Picking your shot when bowhunting for wild turkey

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Harvesting a turkey is tough no matter which weapon you choose.  At a glance, turkeys’ behavior makes them look easy. They seem to have no direction, scratch at the ground, wander around and appear to be easy to lure into range.

The funny thing about turkeys is that they would almost be impossible to kill if they could smell well; all of their other senses are top notch. They have hawk-like color vision, can see almost 360 degrees around their head, their “flight” response is unbelievable, and they always seem to know when something is up (if you’ve hunted turkeys you know what I’m talking about). All of this is what makes turkeys so fun to chase. Now let’s focus on everything you need to come together when you have that 11” long-beard right in front of you and you need to place the perfect shot with your bow.

When it comes to shot placement, it’s all situational. We want to focus on reaching those vitals first. Reaching the vitals with your arrow depends on the bird’s approach. Is he strutting right toward you? Is he coming from the side and walking broadside? How about leaving or opening up his butt? Turkeys can be killed with a few different shots that usually end up in the same place: the vitals, which are about the size of a softball. 

The direct-approach shot

Remain very conscious about when you draw if the elusive bird is walking right toward you. Make sure he is focused on your decoys or looking at the ground. Just be aware he will bust you if you draw at the wrong time. Next, focus on shot placement. You are going to want to hold your pin right between the bottom of his neck and his beard. This should land your broadhead right in the pump-house. He won’t go far.

The broadside shot

I’ve taken the majority of my turkeys broadside. I like this situation because the bird is usually focused on either side of you. A big part of this is your decoy setup. I took my biggest tom last year using a decoy setup with a jake standing over a hen facing slightly toward me. I do this to make the approaching big bad tom turkey have to turn away from me (at which point I draw) and then he ends up broadside as he challenges the jake (at which point I release). Back to the actual shot placement: Put that pin right at the crease of his wing, slightly above the beard, and let it fly.

The shot from behind

I can’t beat around the bush with this one. What about when he’s leaving? Is there still a shot there? Yes, there is. Right up the back end, colloquially known as a Texas Heart Shot. It’s not a bad approach at all, especially when considering having to draw without being detected. The only kicker about this one is you need the bird strutting in such a way that you have a clear picture of his rear end. Put it right where you can see some skin and again, let it fly!

The headshot

This approach is an all-or-nothing option and it requires a specific broadhead with some extra large blades, such as a Tom Bomb or Magnus Bullhead. These extra-large blades are similar to super strong wires that are meant to decapitate the turkey. I’m not the biggest fan of this shot but it is effective when your arrow meets its mark. Another benefit to this shot: No meat is damaged.

Selecting a broadhead

The most important thing with harvesting a turkey with a bow is getting that big tom close and getting an arrow in him. They are most definitely tough to kill but it can be done. If you have the time and the bird is comfortable, pick one of the spots I described and you’ll be enjoying a nice turkey dinner that night. You can harvest a turkey with either a mechanical or a fixed-blade broadhead as long as your shot is properly placed. I use a mechanical Swhacker 100g, but I know other hunters do well with fixed blades like a Muzzy 100g.

One last word of advice: Once you release that arrow, don’t mess around before getting after him. Turkeys are pretty dang good at evading even after a well-placed shot. Good luck out there!

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