By Dustin Bomley – Production Manager, Alpine Archery
Apr 22, 2008 – 7:11:49 AM
Brad Pacey with a fine Kansas tom taken with his New Alpine Ventura.
For many years I viewed Turkeys as a critter that needed to be harvested with a shot gun. I believe the reference that I used was that turkeys were “Communist”. It took a few short years of learning how to effectively call them in and one day it dawned on me. Turkeys should be hunted with a bow too. I decided to embark on the challenge of bowhunting for turkeys.
As with anything and everything in archery, it all boils down to personal preference.
Here are a few things that I have learned in my years of chasing the wily birds with a bow. First, it is not necessary to hunt turkeys with the same set up that one would hunt deer and elk with. Let me point out that the kinetic energy produced in a bow for big game might be a bit of an overkill. I personally use the same bow, but I lighten the poundage by 5 to 8 pounds and use a lighter arrow. Unless you are hunting from a ground blind, any motion made while drawing your bow could be picked out by the sharp eyes of a big strutting tom. By keeping the draw weight down it will allow you to draw without too much effort and keeping motion to a minimum. The use of a lighter arrow will also decrease the amount of kinetic energy which is not always a bad thing when shooting turkeys.
Second, your arrow head choice can improve your success rate. The massive selection of broadheads, small game heads and turkey specific arrow heads will help you determine if you need more or less energy. I personally like to use either a mechanical head or a small game head when hunting turkeys and try to not get full penetration. I have had better luck in recovering birds when the arrow did not pass through them. This stated, a sharp broadhead will work equally as well when placed properly as with all game animals. I have noticed that if the arrow remains in the turkey, the bird has more trouble flying and usually stays grounded proving an easier recovery.
Some turkey specific heads like the Gobbler Guillotine may need a bit more KE to do the job since it is a tip that is designed for head shots on turkeys.
John Ludwig from Riverside Archery in Mt. Vernon, Washington setting up his “Ultimate Turkey Bow”
I had mentioned hunting from a blind. This also sports a point that hunting from a blind is easily done with a shorter axle length bow. I personally prefer a shorter bow like the Alpine Silverado for hunting in general. I like the short axle length for getting around in the brushy spot and stalk, or close-in, game calling type hunting that we have out west. This allows me to already be used to shooting a shorter bow, so hunting turkeys in a blind is an easy transition for me. Shorter axle bows have always been known to be more critical to shoot, but note that when hunting turkeys with archery equipment, one should limit the shot distance to “not very far” anyway. Kill zones on turkeys are substantially smaller and require an accurate shot placement. This is not to say that longer axle bows should not be used, it is just to point out the positive aspect of the shorter bows along with my own personal preference.
Jan Sander from Bow Depot in Greeley, Colorado with a nice Nebraska Tom taken with an Alpine Eclipse.
When working up your preferred turkey hunting set up, keep concealment in mind. Good camouflage on your bow is equally important as your clothing, head cover, and even shoes. Turkeys pick up on the smallest things and one can foul a hunt very easy by not paying attention to even the smallest detail on your bow. Shiny items on your set-up can trigger an instant loss of opportunity if the sharp eye of a gobbler catches anything that may spook him.
For me, the “Ultimate Turkey Bow” is an Alpine Silverado set at 57#, shooting a 320 grain arrow tipped with a small game head, fully camouflaged and driving nails out to 35 yards. Once turkey season is over, I will let you know how my Ultimate system worked and what I will do to the same bow to prepare it for deer, elk and moose for this fall.