The majority of bowhunters I know began their archery careers by hunting whitetail deer, and then, as their archery skills improved, they chose to pursue other big game.
Even though wild turkey numbers are steadily increasing, they're often an overlooked goldmine for most bowhunters. If you have never hunted turkeys with archery equipment, you just might be missing out on some of the most abundant and thrilling hunting you can imagine.
Outdoor enthusiasts from across the entire United States, except for Alaska, can now enjoy seeing a wild turkey strut and gobble due to great conservation efforts by local and state wildlife agencies, conservation organizations and ethical hunters. Because of this, there are now several million turkeys covering the lower 48, Hawaii and parts of Canada.
The range of a wild turkey and its habitat varies greatly from the rugged badlands of western North and South Dakota to the flatlands of Minnesota. However, all wild turkeys seem to share several habitat characteristics such as mature forest cover with either conifers or hardwoods, ample food supplies, safe places to roost and a dependable water supply.
As hunters set out in pursuit of these weary birds, they will soon come to realize that turkeys are in the running for one of the toughest quarries a bowhunter can face.
These shifty birds are known for their legendary eyesight, which is second to none. They are able to see in almost a complete circle and have the ability to pick up the slightest movement from near or far.
Their hearing is better than average, and they have an uncanny ability to pinpoint where, exactly, the sound is coming from.
These sometimes awkward-looking, long-legged birds can reach speeds of 18 to 20 mph running on the ground and up to 50 mph while flying. No wonder wild turkeys have left many hunters, myself included, just shaking their heads. Thank goodness they don't have a nose like a whitetail or we might be eating chicken for Thanksgiving.
Archery setup and shot placement
Although there may not be the perfect" archery setup for hunting longbeards, I recommend using the same setup you are comfortable with and have used for your other outings. If anything, drop your draw weight to make drawing your bow in difficult positions easier if you plan to try a more traditional, run-and-gun approach.
I like to use a mechanical broadhead such as the NAP Spitfire or NAP Spitfire Gobbler Getter because of the extra shock it has on impact. However, a fixed-blade broadhead will also do the trick.
Shot placement is the key no matter the quarry, and it's especially important when shooting turkeys. I like to aim just below the back and the base of the neck when presented with a broadside shot. However, my favorite is shooting them as they are facing away and taking them through the back. If your shot is true and you sever the spine, you disable the bird completely and prevent it from flying away.
Find favorite hangouts
Like any hunting situation, the more time spent out in the field scouting, the bigger and better the end results will likely be. It is a good idea to spend several days in the area you will be hunting in order to locate and pattern the birds.
One thing I like about hunting spring gobblers is that they are very visible and are somewhat habitual in their daily routine. Unlike whitetails and other big game, turkeys are, for the most part, visible throughout the day here in the Dakotas.
First, try and locate their preferred area of roosting. Oftentimes, wild turkey roosting locations can be somewhat predictable, especially while hunting in areas that don't have many large trees. They seem to prefer areas close to water and prefer to roost in tall, mature cottonwoods or oaks with lots of smaller branches sprawling in every direction. Whatever the type of tree, you don't need to look far in order to find the obvious signs. Look under roost trees and you will find it littered with droppings and feathers.