Free Shipping on orders of $99+ click for details

Ask the experts: 260.587.9501 | Customer Service

Call Us: 260.587.9501 | Customer Service

Your cart is currently empty.
Free Shipping on orders $99+ click for details
Welcome to the 3Rivers Archer's Den

Archer's Den

Welcome to the Archer's Den. Here you will find a gathering of traditional archery stories, tips and techniques, trophy animals taken with traditional bows, and plenty more. Stay a while and learn something. We hope you enjoy and even submit a trophy of your own, or leave a comment on a post.

Tag Archives: Fred Eichler

Up Your Odds on a Guided Hunt

Client of a guided hunt with a beautiful buck Mule Deer

As an outfitter and guide in Colorado I am constantly amazed at how ill prepared some people are that show up at my camp. I once had a client miss an animal with me and then say, “Those broadheads seem to fly different than my field points.” Needless to say, he was ill prepared.

Besides guiding clients myself, I am also occasionally a client at other outfitters camps. I usually go on one or two guided hunts every year. I have had some great hunts and others have been a waste of time, money and in some cases even dangerous. To help avoid a bad experience and to help you up your odds on a guided hunt, I have compiled a list of things I check into before spending my money on a guided hunt.

Are they experienced in guiding Traditional bowhunters?

This is more important than many people realize! A lot of outfitters unfortunately aren’t experienced when it comes to traditional bowhunting.  I have been to places where blinds or treestands were set-up for shots at 30+ yards. It is important to either hunt with outfitters or guides that understand traditional equipment and it’s attributes and limitations or it is our job to explain it to them.

Fred Eichler and client with a beautiful antelope

What is the guide to hunter ratio?

Will it be one on one or will you be sharing your guide with another hunter?  It is worth knowing before you go. If your hunt isn’t a one on one guided hunt and that is what you want, talk to the outfitter. Some outfitters will offer a one on one ratio for a higher fee.

How much will I spend including licenses?

Make sure there are no hidden costs. Request in writing, a list of all costs including license fees or additional transportation costs. Is food and lodging included and is there a trophy or kill fee? These are all important questions.

How many days is the hunt?

Does that include travel days? Most guided hunts average 5 to 7 days, however, they all vary. Be sure you are happy with the number of days versus what you will be paying. If you want a longer hunt, some outfitters will allow hunters to extend their trip on a pay per day basis. This is always important to me since I have already invested my money and time getting to camp, one or two extra days may be all I need to get a shot opportunity. Remember things like weather can also knock a few days off of a hunt in a hurry. Bring this up ahead of time. It may save your trip.

Gorgeous buck with a happy bowhunter.

How physical is the hunt?

Obviously, physical ability varies from person to person as do the requirements of different hunts and terrains. A hunter that is totally out of shape can easily walk a hundred yards from a truck to a tree stand, whereas an elk or lion hunt will demand a totally different set of requirements. How much walking will we be doing on average?

How much stand hunting? Will we be using horses? Make sure you can do what may be required.

What percentage of bow hunters harvest their intended species? And how many have opportunities?

Ask for specific numbers. How many bow hunters did you take last year for elk? Out of those, how many harvested elk? How many had shot opportunities? In fairness to the outfitter, I like to ask about shot opportunities, not necessarily numbers harvested. Also bear in mind that sometimes a low success rate may be due to bad weather, inexperienced or out of shape hunters. Try to feel the guide or outfitter out so you understand why the success rate is high or low.

Can you send me references?

Most outfitters have a prepared reference list. Of course, most reference lists are filled with hunters that harvested animals. Ask for a list of specific references and, if possible, for hunters in your state that have hunted with the outfitter. Be sure to ask for bow hunting references that hunted the same area you will be in, or that at least hunted the same species you are planning to hunt. Talking to other bow hunters can often give you a good feel of what to expect from terrain to guides. Also, ask for references of hunters who were not successful. Sometimes your best information will come from these guys.

Does the Outfitter have any game violations?

A simple call to the area game officer can answer this one. If the game officer advises against the outfitter, I wouldn’t go.

One happy client with a big, beautiful tom turkey

Does the Outfitter hunt private or public land?

Some pubic land areas are great, and others are crowded with public hunters. Find out about where you will be or how many other people you will likely encounter. Most outfitters will charge more to hunt private ranches. Just be sure to ask how much land they have available to hunt on. If its 5 acres and 7 people will be hunting it, it may not be such a great deal. Usually an outfitter will charge more to hunt private ranches. I also always ask how much land they have available to hunt on.

What gear or equipment do they recommend that I bring?

Most outfitters will have a list of items they recommend for the hunt you are going on. If they don’t offer one, ask for one.

In general, most of my bad experiences have come from outfitters I have not communicated with enough. I have also had some tremendous experiences with outfitters that will provide me with fond memories for the rest of my life. And while some of these great memories include harvesting an animal many of them did not.

My next column will be about how to be a good client for an outfitter. Your honesty makes a difference!

As always… Have Fun, Fred

By: Fred Eichler
Everything Eichler

Shoot Em Flying

Fred Eichler shooting aerial targets

If you have not shot aerials with your traditional bow yet, then you are truly missing out on one of the coolest things you can do with a trad bow besides hunting.

One of the reasons I love shooting aerials is I remember all the old films of Fred Bear shooting thrown discs with his recurve. I was always intrigued and knew that one day I wanted to be able to do that.

I am proud to report that I am not only routinely shooting aerials, but I have also introduced a lot of my friends as well as our boys to the sport. Shooting just fixed targets all the time can start to get old. As a parent I was constantly looking for ways to keep my kids outside in the great outdoors and introducing them to new ways to enjoy archery. That includes practice, bowhunting and of course safety. From paper targets I graduated the kids to 3-D targets. As a way to keep things fun and exciting the next step was discs in the air. Shooting aerials is tons of fun, great practice, and a terrific way to either get kids involved or to help keep them interested in shooting a bow. It also looks pretty impressive and can be picked up easily with a little practice.

12 inch Aerial bullseye knock-out target
12″ Aerial Target with Knock-out center sold at 3Rivers Archery

What You Need– The nice thing about aerials is that targets are inexpensive to buy. Three Rivers Archery has aerial targets available for purchase. I suggest a few of them so you don’t have to keep stopping the fun to pick up one target. If you’re into building your own, you can simply cut circles out of cardboard and start gluing them together. Usually, 5-6 layers is plenty to stop an arrow. I suggest starting with a 15″ circle and try working down to something tougher like a 6-8 inch disc. 

After either purchasing or making your targets you now need some Flu Flu arrows. If you have never heard of a Flu Flu arrow Wikipedia defines it as “a type of arrow specifically designed to travel a short distance. Such arrows are particularly useful when shooting at aerial targets or for certain types of recreational archery where the arrow must not travel too far.” The term Flu Flu arrow in my opinion is not really accurate because you are shooting the same arrow you target shoot or hunt with. The only difference is the feathers. It also doesn’t matter if you use arrow shafts made of wood, aluminum or carbon. They will all work fine with the addition of larger feathers.

The history of the Flu Flu dates back to Maurice Thompson’s book, “The Witchery of Archery,” first published in 1878. In it Maurice talks of a Native American who used “broad-feathered arrows which he had named “Floo Hoo” on account of a peculiar roaring sound it made while flying through the air.

Fred Eichler's Signature Line Flu Flu Carbon Arrows
Fred Eichler Signature Flu Flu Arrows

To sum it up, basically it is just oversize feathers placed on your regular hunting arrow that acts as a wind drag preventing the arrow from going very far. There are tons of combinations and ways of applying the feathers to achieve the desired result. The easiest way to get Flu Flu’s is to order them from Three Rivers Archery. Oftentimes local archery shops can also fletch them up for you as well. If you would rather make your own, you can just purchase some full length feathers and make them yourself. There is a learning curve here and I would suggest purchasing a video or following instructions on-line to help you fletch up your arrows correctly.

Eichler Flu Flu arrow in aerial target

Once you have some Flu Flu’s fletched up you can enjoy some great fun target shooting. Besides aerial disc shooting, Flu Flu’s are also great option for close range hunting on small game like birds, squirrels, rabbits or anything where you don’t want your arrow to head out of sight. As always be safe and have fun…. Fred

By: Fred Eichler
Everything Eichler

Bowfishing is Fun!

Fred Eichler out bowfishing

I bit on the bowfishing bug early in life. I am known for taking things to the extreme and bowfishing was no different. It started with carp and then I graduated to sharks, stingrays, alligators, gar and all sorts of fish. It is not only fun but you can also pack some great meat in the freezer. It is just white instead of red. 

Traditional Gear and Bowfishing just go together. Fortunately for us there are tons of equipment options available for traditional bows. Like many things, options range from gear for the occasional bowfisherman that doesn’t want to drop a lot of cash, to gear for the addicted bowfisherman that spends more on their bowfishing boat, lights and platform than they do on their vehicle. Yes, I do know people like that…..sorry mom.

Eichler family bowfishing fun

Excluding a boat which is nice but not mandatory for bowfishing, you can get all you need to bowfish for anywhere from twenty dollars to a hundred and twenty. The two main types of bowfishing reels are the hand wind or the reel style. Hand reels are inexpensive and great starters. They come in two different types: One mounts to a stabilizer bushing and the other is a tape-on model that works well for longbows and recurves without a bushing.

These hand reels generally retail for under twenty dollars and are a good option for beginners or experienced shooters on a budget. Although this inexpensive system works well, it is slow and makes a quick follow up shot impossible unless another bow and spool are rigged up and ready nearby.

Fred bowfishing on a family trip to Mexico

For the reel style bowfishing rig there are two options available. I have used both and would recommend either one. One is the AMS retriever bowfishing reel. The retriever has a handy finger regulated drag and a twist free bottle that your line goes into. It also sports a fast line crank, which speeds up your recovery time. The Retriever reel retails for approximately one hundred dollars.

Fred showing off a Muzzy bowfishing reel effectiveness

Another popular choice is the Muzzy Xtreme Duty Bowfishing reel. It comes with 100 feet of braided 200 lb test bowfishing line and is easy to use. It has a familiar push button release and a standard reel adjustable drag. This set up retails for around 45 dollars. 

AMS bowfishing fiberglass arrow with point and slide

Bowfishing arrows are pretty simple and inexpensive. Most pro-shops usually carry only one or two models. The two most common are all fiberglass shafts or carbon infused shafts. The solid fiberglass shafts I use are extremely durable and retail for anywhere from $15-$25, which includes a bowfishing head and safety slide. Even more important than arrow selection is the type of fish head you choose. There are many bowfishing heads that look great in the display case, but are not so great in a fish. Choose a rugged, functional head. There are few things more frustrating than missing a shot at a darting fish and then pulling up a bent or broken head. One thing to look for is a head that has a short distance from the point to the barbs. These require less penetration for the head to be held securely. This is especially important with large fish or when shooting bows with low poundage.

Traditional Bows are perfect for bowfishing because most of your shots are snapshots at moving fish. Just the ticket for a longbow or a recurve.

Fred with a monster he took with his recurve bow

Don’t forget that you have to shoot low to compensate for water refraction. That is a fancy word for “the fish isn’t where it looks like it is.” I’m sure a smarter person than me could explain the formula for exactly how low you have to shoot based on how deep the fish is. It is really more a matter of S.W.A.G That’s another term for Just shoot low and hope. I should warn any newbies that bowfishing is an addictive smelly sport. So if your currently having a problem finding a spouse that will put up with your bowhunting addiction, I wouldn’t add this one. Have Fun!

By Fred Eichler
Everything Eichler

You Didn’t Miss

Whitetail deer buck alone

Whitetails are the most frequently hunted species in North America. This is partially due to the fact that they are found in huntable numbers in 43 states. In my opinion these plentiful deer are also one of the most difficult big game species to hit with an arrow. Before I proceed I should explain that I feel the whitetails smaller cousin the Coues deer is the most difficult. Also, I didn’t say most difficult to hunt. I said most difficult to hit with an arrow.

The main reason whitetails are tough to hit is that they spook easily and have amazingly fast reflexes, even more so when they are pressured by hunters or other natural predators. I have been fortunate to have had a lot of my hunts captured on video over the last sixteen years. By watching slow motion video of over fifty whitetails I have shot on video, I can say that less than five percent of those showed no reaction before my arrow struck. The majority of these deer were moving when the arrow hit them. The reason they were moving is that they were beginning their natural evasive maneuver which is to flee. To run a deer needs to load its muscles. To do this a deer must go down first before running. This is commonly called “ducking the string,” when in fact the deer isn’t intentionally ducking at all. It is just trying to get out of there because it heard something close by that wasn’t a natural sound. To test why they duck the string for yourself, it is fun to take a video camera and film yourself. Start in a standing position, then as quickly as you can, RUN! You will see that you will have to drop a foot or more before you can engage your muscles so you are able to run. That is exactly what the deer have to do. Besides dropping, most deer start to whirl as well and usually away from the sound. The reason for this is that deer have exceptional hearing and fast reflexes. For example the speed of sound is close to 1,100 feet per second. An arrow shot out of a fast traditional bow is going about 200 feet per second and slowing down fast down range. A deer’s reaction time is measured in milliseconds, so it is pretty obvious that deer can and usually do react in some way before your arrow arrives on scene.

Bachelor group of deer looking relaxed.

 I have also used my DVR to record other whitetail hunts on TV and find that regardless of the bow used, in slow motion they almost all react as well, so it’s not just me.

I share this because a lot of my friends and acquaintances have shared stories of whitetails they missed. Most say they just missed high. My comment to them is, “maybe you didn’t miss.” The deer just wasn’t there when your arrow got there.

Just last month when I was in Illinois hunting whitetails, I had another deer duck my arrow. It was a big mature whitetail in an area that gets pressured during archery, muzzleloading and rifle season. I had seen the big buck make a scrape a few days before and I decided to move a stand to hunt the scrape. My stand was about eighteen to twenty yards from the scrape and my friend and cameraman Jake Kraus was sitting above me hoping to video the buck if he came in. As luck would have it the same buck ran into the scrape and started raking the scrape with his front right hoof. I drew my Buffalo recurve and released. It was one of those shots that as soon as you let the string drop you just know it is gonna be great. Except it wasn’t, the buck fell over instantly, his spine was severed. It was a fatal shot but the arrow hit way above the tuft of hair I was aiming at. On camera, I said I missed and got lucky to harvest the buck. I was also lucky a spike didn’t step in range first or I would have been eating him instead.

That evening Jake was reviewing the footage and said, “You didn’t miss.” He showed me the footage by advancing it frame by frame and my arrow would have hit the deer right above the heart had he not dropped at the shot. What’s interesting to me is that I would have said the deer didn’t react. It happens so fast that without the video I would have assumed I made a bad shot. The fact is that bad shots sometimes happen to all of us, but in this case the shot was good but the deer’s reaction time almost caused me to miss him or even worse, wound him.

So what can we do to avoid it? One thing we can do is anticipate the deer’s reaction and shoot to hit low on the vitals. That way if a deer ducks the shot will still be fatal.

Fred Eichler with whitetail buck 2020

 Other things we can do is to make sure our bows are shooting as quietly as possible. Properly spined arrows, heavy arrows, loose fitting nocks, string silencers and moleskin on bow tips where applicable all help. Additionally, I have shortened the range that I will shoot at a whitetail. Even if you are comfortable shooting at twenty five or thirty yards, the odds of a whitetail not moving that far out before the arrow gets there are slim. Fortunately for us there are situations which can reduce the odds of a deer ducking the string.

Although deer use all their senses to detect danger, we will assume that we are in range of a deer that has not seen us, smelled us or heard u up to the point that we shoot. We will also assume we can draw without being detected. Now all we need to worry about is the deer’s reaction to our shot. We will also assume that our bow is as quiet as we can make it and it only emits a soft strum when shot.  

On a quiet day that soft strum sounds loud to a spooky whitetail. So if it is one of those dead calm days where you can hear a squirrel in the leaves a hundred yards away you can plan on a reaction from the deer. On days like this I like to keep shots close and I intentionally pick a spot low on the bottom third of the bucks chest. I also pick a spot a few inches behind the crease of the shoulder.  By aiming here if the deer doesn’t drop and start to whirl I will have a low lung hit. By shooting here, if the buck drops and starts to whirl I will still have a fatal shot. To improve the odds of a deer not reacting or having a minimal reaction it is bet to shoot on windy, rainy or snowy days. On these days the deer’s sense of hearing is constantly bombarded by the sound of rain or snow on leaves and branches bumping and other associated sounds. On these days the deer’s reaction is usually less drastic, if there is any reaction at all.

Deer traveling in groups are less likely to spook at sounds

Other variables that reduce or stop a deer from reacting is if it is traveling with other deer. A deer traveling with one or more deer constantly make some noise going through the woods. I have noticed a lone deer is more likely to react to the sound of the bow than a deer with company. A deer that is distracted because it is rubbing a tree, rutted up, distracted by other deer, walking through leaves or some other loud environment or making a scrape are also usually less likely to react drastically.

Even though the buck in the beginning of this article did drop almost seven inches as near as we could measure from looking at the video as with all animals and hunting situations each one is unique. I once missed a buck in Montana that ducked completely out of the flight of my arrow. I had never seen a reaction that drastic. In speaking with other hunters and showing our footage, we learned that same buck had been missed a week earlier by another bowhunter. Talk about a quick reaction! The best thing we can do as bowhunters who deeply respect the game we pursue is to keep our shots close and prepare for the worst case scenario. In my opinion it is always best to shoot at the bottom third of any animal you shoot at with a bow.

Mule Deer are just as likely to duck an arrow as other deer.

Even though whitetails get the most press as being the most common arrow duckers, the fact is that I have seen almost all big game react in some degree to the noise of a bow being shot. I have witnessed Antelope, Mule Deer, Blacktail Deer, Elk, Sheep, and even moose, all react to traditional bows being shot.

Even an arrow shot through the quietest longbow is still susceptible to being ducked by an animal on a quiet day. Even more so if that animal is alert. I have also been amazed on more than one occasion when small game like a rabbit has dropped and whirled before my arrow hit its mark. The most notorious small game animals are bobcats, coyote and fox. I always try and pick a spot low on the chest and back a few inches on these quick critters as well. Again, video has shown me time and time again that there is a lot more happening when we shoot than we usually realize with our eyes.

Fred and Seth with a Columbia Blacktail buck

I know some people might be thinking that they have never had a deer react to the sound of a quiet longbow or recurve. If you haven’t, you are lucky, the majority of deer do react in some way before the arrow hits. Also, without a video camera it is hard to say how much they react. I only learned from watching a lot of deer reactions in slow motion. Also, if your beating yourself up over a deer you missed high on, maybe….”YOU DIDN’T MISS” Good luck, Have fun and aim low!…

By: Fred Eichler
Everything Eichler

Making The Change to Traditional Archery

Fred Eichler explains why he made the switch from compound to traditional archery.
Fred Eichler talks traditional.

Congratulations! If you’re reading this I will assume you are considering trying out a traditional bow. As you are probably aware, traditional bows include recurves, longbows, and self bows. Since success in any sport requires an understanding of the sport, I will try and give you a heads up on what to expect as you start out.

You may be surprised to learn that a lot of other bowhunters are making the switch as well. In the last fifteen to twenty years the number of people shooting traditional bows has skyrocketed. It seems once people are introduced to it, they love it. Some of the most common reasons I hear for people switching is that they want to shoot a simpler bow or they want the challenge of traditional archery. What’s funny is that to me the real challenge is shooting something with a compound. Shooting a traditional bow is a huge advantage in a real hunting situation.

Fred Eichler made the switch from compound to traditional archery 20 years ago, and he hasn't looked back.
Even die-hard compound shooters can make the switch to traditional.

My formal introduction came over 20 years ago while I was managing an archery shop in Northern Colorado. I had been a die-hard compound shooter. I shot competitively and used all the bells and whistles whether I was shooting targets or hunting. What I noticed is that the traditional shooters just seemed to have more fun. They were always playing shooting games, practicing in crazy positions, or stump shooting. My practice with my compound seemed more regimented. I had to know the range, so I used a rangefinder. I had to hook up my release, I had to look through my peep, I had to pick the right pin, and then I would concentrate and slowly squeeze the release trigger. Only after all that would my arrow finally leave the bow. The traditional guys were just shooting. Just drawing back and letting go. So I decided to give it a try. I am now a passionate traditional bowhunter.

My beginning was like a lot of other traditional shooters. I started out with a compound bow. The compound was my introduction to archery like a set of training wheels is often the introduction to riding a bike. Traditional archery opened up a whole new world to me. I was lucky and had some great mentors like custom recurve bowyer Mike Palmer and Archery shop owner Jim Widmier to help me along.

To help keep you from having a bad experience, there are some major differences between compounds and recurves that you need to be aware of. These differences range from equipment to shooting style. There are also a few things that are similar and can be used in both genres. 

Anchor point is equally important whether you shoot compound or traditional.
Fred uses a three point anchor when shooting traditional.

Anchor point – To shoot a compound accurately, you must anchor at the same spot every time. With a traditional bow achieving a solid anchor that is consistent every time is just as important. To help ensure you anchor at the same point, multiple reference points are best. I use a three point anchor, I put my middle finger in the corner of my mouth, my thumb under my jaw, and the knuckle of my pointer finger on my cheek bone. I suggest you find a comfortable, easy to remember anchor point as soon as you start shooting so you don’t develop bad habits.

Typically you should drop 10 pounds from your pull weight when switching from a compound bow to a traditional bow.
When switching from compound to traditional, Fred recommends dropping 10 lbs. from your usual compound weight.

Poundage – The worse thing you can do is start with a poundage that is too high for you to comfortably shoot. This is a huge issue when changing over or when starting to shoot traditional equipment. This is where most beginning traditional shooters make their first mistake. A lot of new shooters assume they want to shoot the same poundage they did on their compound. This is usually not advisable since with a traditional bow you are holding the full poundage weight at full draw. As a rough rule of thumb, I always advise new traditional shooters to drop 10 lbs off their comfortable compound weight. The word comfortable is big with any bow. If it’s not comfortable to shoot or you are straining, you will not shoot the bow accurately and you will not want to shoot as much which will keep you from getting any better. I always advise going lighter rather than heavier. For example, I am 6’2” and weigh 205 lbs and I shoot a 54 lb recurve. I could shoot a heavier bow, but it wouldn’t feel as comfortable. I have killed 13 elk, 5 moose, and a lot of other smaller animals with that poundage and I will not hesitate to drop that poundage lower when it starts to feel heavy. My wife is tiny and shoots a light bow, but she shot a Pope and Young antelope with a 37 lb recurve at twenty yards. My point in sharing these stories is that it is better to shoot a light weight bow and shoot accurately, than it is to shoot a bow that is too heavy and miss or wound the animal you are after.  

When choosing your traditional bow, bear in mind that manufactured bows all list the poundage on the bow. This poundage is measured when the bow is drawn to 28”. This is important because if your draw length is 30” the bow will gain poundage. Poundage gains vary based on the bow, materials used and design, but an average is a 3 lb gain or loss in poundage for every inch you draw more than or less than the 28” standard. This 3 lb gain or loss holds for draws from about 25” to 31”. Much over or below that range and the poundage gain or loss becomes higher or lower depending on which side of the draw curve you’re on. A custom traditional bow is just that, it is built to your specific poundage at your draw length.

The draw length on a traditional bow is typically a bit shorter than the draw length on a compound bow.
Your draw length will typically be a little shorter on a traditional bow.

Draw Length–  Another common mistake people make is assuming that their draw length for their compound will be the same in a traditional bow. It is usually a little shorter on a traditional bow. Here again comfort is the key. Come to a draw that feels comfortable and is easy to achieve consistently. Most pro shops as well as custom bowyers use a fifteen pound bow to measure draw length, that way it is easy for you to come back to what is comfortable. Be sure to get measured properly before purchasing a traditional bow because knowing your draw will help you pick a comfortable poundage to match it.

I have tried to point out some of the differences and similarities that you need to be aware of when switching from a compound to a traditional bow. Even if you’re totally new to the sport of archery and have never held any type of bow these same tips will apply.

Lastly, I want to point out what I think are some of the biggest advantages to shooting a traditional bow. Bear in mind, I am a big tent theory guy and feel that it doesn’t matter if you shoot a compound or a traditional bow, we are all bowhunters. I have experience shooting both and feel qualified to say that a traditional bow is a more efficient weapon to hunt with at bowhunting ranges. To me that is thirty yards and under. The reasons are simple. Traditional bows are faster to shoot, quieter, easy to shoot at odd angles, and there is a lot less to go wrong with a simpler bow. They are also more fun to shoot in my opinion. Good luck and most importantly… Have fun!!!!

Fred Eichler enjoys the challenge and efficiency of bowhunting with traditional gear. Here he is with a mountain lion he shot with his trusty recurve bow.
A traditional bow is very efficient at bowhunting ranges of 30 yards and under.

By Fred Eichler of Everything Eichler

Turkey Traditional Style

By Fred Eichler

Fred Eichler with nice Turkey he shot with his bow

No, this is not a recipe on how I like to cook turkeys. It is about my favorite way to hunt turkeys.

I’m not really sure if I love to hunt turkeys or if they are just the only thing that is really huntable in the spring besides pigs, bears or fish. Either way, it is definitely up there on my many favorites to hunt.

Notice I said to hunt and not to guide. I also guide turkey hunters and a good portion of my clients are traditional shooters. I think the reason I like hunting over guiding is because sometimes it is tough to watch a fellow traditional guy hunt turkeys. I have learned how to hunt Turkeys by making virtually every mistake possible so I try to save my clients the pain of making all the mistakes I have made. Inevitably however, every year I cringe a little as I see history repeat itself as some of them make the same mistakes I have made.

The first tough thing about turkey hunting with traditional equipment is getting into bow range. One thing I learned by hunting turkeys without a blind is that less is best. By that I mean try and make yourself and your equipment not only camouflaged but streamlined. For example, when I am hunting turkeys and I am just sitting and calling, I take my quiver off my bow. In my mind those extra arrows and fletching are just that much more for a sharp-eyed turkey to see when you lift your bow for a shot. I am also a firm believer in full camouflage. A watch, ring, even shiny framed glasses can give away your position if you are not careful. I have seen some great looking recurves and longbows with shiny finishes on them. Those may look great on a display rack but they stick out like the proverbial sore thumb in the woods. To avoid getting busted, I like a matt finish or a camouflage finish on my bow.

I grew up hunting turkeys way before any of the “pop-up” blinds were used or even thought of. To me a turkey blind was when you cut a few branches and used them to hide behind. I think because I started out hunting turkeys the old school way it has made me a better hunter. If you can draw on a sharp-eyed  turkey, then you can draw on anything. 

A wily turkey on the look out for predators.
Turkeys have excellent vision. They can detect motion many yards away.

Turkey decoys were and still are a very important part of luring a bird in close enough for a good shot with a traditional bow. It gives the bird or birds something to look at and makes it easier to get away with drawing your bow. 

Although I enjoy hunting turkeys without a blind, the fact is, in states where they are legal,  a blind is the most effective way for a bowhunter to lure a bird in range without being busted. For guiding they are awesome.  I also like turkey hunting with a pop-up blind because the shots are generally closer and I can bring my kids with me and they won’t spook every bird in a hundred yard radius. Having said that there are still a lot of mistakes that can be made while hunting out of a blind. 

Fred Eichler poses with a turkey he took using his traditional bow, as well as a blind and turkey decoy.
Blinds and decoys are useful for luring wary turkeys in range.

First, make sure you purchase a blind tall enough to accommodate your traditional bow. A lot of pop up blinds are designed for compounds or rifle hunters and just will not work for a traditional bow. Also, while hunting out of a blind the most common mistake I see is hunters  getting silhouetted between open windows or screens. For a blind to work you must only have one side open and only open enough for you to see and shoot out of. I also prefer to go with black clothing because it blends in with the dark background of the blind. Additionally, I like to add some black camo paint or a glove on my bow hand that will be closest to the window or opening of the blind. Lastly when hunting out of a blind, I try and take care to not face the blind opening east or west. If you are facing the sunrise or sunset then light will come into the blind making you easier to spot.

I usually hunt out of an Ameristep blind with a shoot through netting. The netting helps hide you from sharp-eyed turkeys and really has no affect on arrow flight providing you have an arrow that is properly matched to your bow. To test it,  try setting up a target and taking a few test shots to increase your confidence in shooting through the screen.

Besides getting a turkey in range, the toughest things about killing a turkey is knowing where to shoot them. About half of a turkeys size in full strut is actually bird. The other half is all feathers.

A wild turkey in full strut.
Turkeys strut as part of their courtship ritual.

When I am hunting without a blind, I prefer to shoot a bird in full strut that is facing away from me. In this position the birds eyes are hidden from view by it’s fan. I try and shoot right in the “keester” at that angle. When in a blind, I prefer a broadside shot. When the bird is broadside I try and shoot two inches behind the wing butt. This shot will take out the lungs and put the bird down fast. Some hunters aim for the head which can be instantly fatal but I am not that good and the head is rarely still. In fact the head is usually the first thing that moves so I like the larger kill zone of the chest. 

For traditional hunters, these birds can be a tough target. I try and set my decoys close in and usually only ten yards away, that way even if they hang up a little, I can usually  get a twenty yard shot. If they come right in my shot is usually five to ten yards.

If you haven’t already tried turkey hunting with a traditional bow, Don’t try it. It is addictive, frustrating and rewarding. A dangerous combination that is habit forming.  

Fred Eichler celebrates another successful turkey hunt.
Fred poses with the results of a successful wild turkey hunt.
Back to Top