Bowhunting for Turkeys: Find a Late-Season Lover

Ultrarealistic decoys and new tactics are helping bowhunters bag more toms than ever. Here’s how to get in on the action.

One-on-One Waiting Game

Decoy needed: standing hen

Later in the season, when many hens are nesting, gobblers are running solo and still in the mood. They’re often pushovers for good calling and easy pickings for shotgunners. But they’re some of the toughest birds to kill with a bow.

You never know what is on a solo gobbler’s mind—certainly some illicit things we can’t print, but he may not be in a fighting mood. A single hen is the safest decoy bet. Trouble is, a gobbler’s response to a hen decoy is usually slow, with lots of strutting and studying before fully committing. To counter this, offset your hen slightly from your position so that a gobbler has to walk past your flank to get to it, and face it toward him, quartering slightly away from you. It doesn’t hurt to place her a little farther out—up to 20 yards away—to reduce the chance of the gobbler’s seeing you before he gets to her.

You need to be hidden perfectly. If there’s not time to set a blind, consider wearing a ghillie suit. Joe Lacefield, a Kentucky wildlife biologist, is an avid archery hunter for turkeys with 30-plus bow birds to his credit. Last year he wore his ghillie suit and killed a turkey with a self bow. “My suit was a cheap one I bought on eBay,” he says. “It’s hot and it snags on brush, but for getting close to critters, there’s nothing like it. That bird walked within 6 feet of me and got on the decoy, and I eased up onto my knees before I shot him.”

If you’re lucky, a solo gobbler will strut when he gets to your hen, and you can draw when his fan is to you. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait until he circles the decoy to breed it or steps behind a tree.

As you’re waiting for a shot—in any of these situations—you’ll realize that you could’ve killed the bird you’re looking at dozens of times with a shotgun. It’s only after you hear the arrow thump and see your bird flopping on the ground that you’ll truly appreciate why you left the gun at home.

Dead Heads

There’s a misconception that turkeys are easy to penetrate with an arrow. Truth is, those dense feathers slow a shaft considerably. I used to champion big mechanicals for turkeys, but the more birds I’ve killed, the more I’ve come to prefer a fairly wide (11⁄8-inch) fixed-blade with an aggressive chisel tip, like a Wasp Drone or Muzzy 100. Hit ’em through the vitals with that, and they’ll die within eyeshot.

Photograph by Hazel Creek Inc.