March 23, 2023
By Clint Casper
In today's world, bowhunting turkeys is all the rage — and for good reason! Who doesn’t love to be at full draw, with a tom gobbling his lungs out, as he heads your way? I know I sure do! I absolutely live for it. But we have to be honest with ourselves here. Although bowhunting turkeys is a lot of fun, it’s super challenging. So, I’ve put together my four best tips to help you score on an old longbeard with your bow this spring!
In a lot of cases, it’s getting harder and harder to find flocks of unpressured turkeys in many of your traditional spots. It’s also getting harder to trick these birds into thinking we're a real turkey out ahead of them. Due to increasing number of turkey hunters (and the amount of them utilizing an assortment of calls), it’s getting more difficult to find areas to hunt turkeys that haven’t been highly educated. In order to combat this on both private and public land, I have lightened up my turkey tactics. What I mean by this is that I have purposely made my entire turkey system — my clothing, gear and vest — lighter in weight so I can be more mobile and efficient.
What this has allowed me to do is run-and-gun more effortlessly until I find a bird that is willing to play the game! Sometimes, that’s midway through the day after already stretching the legs five miles, or maybe it’s two ridges over in a spot that most won’t go because it’s so steep to get up on top of the ridgeline. Also, by being mobile and being able to move quickly and at a moments notice, I can sound more realistic. Think about it — if there's a time where a bird is hung up in his strut zone, or I just can’t completely get him to break off a hen, I can quickly move positions. This allows me to mimic a real hen moving and feeding about, like they naturally do in the wild. Over the years, I’ve had this tactic pursuade many toms into walking toward my broadhead directly after using this trick.
Either way, I’m light, mobile and more than eager to travel to wherever I may have to go to find turkeys. Making myself mobile has allowed me to hunt all types of terrain features and areas that any property or unit has to offer. That, in and of itself, gives me a huge advantage over the guy who isn’t willing to travel very far from the truck or blind.
Use Decoys Correctly
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a huge decoy guy. However, there are decoys out there that don’t break your back in weight. And man, can these really be a gamechanger for the bowhunting turkey hunter. I’ve found that in certain scenarios, like open farm country or even hidden meadows in the timber, a decoy can really be a difference maker. Once a turkey hears and sees another turkey, they typically will be convinced to commit. Decoys allow a turkey's focus to be on them and not you, which is critical when drawing your bow and preparing for a shot.
By investing in some lightweight decoys, a bowhunter can quickly deploy these fakes and use this strategy in just a few moments. Decoys can absolutely be the last step involved in tricking a gobbler into walking into your lap, and with today's decoys being so much lighter than the old days, you should fight the urge to leave them in the truck. I’ve been a culprit of that many times with my older, heavier decoys and it has cost me big at times. Certain situations call for decoys and we never know when we will need them until minutes before the moment of truth.
Earlier I mentioned how it’s getting harder and harder to not only find unpressured turkeys, but to call them in as well. That's because turkeys today have heard it all — and that mean both good and bad calling attempts. So to trick a bird in hard-hunted wood lots and properties, we sometimes need to think outside of the box.
Because most birds know they’re being hunted, calling less is becoming my go-to tactic more often then not. My strategy here is fairly simple — I try to get a bird all fired up. Once that happen, I'll go silent. This mimics what a real hen would do — strike up a tom before allowing curiosity to set in. Typically, most hunters over call, completely giving away the fact that the hen a gobbler hears isn't real in the process. On the contrary, when you fire him up and then barely talk back, you force him into coming to look for you. This stacks the odds in your favor that the hen he heard is worth going after.
Try this tactic out for yourself. And if you want to add even more realism to this technique, call while your on the move, changing locations in the process before going silent. Don’t be afraid to scratch the ground either, as this simulates a turkey scratching for acorns and insects. This is a natural sound that turkeys hear all the time, so it really mimics a live hen moving around in the timber or fields.
Ditch the Blind
We all know that some decoys and a blind are a fantastic way to bowhunt turkey’s effectively, but it's not the only way! Sometimes a bird will hang up outside of range, or maybe he’s up on a ridge and just won’t come down to your decoy and blind setup. So, then what? Ditch the blind and make it happen yourself.
When it comes to bowhunting turkeys, the guy with the best bag of tricks usually is the best bet of coaxing an old longbeard in for a shot. With that being said, do not solely rely on bowhunting turkeys from a blind. This drastically limits your mobility and keeps you in one spot at all times. If turkeys aren’t around your blind, or are well off in the distance, go to them. Learn how to run-and-gun with your bow by using natural cover, like trees or briars, to draw your bow as the bird approaches. The last thing you want to do is to handicap yourself when it comes to bowhunting turkeys, and moving a blind takes time and energy that could result in a lost opportunity at a bird that is hot. So ditch the blind, go light and get after that tom while the cards are in your favor.
Keep these four tips in mind this in the months ahead and I’m sure it’ll provide you some more opportunities at a longbeard with your bow. Good luck, and have a fun spring!