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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: Turkey

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.

Spring Gobbler Hunting for Beginners

Jared Grewing displays the turkey he took with his Great Plains Long Curve and Zwickey Broadhead, 2013.
Jared Grewing displays the turkey he took with his Great Plains Long Curve and Zwickey Broadhead, 2013.

For the spring season, if you want to bag a turkey, you’re going have to scout, scout, and then scout some more. Expect this to take a good bit of time and effort. You’re scouting to find where the turkeys are roosting and where they feed or strut in the morning. Usually, they’ll keep to the same patterns in good weather.

When you’re scouting, you’re looking and listening for where the birds are, where are the hens going after they pitch down, what are the Toms doing, which Toms run together and where do they feed.

Go out at dusk the evening before your hunt and listen to where they are gobbling at sunset, use a call to get e response gobble letting you pin the roost tree. When you call and finally do get a gobble in response, do not keep calling.

Dusk Hunt

Turkeys do not call as much as you think. Yes, there are times when a hen will just crank away, but not all the time, in fact, she only does that in specific situations. Until you know why she’s doing that, your best tools are patience and knowing your land.

Get there about an hour before sunrise the next morning and set up your decoys in a spot about 100 yards away from the roost tree. You want to be roughly 15 yards from your decoys (or whatever distance you feel comfortable taking that shot), positioned so your back is against a tree or some brush. Remember to stay still; you don’t want all the work you’ve put in to go to waste just because you can’t sit still. That said, look at where you’re going to sit before you put your butt down on an ant hill.

Five minutes to light, make a tree yelp – resist the temptation to continue calling. Wait for about 10 minutes and see if the birds fly to your setup from the roost. When the turkeys fly down and head to your decoy, it’s time to bag your bird. If you have a bird come in, you wait until he is in full strut. As soon as he turns around and his fan is blocking all view of you, get in position and get ready to draw back on that bird as soon as he turns around again. This may take 5 minutes or an hour, be prepared to be able to hold your bow in an odd or uncomfortable position for a very long time.

However, if you don’t hear anything for another 10 minutes, make a couple more yelps.

Turkey Hunt

If they fly down, but not to you, try a few more periodic calls, but it’s probably not going to work out. If they flew down, but you’re not sure where they went and you’re not getting responses to calls stay where you’re at for at least an hour. About 80% of the time this won’t work; you, however, are hoping it’s the 20% that does work.

If, after an hour, you’re still coming up short it’s time to start hiking your hunting area. Remember, if you’re on public land it’s a good idea (and in many states it’s the law) to wear some orange while hiking; just remember to put it away when you find your next spot. Periodically you’ll want to stop and call to see if you can strike a gobble. If you don’t hear anything then keep moving. If you get a response, it’s time to quickly setup again (just like at the beginning of your hunt). After you get settled in, call again and listen to see if the Tom is coming your way.

If you think that everything is going well and the birds are getting close and then they go silent, be ready for them to show up in stealth mode. If, however, you’re pretty sure they’re gone wait 20 minutes after the last time you called before you either call again or leave. There is nothing more heartbreaking than thinking you’re done for the day, standing up and hearing the familiar sound of a turkey taking flight.

Remember, turkeys have nowhere to be and all day to get there. The hunting shows on TV cut hours of waiting to fit into their 30 minute show. Be patient and most importantly, have fun.

For some great shot placement tips, check out this video on turkey anatomy and proper arrow placement from Hoyt. It’s geared toward compound shooters, but the skills are pretty easily transferable to traditional archery.

By Jason D. Mills

3Rivers’ Pre-Season Turkey Tips

Fred Eichler Turkey Hunt May 2011 065
Fred Eichler shows off his Tom from a successful Turkey Hunt in May 2011

The days are getting longer and the air is getting warmer, which can mean only one thing – turkey season is almost here. Getting a trophy tom with a shotgun can be hard, but when you decide to do it with your bow, especially a recurve or longbow, it can be considerably more difficult. The last thing you want to do is to be caught unprepared on opening day – making an already challenging hunt nearly impossible, but don’t worry 3Rivers Archery has your back.

There are a few things to consider before venturing out into the woods this season, and the best time to start thinking about them is in the weeks prior to opening day.

Where are you hunting?

Many bowhunters will likely already have their hunting area secured. If you fall into that category, now would be a good time to start scouting – you should become intimately familiar with your territory. If you’re still not sure where you’re going to be hunting this season, the advice is the same; don’t wait for opening day to find out where the birds are roosting and feeding.

Will you be hunting from a blind or ‘running and gunning?’

Many archers find it easier to hunt from a blind because it can conceal the extra movement of drawing a bow. When hunting with a shotgun it’s easy to simply get set-up, put the gun on you knee and wait for a bird to get within range. With a bow, however, it’s never that simple. If you do decide to ‘run-and-gun’ consider using a bow sock in conjunction with some bow camo and a ghillie suit. Although this won’t hide your movements completely, it will soften them and it can be much more effective at concealing the human form than camouflage alone.

Is your blind ready to go?

A good ground blind is invaluable to the bowhunter when he is matching wits with a seasoned tom. Turkeys have some of the sharpest eyes in the woods, and your trophy tom has been hunted before, so he’s already weary of even the slightest movements. You can’t hold your bow at full draw for too long and drawing takes a lot of movement, so what do you do? You get a ground blind. There are many different kinds of blinds from single panels to large pop-up blinds and even the high-tech GhostBlind®. Which one is the right one for you? That depends on preference, hunting style, and budget, but I love the GhostBlind®. It works just about anywhere and can be moved easily and setup quickly.

Are your decoys ready to go?

Most hunters can get the old longbeards within 50 or so yards, but arguably the most difficult part of luring a tom within shooting range are those last few yards. A good decoy can be the difference between success or failure this season. That said, it’s hard to find a reason to not recommend the Miss Purr-Fect Hen. It just works. The Miss Purr-Fect weighs about as much as a bottle of water and features perfect pose technology, allowing for detailed adjustable neck/head positioning.

Do you have a good hunting seat?

Whether you will be sitting at the base of a tree or in a ground blind this season, it is important to think about comfort. If you can’t sit still then you might as well not go out at all, because a turkey will see your movement and your hunt will be over. If you’re going to be sitting on the ground, then at least make sure your back is comfortable with some lumbar support. Or, if you’re going to be hunting from a blind you might want to check out the Chama Swivel Hunting Chair.

Is your camo right for the season?

You’re going to need to get your bird within your kill zone, and for most traditional bowhunters that means 20 yards or less. This means the detail of your camouflage is critical. The wild turkey’s ability to pick up movement is truly impressive, so you need to make sure you’re camo is on point. The new Core4Element Realtree Xtra® Camo line by Easton is impressive and has been designed for early season hunting.

Do you have the appropriate broadheads?

What’s the best broadhead for hunting turkey? The one that flies the straightest and gets the job done. The vital area on a turkey is roughly the size of a fist; that said, the best broad head is the one you can shoot confidently into that small of an area time and time again. You do not want to be second guessing how an arrow will fly or your ability to hit a tom when he is at 20 yards.

However, it’s best to avoid a pass though with turkey, because if they can run or fly after the shot, they usually will, which won’t leave a blood trail or, if it does, it won’t be a good one. If you can, try and place your arrow so it penetrates at least one wing, both would be better, while also hitting the vitals. Another good way to avoid a pass through is to add a Zwickey Scorpios Broadhead Stopper to your broadhead.

Have you practiced shooting enough to be confident?

DuraMesh Turkey Target Face
DuraMesh Turkey Target Face

As with all things, the key to successful traditional bowhunting is practice. In the military they have a saying, train like you fight. It would be a good idea to find an area where you can practice shooting, which will closely replicate your actual hunting conditions. It’s also a good idea to get a decent target for practice. I love practicing with a good 3D target, but not every hunter can afford that. The next best option is to get a high-quality lifelike paper target.

Have you purchased your hunting license?

This one seems like such a no-brainer, but it never fails – someone will forget or put it off too long. So, do it now, well not right now, but as soon as you’re done reading this article.

Finally, how are you going to display that big longbeard once you bag him?

Arrowhead Plaque
Turkey beard and tail feathers pictured with an Arrowhead Plaque

Because you will get him, if not this year then maybe next year, but it will happen. I suggest mounting the tail feathers and longbeard yourself. It’s a good DIY project and is much more satisfying to point at your trophy and say you did everything. Try mounting it on our Arrowhead plaque to show off your pride as a traditional bowhunter.

In closing, I hope this helped. If you think of anything that I might have forgotten, please leave a comment and let me know. Remember to stay safe in the woods this season and as always, good luck and shoot straight. Be sure to share your tom with us and we’ll add it to our Trophy Room.

By Jason D. Mills

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