The point-blank, booming gobble shattered my peaceful daydreaming session while turkey hunting. My blind was positioned in a brushy fence row and I could only shoot straight ahead into the harvested bean field or directly behind into a long abandoned, fallow field sprouting trees. The gobble had sounded from straight down the fence row. I carefully cracked a closed shooting port just enough to peer down the fence row. Through the branches, I saw three hens scratching around walking my direction with a mature tom strutting behind. When the turkeys broke to the right, I dropped the black curtain on the front window of the Double Bull blind. After easing a back window open, I readied the longbow. The hens scratched on by with the gobbler still strutting along behind. The early morning sunlight made his feathers glow with an oily sheen. When the tom reached a clear shooting lane, he folded back to normal size. Concentrating on the area straight above his legs, I drew to anchor, aimed and pulled through to conclusion. The arrow flashed ten yards and neatly disappeared in the longbeard. He took several steps, sunk to his breast and flapped his wings twice. Quickly nocking another shaft, I watched intently for movement, but it was over. Unzipping the blind, I stepped out to examine my prize.
This was the seventh mature gobbler I’d taken turkey hunting in as many years from the same spot. To cap the season off, my wife, Marie, anchored her first tom from the same blind a week later. She called to a group of hens with a longbeard in tow. They crossed the field, but acted like they weren’t interested. When they disappeared into the fence row eighty yards away, Marie settled back into her stool to continue her vigil.
Several minutes later, she heard some rustling outside the blind. Looking up, she saw a hen walk by the shooting port at six yards. She said she nearly fell off her stool when a gobble erupted from just outside the blind. She eased her recurve into position as a big tom with a ten inch beard stepped into view at eight yards.
“I had to draw three times because I was so nervous I kept knocking the arrow off the shelf,” she exclaimed later.
The third draw was the charm though and she thumped the broadside bird mid body, right above the drum sticks. He ran forty yards into the field and tipped over.
In this post, I’d like to share some of the successful set-ups my friends and I used last year to collect our spring toms.
The turkey hunting location I wrote about in the opening is on the corner of a wooded fence row. The fence row starts from the middle of a twenty acre woodlot on one end and separates row crop fields. The other end connects to the outside corner of a smaller woodlot and the corner of a fallow field laced with brush, young trees and swatches of native grasses. Another fence row runs along the edge of the fallow field and joins the same corner of the smaller woodlot forming the ninety degree corner where the blind was set.
I’ve seen enough turkeys go through this area to have the confidence to sit all daywhen possible. In fact, three of the seven birds I’ve shot there were taken in the afternoon after work. The toms were making their way back to the larger woodlot where they like to roost. I set up away from the roosting area to keep the pressure off these birds. The surrounding are has intense turkey hunting pressure and I want to be able to turkey hunt all season if necessary.
I used to use decoys and while hens and jakes came in, the mature toms usually hung up fifty to eighty yards away. There is thick cover behind the blind, so I forgot about the decoys and tried to make the calls form my Primos, Power Crystal sound like they came from the dense brush. Immediately the calling paid off and turkeys came into close range looking for their pals in the thick stuff.
I think different tactics are necessary for different locations and states. What works in one area might not get any results in another.
One thing my buddies and I agree on is shot placement for body shots. We look at the turkey’s legs and shoot above them. If the shot is low you take out the drum sticks, which equals a dead bird. A high shot on a broadside tom usually drops them. Shooting to far forward on a broadside tom can be bad news. Their breast is large and has no vitals. I recovered a Tom I hit back on a broadside hit by waiting. I snuck along the trail four hours later and found the tom about eighty yards away. Head on or straight away shots are deadly with good line. I’ve never shot at a strutting Tom, but I have a buddy who says the rear port is a perfect aiming spot.
Blinds are another subject we agree on. Our favorites are the Double Bull Recurve Models. The Double Bull stools are comfortable also. I’ve shot some using the shoot through netting and some without.
My dad has a spot he’s taken three toms from. It is the inside corner of a woods bordered by a CRP field. He sets his blind on the edge of woods under a tree. An old logging road cuts though the woods and ends at the CRP in the same corner.
Dad entered the blind in darkness after placing one hen decoy ten yards from his blind in the field. Some toms gobbled from the roost at daylight and flew down into the CRP field a little later. Dad saw one out in the grass and called to it with his Primos, Carbon Prospector. The bird walked in his direction, spotted the decoy and came in on a string. At 12 yards, dad drew his 50# recurve and nailed the broadside turkey in the wing butt.
Gary Boals, is another turkey hunting buddy of mine. He discovered a group of big toms roosting in the middle of a large woods. He set up his Double Bull, Matrix Blind thirty yards out from the edge of the woods in a mowed set aside field before daylight. He placed single hen decoy and climbed inside to wait.
Gary heard toms gobbling from the roost at the first hint of daylight. They gobbled again when they flew down and then shut up. Gary said this was normal behavior in this area. He called once with his Cherokee Slim, box call and then remained silent also.
Later, Gary spotted a mature tom 150 yards away in the set aside field. He gave a couple yelps with the call again. Gary said the tom puffed up and strutted toward the decoy. “It took him twenty minutes to get in shooting range; he strutted all the way!” Gary informed me later.
When the tom reached a quartering away position at seven yards, he drew his Black Widow, Osage Longbow. On release, the G5 tipped carbon arrow cut through the morning air and perfectly pegged the longbeard. He took a couple flopping steps and fell over. Gary had his first gobbler. After inspecting his trophy, he quickly made the traditional cell phone calls a few buddies. We always call up to brag, but if we get voice mail we gobble obnoxiously and hang up. When I heard Gary’s voice mail later that morning, I smiled widely.
Spring turkey hunting is a lot of fun. And I consider shooting one a true accomplishment. A real feather in your cap both literally and figuratively.
By: Denny Sturgis Jr.