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How to Stop a Wild Turkey

HOLD STILL!!!  If you have ever tried to hunt turkeys with an arrow, you know how precisely you must aim.  The kill zone on a big gobbler is the size of your fist and half of your target is covered with feathers.  Hitting a small target is difficult, but hitting a moving target is nearly impossible.  How can you get these crazy birds to stand still?


Hunt From a Blind

The best way to get a patient shot on a gobbler is to hunt from an enclosed blind.  The blind won’t stop the turkey but you can use a rest for a crossbow and draw and let down repeatedly without being seen.  Additionally, you can see or hear the gobbler coming so that you can be ready well in advance.  You can’t open and close windows without being seen so anticipate where birds will approach and have your shooting windows ready.

Concealing a blind is helpful but not necessary.

Use a Jake Decoy

If you want the best chance of attracting turkeys, use a Jake decoy.  Be sure to deploy it where a hunter cannot shoot the decoy and hit you.  Good news: Wild Turkeys will attack your decoy.  Bad news: They will constantly be moving.  Eventually, they will beat on the turkey decoy and get tired or give up.  You need to concentrate on the gobbler you want and where you will aim.  When it stops, shoot.

Jakes are yearling male turkeys with a short beard.

Use a Hen Decoy

Gobblers will approach a hen decoy very differently than a Jake.  They may strut up to the hen and stand motionless, exactly what you want to happen.  However, some gobblers, especially longbeards may have been shot at over a decoy and they may run at first sight.  Also, hens often don’t like a stranger in their territory and will alarm putt, taking a trailing tom with the flock.

Shown are a feeding and an alert hen.

Cluck with a Diaphragm Call

When a turkey hears an alarm call, a putt, it usually raises its head and looks for danger.  Shotgun hunters use this technique once they have called a turkey into range so that the bird will raise its head and the shot pattern won’t ruin the meat.

If you can make this one sound, even a poor one, a gobbler may stop fighting your decoy, raise its head and stand perfectly still.  You will only have a second or two so don’t do this without your finger on the trigger or at full draw.  If the tom walks away, aim in the middle of the back.

Body or Neck Shot

Although you want to be ready for any shot, prepare for the shot you want by selecting a broadhead.  If you plan to shoot for the vitals, you want the largest broadhead that will fly well.  My favorite is the Tominator which has a 3.5-inch diameter cut.  I’m not sure if they are sold any longer, but I had three left and used one yesterday with my Ravin to make sure the expandable wouldn’t open on launch.  It flew perfectly, but the long blades do not re-deploy and now I have two.

For a neck shot, fixed heads are best because you have a slightly larger strike radius, versus the “target point” of an expandable.

After the Shot

Taking a gobbler with a bow or crossbow requires pinpoint accuracy.

I love the neck shot because it anchors the gobbler on the spot.  I hunt in a small field between two patches of dense briars and underbrush that is very “unturkey-like,” yet they thrive.  If you hit a wild turkey and you can see it, let it expire, and don’t chase it.  If the turkey appears wounded, take another shot by sneaking up on it.

A wounded wild turkey will most likely run and hide.  When following one, listen carefully, because they make a death flop and you can hear the feathers rustle in leaves and vegetation.  If it flies, watch its flight path carefully and follow up as you would with a deer.  Good Luck.


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