Hey folks! With the Spring 2018 Turkey season coming up fast, I figured I would list a few things that have been proven to increase your chances of success when trying to tag a bird the most challenging way possible – with a bow.
There's a lot more that goes into the whole process of trying to tag a gobbler with a bow – your effective range is often decreased, your hands are a lot more in-use when you're handling/preparing to shoot a bow, you have to perfectly time when you draw your bow back to shoot, and your ability to camouflage effectively is slightly more challenging, as you cannot sit with your back completely flat against a tree (breaking your outline) because it will severely inhibit your ability to draw and properly shoot your bow... Still ready to take on the challenge of tagging a bird this spring? Good! Here's a few ways to increase your chances!
Practice your calls - I can't stress this enough; there's nothing like going to spit a yelp from a mouth diaphragm call, and having it sound something like a fart and a scratch on a chalk board at the same time... Find a call that you're comfortable and capable of using (Box calls are easiest, then Slate calls, then mouth/diaphragm calls), and then practice, practice, PRACTICE! Yes – you will probably drive each inhabitant of your household crazy, but at least you'll be 100% ready to coax in any gobbler within range!
My favorite calls are listed below:
Box Call - my favorite box call would have to be the H.S. Strut Undertaker. This thing creates a nice crisp sound that has a wide range of tone/pitch and volume. Another perk to this call is that it requires no chalk and is 100% waterproof – proven to still use when damp/wet.
Slate Call - I don't often use a slate call, but when I do I opt for a slate call I like to use the Primos Sonic Dome slate call. I like this call because it is small/compact, and it creates a very nice (and quiet) high pitch yelps and purrs. I have also found this call much easier to use/master compared to most other slate calls – this is a fantastic call for beginner and intermediate hunters.
Mouth/Diaphragm Call - Mouth/diaphragm calls are arguably the hardest to master, but they are my favorite to use (because they are completely hands-free). I'm a big fan of just about any mouth call made by Gobblestalker, and if I had to narrow it down I'd say that the Rattler is my favorite mouth call made by them. I like this mouth call because it is an extremely versatile mouth call with a good level of rasp (I like raspy mouth calls). It allows for loud and crisp yelps and clucks, but also allows for one of the softest purrs I've ever been able to produce with a mouth call.
Don't be afraid to use a couple of decoys - There's absolutely no shame in using a decoy or two when bowhunting turkey; don’t let your ego stop you from throwing a couple out in the field! Though decoys are not a necessity when bowhunting turkey, they will significantly increase your odds of tagging a bird – as it brings the attention off of you (especially when drawing back your bow), and onto your decoys... It's also quite amusing watching a big Tom or a pack of Jakes kick the living snot out of a decoy.
Here's a list of the decoys I often throw in my spread (keep in mind, some of these depend on time of the year/season):
Avian X half strut Jake - This is one of my favorite decoys to throw out in the field, especially during the early season. It poses as an arrogant and subordinate Jake, which drives dominant Toms and bachelor packs of Jakes nuts – be ready to see your decoy be beaten into the ground when you throw one of these out!
Avian X laydown hen - Another fantastic decoy from the Avian X lineup, this decoy is very easy to setup and carry (no stake) and is great for reeling in giant flocks of Jake's looking to compete for a lone hen that's single and ready to mingle!... Pair this decoy up with a half strut or quarter strut Jake mounted on top of it, and you're guaranteed to bring in a dominant Tom looking to fight for this ol' girl!
H.S. Strut feeder hen - This is a great all-season decoy, that may not trigger all gobblers to come flying in looking to fight or mate – but it is guaranteed to put all turkeys that see it at ease and let their guard down; which makes for an easy and relaxed shot. This decoy often doesn't even need to be paired with a call to be effective in the field.
When and which setups to use? This can be tricky, because a lot of it also depends on the specific area you're hunting, but here's a few setups that have proven to work well based on time of the year:
Early Season - This time of the season you can just about throw any decoy or decoy spread at them. The Toms/Jakes have two things on their mind – establish dominance and looking for a quick mate. Depending on the area, I like to use a single laydown hen, or a hen paired with a quarter or half strut Jake.
Mid Season - usually at this point the gobblers have established a pecking order, but the ones who haven't found a mate yet (or the highly dominant Toms) are still looking for a mate... Pair up a laydown hen being bred/mounted by a half-strut Jake, and you'll have either a flock of bachelor Jakes or one big mean Tom come flying into your setup.
Late Season - usually by this time of the season the breeding has slowed down, and a lot of turkeys that have been pressured will be very skiddish. This time of the year I like to opt for a calmer and subtle approach – I like to use a couple feeder hen decoys. This usually puts turkeys in the area at ease and creates a picture that invites them to come enjoy the friendly company of other turkeys. Use minimal calling with a setup like this – soft feeding purrs and the odd scrape, to create the full 'picture' of a couple of hens enjoying a nice bite to eat.
Perfect your camo or use a blind - Depending on the style of hunting you prefer and depending on how much scouting/prep you've done leading up to the season, you'll either need a blind (pop-up or stakeout) or a darn good head-to-toe camo outfit.
If you prefer to 'run and gun' (this is often best for people who haven't done a lot of scouting or have a large area to cover), here's a few suggestions for you:
Head-to-toe Ghillie Suit - This option is easy and usually inexpensive – you can usually get a decent ghillie suit for anywhere between $75-$100, but it will require a lot of work and practice! You will need to trim up your suit to allow you to move freely and ensure that no pieces will get caught in your bows cams, strings, or cables, and ensure that it will not inhibit your sight or movement. Ghillie suits are a good option for shooting in open areas with longer grass – keep still and you shouldn't get busted.
Head-to-Toe Camo - you can mix and match many different camo patterns or spent thousands on the fanciest matching camo outfit – in the end just try to create a pattern that matches the area you're hunting, and make sure to break up your outline. Also, be sure to use a facemask or face paint to cover your face – not covering your face is one of the easiest ways to get yourself busted! (there are many different facemask options, and many turkey hunting hats that even come with a facemask built into the hat!). RealTree and Mossy Oak offer many cost-efficient camo options.
If you are like most kids or novice hunters and fidget more than a toddler at church, than a pop-up (or at least) a stakeout blind is more up your alley.
Pop-up Blind - this is a good option for people that have done their homework and scouted out an area and know exactly where and when the birds will be! A pop-up blind is also a great option if you're planning on bringing apprentice hunters/children, as it conceals most (if not all) of your movement. Be sure to wear BLACK whenever hunting within a blind and be sure to close all the windows to ensure no light penetration. I am a fan of any blind made by Ameristep – they have a wide range of blinds with different prices and feats, and they have also proven to have fantastic durability.
Stakeout Blind - this kind allows you to be very adaptable to whatever situation you may face in the field. A stakeout blind can be setup silently within seconds and can also be packed up within the same amount of time. These blinds are often extremely compact and will fit in most backpacks. Most stakeout blinds range from 5-15ft in length, and range anywhere from 30-45inches in height (also often adjustable). They will almost always come in a 'panel' style, allowing you to position the blind around you or in whatever position you desire. I personally use the Primos Up-N-Down Stakeout Blind - it has proven its ability to get the job done and has a fantastic pattern to be brushed into your surroundings.
So, there you have it folks! There are 3 ways to help improve your success of tagging a turkey with a bow this spring. I hope you all have been able to take something from this article that you can put to use in the field. As always, if you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to shoot us an email, call us, or pop in and see us – any one of us would be happy to help!
As always, stay safe and have fun this season!