Spring Turkey Bowhunt

Sponsored by: The Physically Challenged Bowhunters of America & Barnett Crossbows


By: Doug Bermel

As winter was releasing its icy grip, my thoughts were on the much anticipated Spring turkey season. Here in Minnesota we have eight, five day seasons in several zones starting April 14th. The last four seasons you can purchase an over- the -counter bow tag that is good for all zones. The bow season starts May 7th and I decided that this year I was going to use my Parker crossbow and that proved to be a wise decision.

As the first season was getting started the weather turned nasty ! It was windy and cold and to make it worse, we got 16” of snow! It stayed like this for two weeks. Not ideal conditions for turkey hunting. We were not even sure if Minnesota was going to have a Spring. But luckily the weather changed the first week in May and things started to look promising. I had been out a couple of times scouting on some of the farms where I had permission to hunt but with the bad weather I did not see much. One farm had two hens in the field and I figured where there are hens the toms will follow so my plan was to hunt there.

On May 5th I got a call from my good friend Brooks Johnson ( President of the Minnesota Bow Hunters Association) and he said we were to meet Greg Dehmer with the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge about hunting there. This is a prime spot as it has not been hunted before. The next day we went to SNWR and met Greg and talked over how we were going to set up the hunt. He gave us some maps, a code for the gate and a permission slip and we drove to the area we were going to be hunting. Brooks went home to check his schedule to see when he could take me out. That night at 9:00 PM he called and told me to meet him at the gate by 4:45am. Are you kidding me it’s still dark out! Aren’t there any turkeys that get up late?

Brooks wanted to be set up before first light which was around 5:00 AM. The morning of May 7th found me at the gate at 4:30 AM waiting for Brooks. When he arrived he loaded his stuff in my truck, unlocked the gate and drove in to the second opening where we were going to set up. 300 yards from the spot I shut my lights off and as quietly as possible we unloaded our gear and set up the Darkhorse Double Bull blind and set out an X-treme jake decoy. This decoy has worked very well in earlier hunts for Brooks and I hoped it would do so again. He helped me get into the blind where I cocked my bow and loaded an arrow then sat back and waited for the action to start. We were all set up as the sun began lighting up the eastern horizon. We could hear gobbles from three different toms all about 200 yards away.

At 6:00 AM a tom walked out into the opening about 100 yards away and was gobbling and strutting. Brooks sent out some soft hen yelps but the tom was not interested and walked back into the trees. I said to Brooks that he must have sounded like a cranky old hen and scared the tom. He just laughed and said he would try to do a better job on the next one. At 7:00 AM I saw a hen about 120 yards out and she was coming at us at a very fast pace.

When she was 20 yards from us we heard a loud gobble and there in the opening was a tom watching the whole scene. When he saw his hen near the jake decoy he could not stand it and just came running right at us. He made a circle around some brush and I lost sight of him for a moment. This gave me a chance to pick up my bow and get ready for the shot. At 5 yards he came in on my left and went right up to the decoy.

After sizing it up he started to attack the helpless fake. He was facing me so I had to wait what seemed like ten minutes but he finally turn broadside and I got the shot I wanted. I squeezed the trigger and launched the two bladed Rage broadhead and made a perfect shot. The old boy just tipped over, kicked a couple of times and then it was over. Brooks managed to get the whole incident on camera. I went out to retrieve my prize- a 20.lb bird with an eight inch beard!

The perfect end to a great morning as the author shows off his nice gobbler.

We took many pictures and then Brooks went to get my truck. We tore down the blind, loaded our gear and the bird and it was off to Sherburne Wildlife headquarters. Several rangers came out and looked at my bird and we took some more pictures. They said that this was the first turkey legally taken at the refuge and I did this with a bow. Everything happened so fast, we weren’t even out 2 hours. Why do people say turkey hunting is so difficult, to me there was not much to it. I know its not supposed to be this easy…. I just got lucky.

Author showing off the first turkey taken at this area to Ranger Beth Watson.

This was a great experience and having a good friend go out of his way to help me set up and share in the kill just makes it so much better. Turkey hunting with a bow is great fun and now I am hooked and can’t wait till next year!

To read more from Doug: CLICK HERE