October 28, 2010
My good friend Randy Parish and I were talking the other day, lamenting the fact that deer season was winding down with not a lot to show for it but near empty wallets and sore butts from sitting in (unproductive) stands. Not that the season had been a total waste; Randy killed a pretty good 8-pointer toward the end, while all I could do was knock off a couple does. I have no problem shooting a few does. After all, they eat real good, and the game department folks suggest we need to shoot more. But I really wanted a certain buck!
Randy and I also realized it wouldn't be long before spring was in the air; warmer days triggering the fresh, new look of the coming green-up. Buds would stud the trees, early jonquils would poke up their pretty heads and male robins would begin taking on a brighter, more vivid appearance.
"You know," Randy said, "I think I really would rather hunt turkeys than deer!"
"Lord," I replied. "I'd sure hate to have to pick one over the other."
"Well," Randy responded, "what if you had to? Which one would you pick?"
I pondered the question for a bit. For me, it was rather difficult, because I truly love spring turkey season, but I also love deer season. "Well, I really don't have to pick, because they come at different times of year," I said. "So, I won't!"
Randy just grinned. "That's what I was thinking too," he said. "Thank God!"
I have hunted turkeys like a wild man for well over 50 years. It's an obsession like no other. Not that hunting deer or elk or whatever isn't; it's just that turkey hunting is, well, different -- especially when you do it with a bow! There was a long period of time when I gave up trying to kill a big gobbler with my bow. It just seemed nearly impossible, and on the rare occasions when I did manage to whack one, it usually got away, leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth. One thing I never quite counted on was that turkeys can fly, and fly away they did, setting their wings and gliding to some far off place to collapse and feed the coyotes. So, I went back to my muzzleloading shotgun (which itself is a kick) and grinned broadly as I carted numerous gobblers back to camp with their bloody heads slapping against the ass of my camo pants.
Since those early days, many turkey huntin' things have changed. Probably the greatest single boon to bowhunting turkeys was the development of portable blinds. Turkeys, for all their supposed brains and legendary wariness, can be dumber than a hammer when looking at a blind popped up in the middle of their home range. Oh, I've seen them spook a few times, but it's pretty rare, especially if decoys are involved. Decoys have become so sophisticated (and expensive) it almost seems unfair. Still, a big ol' Carry-Lite Pretty Boy with a couple hens can provide more thrills than just about anything I can imagine!
I hear a lot of folks raving about mechanical broadheads when it comes to shooting turkeys and that's fine, though I think any good fixed-blade head, such as New Archery Products's Thunderhead or Muzzy's Phantom, works wonderfully well. As with any critter, you have to hit the bird in the right place, and there are certainly some spots on a turkey that just aren't the right place.
I think the best place to shoot a turkey is either straight on or going straight away, though of course some will argue the point. A common line of thinking is to shoot them in the center of the tail when they are in full strut and facing away. It's not a bad idea, though I think there's too much room for error. It's much better to shoot them in the center of the back when you can see it perfectly, right between the folded wings. Another shot that puts birds down quickly is just above and forward of the legs; it seems to be very hard on them. Personally, I try to stay away from the wing butt/shoulder area. The increasing popularity of heads designed to whack off a turkey's head makes sense if you want to decapitate your turkey. Me, I like their heads attached, and you cannot shoot these heads through the screen on a blind.
Randy, who has shot a lot of turkeys with traditional bows and compounds, pretty much agrees, and we both believe you have to be very careful when trying to clobber a gobbler from a treestand. Turkeys always have one eye cocked skyward.
No matter how you do it, there's not much more fun than chasing spring gobblers. And while you're at it, you can learn a ton about deer, from finding sheds to discovering new trails and hangouts.
Nope, I'm sincerely glad I don't have to make a choice between deer or turkeys.