Pursuing the wily Texas Tom with bow and arrow can be habit-forming
If wild turkeys had a keen sense of smell, they’d be nearly impossible to bag. They reign supreme among all species of Texas wildlife for sharp vision and hearing. This alone makes getting within shotgun range difficult. Hunting them with stick and string presents an even larger mountain of hurdles.
I began hunting turkeys with a bow and arrow several years ago, and my obsession for luring in gobblers for an extreme close encounter elevates my heart rate any time I think about it. Watching a boss bird strutting within 10 yards or less is an experience like no other. It’s like having the sights and sounds associated with the turkey woods cranked up to the maximum level of vibrancy and volume. The adrenaline rush will shake through your entire body.
Turkeys are much smaller than typical fur-covered quarry, but it’s a mistake to underestimate their resilience, as many folks do. Don’t let the pretty feathers fool you. They are tough as nails, and any but an ideal shot placement with an arrow will not render a successful harvest. This is a situation that nobody wants to be in.
Wild turkey vitals are positioned in such a way that the ethical shot zone for an arrow is pretty small, especially compared to four-legged animals. For this reason, short shooting distances will produce the best results.
To coax gobblers in close, hunters must fool their eye. One of the best ways to do that is with a pop-up blind and lifelike decoys. My go-to setup consists of a Primos Double Bull ground blind and a spread of DSD (Dave Smith Decoys) turkey decoys. These products are second to none, and turkey hunters who use them will tag more birds, hands down.
Using a pop-up blind helps conceal the movement needed to draw a bow. Even so, hunters should avoid drawing their bow when gobblers are facing them to prevent spooking the bird before making an ethical shot.
The realistic decoys manufactured by DSD do a fantastic job of capturing the attention of spring gobblers, whose desire to procreate binds them to the presence of a pop-up blind. This allows stealthy archers to take a shot, even when the birds are within 10 yards or less. I cannot tell you how many times I have had Toms inside 7 or 8 yards using this type of set up.
The decoys also tend to help bring the birds in, seemingly on a rope. If you can get them to come your direction with a call, many times the decoys will do the rest. Once a gobbler appears in view and spots the lookalikes, it’s time to set the calls down and grab your bow.
A combination of hen decoys and a Jake decoy, or hens and a strutter, will usually do the trick. If the gobblers on a particular property seem to be fired up and aggressive, a strutter decoy, paired with a couple of hens, is the way to go. When the birds are acting a little more pretentious and finicky, using a smaller Jake decoy is the ticket. Figuring out the perfect decoy set up for the conditions takes a little trial and error, but it can be extremely rewarding when everything comes together.
Harvesting a mature long beard with stick and string without a blind is the equivalent to the holy grail of bowhunting for wild turkeys. It’s a task that takes a lot of patience, excellent camo and precise, instinctive decision-making. To be successful, archery hunters choosing not to use a blind will need to hide themselves in whatever natural cover is available, and draw their bow at the right time.
Realistic decoys like DSDs will significantly help in this type of scenario as well, because they capture a love-stricken gobbler’s attention. The rest is up to the archer.
Sticks, strings and strutters will produce breathtaking adventures in the woods this spring. The question is, will you be there to partake in them?
If you enjoy turkey hunting and shooting a bow, you should make plans to step up your gobbler game and pursue them in this primitive fashion. Once you try it, you won’t want to hunt them any other way.