In the past, most arrowed turkeys were targets of opportunity – they happened to wander by a deer archery hunter – but in recent seasons more bow hunters are expressly going after turkeys.
Last season Lebanon’s Brittnee Reynolds mixed both seasons, deer archery and turkey archery, to bag a state bow-record gobbler.
“I started out deer hunting,” Brittnee says, “but on up in the morning, when I hadn’t seen any deer, I got out my slate turkey call and did some calling. I knew there were some turkeys in the area, and before long two hens and a long-beard came in.”
Brittnee nailed the gobbler with an arrow. When she got it home, out of curiosity, she checked the National Wild Turkey Federation website to see how her long-beard compared to other archery kills.
She discovered there was no archery record turkey listed for Tennessee – which made hers the biggest.
A couple of years ago I joined Roy Denney on a fall turkey hunt on his Gladeville farm. I carried a shotgun and Roy chose a cross-bow.
We set up on opposite sides of a field and shortly after sunrise a flock of turkeys flew down. They drifted toward me, and when they got within range I sent one flopping. The flock scurried back across the field, and Roy picked one off with his bow for a morning double.
There are advantages and disadvantages to trying to bag a turkey with a bow.
One obvious disadvantage is distance. By shooting today’s magnum turkey loads, a shotgun can tumble a gobbler at almost 50 yards. Obviously a bow is not dependable at that distance.
The archer also has less leeway in terms of the target. A shotgun throws a wide pattern, as much as three feet, depending on barrel choke and distance, and most shot-gunners aim for the turkey’s head and neck.
But an arrow or cross-bow bolt doesn’t throw a pattern, and for an archer a turkey’s head is a small target. That’s why most bow hunters aim at center-mass – the middle of the turkey. If a turkey is shot through the breast with an arrow, little if any meat is damaged.
A bow has the advantage of silence. If an archer misses, he or she might get a second shot. That seldom happens with a booming shotgun.
One reason for the growing popularity of turkey bow-hunting is the advancement in archery technology. A novice can quickly become a proficient archer, particularly since the legalization of cross-bows.
Just as cross-bows have attracted more archers to deer hunting, so have they prompted more turkey hunters to nock an arrow – or a bolt, in their case.
Bows are accurate, swift and silent, and one twang of the string can set the table for Thanksgiving.