Making Lethal Shots on Turkeys

Once you’ve coaxed a big tom into bow range, your next big challenge is making the shot. It’s the last thing standing between you and a delicious dinner.

If you’re new to turkey hunting, you’re probably wondering where to aim to make quick, ethical kills. You might also be worried about defeating their keen eyesight and hearing when drawing your bow.

Getting to Full Draw

Using a blind is the best way to conceal yourself when turkey hunting, but you can also go on foot if there are places to hide. Photo Credit: ATA

Never underestimate a turkey’s survival instincts. They might not look fast and they might not sniff you out, but turkeys are extremely wary. They have impeccable eyesight that spots danger from afar. That gives them a great advantage over any predator heading their way.

Turkeys also have full-color vision and 180-degree peripheral vision. With just a slight head turn they can see 360 degrees. They also detect movement extremely well. Those assets seriously challenge bowhunters to draw their bow undetected.

Portable ground blinds with mesh windows are a great way to conceal yourself while drawing your bow. Mesh windows let you see out to shoot, but prevent turkeys from seeing in.

Vital tip: Open only a few windows in your blind. The more light you let in, the better turkeys can see into the blind.

Some bowhunters prefer mobility, so they go without a ground blind. In that case you must take extra measures to remain concealed. Place brush and vegetation in front of your position, but put even more cover behind you to break up your outline. Turkeys see colors, so wear camouflage clothing, gloves and a face mask.

When it’s time to draw your bow, wait until the turkey’s vision is blocked, obstructed or focused elsewhere. When the tom walks behind a tree or locks onto your decoys, make your move. Pull the bowstring straight back with minimal movement.

Once you reach full draw, decide where to aim.

Broadside

Each position requires a different precise shot. Photo Credit: John Hafner

Turkeys have a small baseball-sized “vitals” area, which requires a careful shot. When a strutting tom comes into range, wait for it to quit strutting. It’s hard to identify a gobbler’s vitals and body definition when it’s puffed up to maximize size.

As with deer, the best place to shoot turkeys is their heart and lung area. Turkeys present this shot when broadside. Aim just behind the wing where it joins the body. Think of it as the turkey’s shoulder.

Headshots

Headshots are an ethical option on turkeys. It’s a challenging target, but the wounding risk is small because errant shots usually miss cleanly. Aim where the head joins the neck. This junction presents a larger target that moves less than the head.

Front and Rear Shots

Front and rear shots are also options. For frontal shots, aim just above the tom’s beard to send your arrow into the vitals. For a rear shot, wait for the tom to come out of strut. A soft “yelp” usually stops a tom and his strutting. Hold your sight-pin over the middle of its back to break the spine and strike the vitals.

Headshots, frontal shots and rear shots are lethal, but present small targets and aren’t recommended for newcomers. Know your capabilities and acknowledge your experience level. Those factors should dictate your effective shooting distance and your definition of an ethical shot. All bowhunters must determine their personal limitations and guidelines.

Practice

Practice turkey shots in real conditions, such as crouched or on your knees if possible and with life-sized targets. Photo credit: ATA

Turkey hunting provides few opportunities for bowhunters to shoot standing up. Practice shooting while kneeling and sitting in various positions to get comfortable and learn the nuances of each position. To shoot when seated, you’ll notice your bow feels harder to pull, and you’ll see more movement in your sight. Push your hips forward and tighten your core to increase your stability.

Also practice shooting from inside your blind. You’ll learn how to position yourself without bumping the walls. It also gets you comfortable shooting through mesh windows.

Use a 2D or 3D turkey target to practice aiming at the bird’s vitals in different positions.

Visit an archery shop to buy turkey calls, decoys and other essentials. You’ll find friendly, knowledgeable staff who will eagerly help.


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