Why Aren’t You Bowhunting for Gobblers Yet?

Ultrarealistic decoys and new tactics are helping bowhunters bag more toms than ever.

bowhunting turkeys
These days, even casual turkey hunters are killing spring gobblers with archery tackle.Hazel Creek Inc.

Cally Morris, host of The 15-Yard Files on fieldandstream.com, said we'd kill a turkey at 4 yards in this spot. I had my doubts. But the tom walked within feet of my wife, Michelle, who was hidden next to a root wad. When the bird squared up to the decoy, she drew her bow and nailed him­—at ­exactly 4 yards.

You didn’t hear many stories like this a decade ago because people didn’t bowhunt turkeys with any real expectation of success then. These days, even casual turkey hunters are killing spring gobblers with archery tackle. What has changed?

There’s better gear, for one. Bowhunters in search of turkeys were among the first to embrace pop-up ground blinds, and that caused success rates to skyrocket. Modern decoys (see “Let’s Get Real,” below) have had an even larger impact. They’ve gotten so realistic that today’s bowhunters don’t even have to have a blind to get drawn.

Cutting-edge strategies that make use of good gear are the biggest advancement of all, and three of the best are outlined here. Follow them, and you’ll be on your way to arrowing a tom this spring.

bowhunting gobblers
Technique No. 1 PICK A GANG FIGHT Decoys needed: A, C, and D (See decoy key at bottom.) Aggressive Run-and-GunHazel Creek Inc.

The early season is the best time to bowhunt turkeys. Winter flocks are breaking up, and individuals are establishing spring pecking orders. Groups of three to six gobblers often run together for a week or two immediately following the winter breakup, and they spend their days fighting or violating whatever other turkeys they may encounter—including the fake ones in your spread. These are the birds that'll sprint across 300 yards of pasture to attack your strutter decoy. That's exactly the attitude a run-and-gun bowhunter needs. (Keep reading.)

bowhunting gobblers
Technique No. 2 MOVE IN ON A BOSS TOM’S HAREM Decoys needed: A or B plus C or D Passive Ambush From a BlindHazel Creek Inc.

Actual breeding commences quickly as winter flocks break up. Older, dominant birds gather harems of hens and find someplace quiet to do their business. These are the henned-up toms that are notoriously difficult to hunt. Often, they'll only gobble on the roost to assemble the harem, and once on the ground, they'll ignore other strutting gobblers if they don't see them as an ­immediate threat. (Keep reading.)

bowhunting gobblers
Technique No. 3 FIND A LATE-SEASON LOVER Decoy needed: C One-on-One Waiting GameHazel Creek Inc.

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. (Keep reading.)

DECOY KEY

Avian-X LCD Strutter
Avian-X LCD Strutter.Avian-X

A. Strutter: Nothing angers an aggressive gobbler like a full-strut decoy, especially early in the season.

Dave Smith Decoys Jake
Dave Smith Decoys Jake.Dave Smith

B. Aggressive Jake: A jake challenges a gobbler's dominance but is less intimidating than a strutter.

Hazel Creek Hen
Hazel Creek Hen.Hazel Creek

C. Standing Hen: The ultimate confidence decoy. She will attract turkeys of all types and in all moods.

Avian-X LCD Breeder Hen
Avian-X LCD Breeder Hen.Avian-X

D. Breeding Hen: Pair her with a strutter or jake, since a stranger in your bed is worse than one in your house.