Hunting a spring gobbler with a bow can be the most frustrating thing you have ever attempted, but arrowing a spring gobbler can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have in the field. If you are someone who loves a challenge – and it is a challenge – then I have a few tips and tricks that might help you bag that gobbler with a stick and string.
First of all, as you can well imagine, I have hunted these birds for more than a few years now and have been both amazed and surprised at their behavior. The defenses of the turkey are mainly his eyes and ears. I firmly believe that if these creatures could smell, we would never get a chance to bag one. So, what so we need to be successful this spring?
The first thing I would make sure I have is a portable pop-up blind.
A few years ago I hunted out west with a friend of mine, Nathan Jones. At the time he had a television show called Wild Extremes, and he invited me out for a bow turkey hunt. I was excited to hear his tales about previous hunts and how his place was infested with birds.
Morning came and I had no trouble at all jumping out of the sack and headed for the “hot” spot with Nathan. When we arrived, he led me to a field that bordered two woodlots. The blind was already in place but when I saw it I was a little confused. There we were in a blind in the middle of a field. We were not in a hedgerow or hidden along a ditch. To be honest, I thought the turkeys would spot this thing and never come in.
Was I ever wrong.
We had so many young birds in front of us that I couldn’t count them all. Then, after a half hour, a nice big tom came into our setup. I went to school on that one. Did I get that tom? Well, that is another story.
The following season I was hunting a field again. I had my portable blind set up. I also carried five decoys. Too many setups have two hens and a jake. I try to make it more realistic with four hens and a jake or maybe just five hens.
I know that deer and turkeys like to hang together in a field because it gives each a sense of security. I decided to increase my odds and bring along a deer decoy as well. Tinks offers a blow-up decoy that they call Miss November. It looks realistic and it works like a charm. I think it just gives a little bit more of a realistic look. It was all I needed and I was soon on my way home with dinner.
I have used fixed blades and mechanical blades, both, on my turkey hunts and I can tell you that without a doubt, the mechanical blades work so much better. Oh, the fixed blades will definitely do the deed, but the problem is they blow right through the bird. If the turkey flies off mortally wounded, you will have a hard time recovering it. The mechanical blades open on impact. Better still, the amount of energy lost by the blades opening as it slices through the vital organs is enough to keep the arrow in the bird. Consequently, the turkey cannot fly and will only run a short distance. Recovery is always much easier.
When I wore a younger man’s clothes, I tagged along on a turkey hunt with one of my older friends. We used guns at the time, and he did a few things that I never forgot and now I incorporate that in my own hunts to this day.
First, we were walking in to our spot and we were not sure exactly where the birds were roosting. We had a general idea, but they really could be anywhere. As we got closer to our set-up spot, he turned and reminded me to try to be as quiet as possible while walking on the forest floor. We did not want to spook the birds from their roost. He then took a deer grunt call out of his pocket and used it every once in a while to simulate a deer walking in the woods. Good idea!
Once we settled in and sunrise started to peek over the horizon, we could hear some birds starting to wake up. The soft tree calls, although a little distant, were close enough to get our adrenaline going.
The old geezer I was with mimicked each call he heard. He checked to make sure he could easily see his sights and then took his hat off. I listened as he made a few more soft yelps and then suddenly he frantically beat his hat against his pant leg as he cackled with his mouth call.
My first reaction was to get as far away from this lunatic as I could, but I soon realized it was all part of his charade. It sounded exactly like a bird’s wings as it flew down and scared the beJesus out of me I might add. Once he slowed the cackle down, he finished his calling with a couple of soft yelps as if to tell the toms “Here I am, and everything is fine.”
I thought to myself that this man is a genius! However, he was not done with his trickery yet. After the “come hither” yelps, he took his hand and scratched away at the leaves on the ground to sound like a hen turkey looking for her breakfast.
Oh yeah, that did the trick. It was not long after his performance that I saw a nice tom heading right for us. His shot was true and it was all over in less than 30 minutes!
Turkey hunting with a bow makes the game – and it is a game – more interesting. These are just a few of the tricks that I know work and work well, but I must say I love trying new and different ways to fool that wary bird. Who knows what this season will bring? What ever happens, as long as the end game is bringing home the turkey dinner, I am all for it.