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Bowhunting Boss Gobblers!

by Kevin Knighton of Backwoods Life TV

With every breath the old gobbler struts closer and closer. 40 yards, 35, now 30 and still coming. If he keeps strutting like this, my heart may stop before I can take the shot. I swear I’ve stopped breathing three times already. My eyes are crossed from squinting because now I feel like he’s close enough to see the whites of my eyes. He’s almost to the decoys. I can see the little hair like feathers sticking out of his bright red head. It’s almost time to take the shot. I can’t screw this up. I’ll only get one chance at this old boss of the woods. You see, this year I’ve made a choice to up the ante and hunt with a single shot of sorts. That’s why I’ve let him get so close and am waiting for him to turn just right. My single shot is my Elite bow!

Over the last decade I’ve chased turkeys all over the country. Like most hunters, my goal originally was to kill as many turkeys as possible. Expansive, and sometimes expensive, tuning and tweaking honed my Mossberg Tactical Turkey 12 gauge into a long-distance killin’ machine! Hand-loaded shot shells, scope, extended turkey choke, adjustable stock…this gun has it all and has killed turkeys out to 60 yards. If they get in the same zip code as my decoys they are in the danger zone! But over time I guess I’ve grown, or maybe just changed, as a hunter. I still like to turn the ol’ Mossberg loose, but now I’m becoming more and more addicted to the adrenaline rush of that up close and personal strutter.

After successful hunts with a Thompson Center Encore single-shot 12 gauge and a Knight muzzleloading black powder shotgun the next step was my Elite bow. After all, I probably spend more time shooting and tuning this weapon than any other tool in my arsenal. Why not give it a turn in the turkey woods as well. A little research, more tuning, planning, and tweaking had me ready for spring gobbler season. Or so I thought. A generous helping of trial and error (mostly error) led me to a handful of tips that I think will help you be more successful bowhunting turkeys.

First, get yourself a blind. Yes, you can do it without it and yes, it does add more of a challenge, but you’re already putting a tremendous amount of pressure on yourself so take my advice. Use a blind. My choice is a GhostBlind. It’s a mirrored blind that blends into the existing terrain so well that if another hunter walks in the woods you’d better holler at them because even they aren’t going to spot you. A good friend of mine told me when I first started turkey hunting that, if a turkey could read, he could read a newspaper at a hundred yards. I take that to heart and utilize a blind whenever possible to hide any movements from calling or drawing my bow from those keen eyes.

Along those same lines, use a decoy. I’ve got a whole flock of DSD decoys that do a terrific job of pulling those sharp eyes away from their search for my calls. A hen is a must, but for bowhunting I really like getting a jake and sometimes a strutting gobbler in the mix. Nothing gets an old boss gobbler’s attention like a young punk trying to strut by a sexy little hen that he woulda swore just gave him that eye! With his attention firmly placed on the decoys, it gives you a much better opportunity to draw your bow without getting busted.

As for the archery gear itself, I recommend using the same gear you use for deer hunting with just a few simple tweaks. First, you don’t need 70 pounds of draw weight for turkey hunting. It’s a bird. Those ribs and shoulder blades and other bones aren’t gonna stop an arrow like a monster whitetail, plus you might have to hold at full draw for a while waiting on that gobbler to turn just right. I turn my Elite down as much as possible. Usually ending up around 62 pounds. The Muzzy broadheads I had in my quiver to sling at deer works just as well on turkeys, but I like to add a Muzzy grasshopper behind each one. These allow the arrow to grab the turkey as it’s passing thru to do more damage and also to try to keep the arrow in the turkey. That way if he tries to fly or even just run off the arrow will continue doing damage and lead to a faster and more efficient kill. Just don’t forget that arrow if you find a flopping turkey. Razor sharp blades hurt even worse than sharp spurs.

Last but not least, you need to study before you take the test. Study pictures of a turkeys vitals online and forget what you know about aiming at deer. A broadside shot, low in the chest cavity works great on deer but results in a turkey running away with a harmless slice in his breast meat. I prefer shooting a gobbler strutting, either facing straight toward me or straight away. If he’s facing me, my aiming point is the base of his beard and facing away, the good Lord gave a perfect aiming point, that the entire fan points to, which the ol’ gobbler would refer to as “exit only”. It might seem a little cruel to send 3 razor sharp blades up that boss gobbler’s butt hole, but it’s one of the most efficient choices when he’s facing straight away from you. Side shots seem to work best above where the drumstick connects to the body, preferably piercing through both wings in a full strut. I will tell you that my experiences with the broadside shot led me to my preference of straight forward or straight away. It’s hard to break a deer hunter from aiming low.

While I sold this as a single shot hunt, I will tell you that you are much more likely to have a gobbler return to your decoys after missing with a bow than you are a gun. So if everything doesn’t go just right the first time, don’t give up and throw your sucker in the dirt. But if everything goes well, you arrow will find its mark, your gobbler will spin around quickly wondering how that little jake just took the air out of his swag and bit him so hard, then will suddenly fall over dead. Much different than the flopping drama that typically occurs with a shotgun! When you walk up and collect your arrow and fan out that trophy you will be hooked! Enjoy your adrenaline fueled archery quest for a turkey. You won’t soon forget it!

Kevin Knighton is a co-host of the award-winning TV and radio show, Backwoods Life. Backwoods Life TV airs July through December on Sportsman Channel. For details, see: www.backwoodslife.com.