is to follow the aforementioned routine. You have to build muscle in areas that are a little different than deer hunting. Deer are typically a lot more predictable than turkeys, which is why hunters set up on trails and pinch points. Turkeys, as we all know, are not. While holding at full draw waiting for a deer to clear a tree is one thing, trying to follow a turkey on ground level at full draw can be nearly impossible. Thats why I suggest practicing drawing, anchoring, aiming and then letting down with as little movement as possible. Trust me, do this a few times in a row and muscles you never knew you used will start to burn.
Lower the poundage and re-sight. Deer hunters are notorious for wanting more speed and will go to great lengths to get it. Archery turkey hunters, on the other hand, understand that speed isnt the name of the game during turkey season. You want your bow at a poundage that will allow for an extremely easy draw and let down, should the need arise. I typically shoot 68 pounds, give or take, during deer season, but will turn my limb bolts almost all the way out for turkey season. Of course, this requires more range time to make sure Im sighted in correctly.
If you cant hit a baseball consistently, dont bother trying to turkey hunt with a bow. While archery deer hunters want their arrow groups to hit a pie plate consistently, archery turkey hunters need to be able to hit baseball-sized groups. I understand that most people say a softball when referring to the size of a turkeys vitals, but if you can consistently group your arrows in the diameter of a baseball, a softball will be like a chip shot, no matter the yardage.
Closer is always better. When practicing bowhunting for turkeys, I never shoot more than 30 yards. Ive found that more times than not, a bird will come in closer than that, especially if you use a decoy, so theres no reason to set your 50-yard pin unless you just feel the need.
Overall, bowhunting for turkeys is just like hunting them with a gun: it requires patience, tenacity and knowing your equipment to allow for the most ethical shot and kill. And dont forget, you cant blood-trail a turkey like you can a deer.
— Matt Coffey