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Bagging a turkey with a bow is special

Larry Woody, Correspondent • Updated Oct 29, 2013 at 9:09 PM

Roy Denney has fired one arrow at a turkey, and bagged one turkey.

I've suggested he quit while batting 1.000, but he said it was such a thrill that he's going to try for another one next year.

I was hunting with Roy during the recent fall season when he tagged his turkey. We met an hour before sunrise at his Wilson County farm and walked by Brail through the dark to a distant field bordered by a creek and woods. Roy took one side of the field, I took another.

I hunkered down in a fence row and arranged some cedar limbs into a makeshift blind. At dawn, turkeys in the tree-line began yelping good morning to each other.

Minutes later the first birds flapped off their roost and sailed into the field. They lit 40 yards out, somehow knowing that the range of my old turkey gun is 35 yards. Across the field, another flock sailed down near where Roy had set up.

The flock of 25-30 turkeys in front of me wandered around, clucking and purring,  pecking at grass and bugs, and complaining about the federal deficit.

Finally one strayed my way. I shot too soon and missed. I didn't even come close enough to scare them off. The flock milled around, putting and fussing, then eventually settled down.

Gradually the birds began working toward me, drawing close enough for a sure (even for me) shot. But now there was another problem: the turkeys were bunched in a tight wad. The whole flock would have fit in an elevator. There  was no way I could shoot just one without bagging a bunch.

The fall limit in Wilson County is six birds, either sex, but I didn't want to kill that many -- or more -- so I held off and waited. Finally a juvenile hen separated from the flock. I took my time, aimed, and pulled the trigger. Pass the cranberry sauce.

With my turkey down and flopping, the rest of the flock scattered. But across the field Roy's flock was unperturbed. They continued to drift his way. I sat tight and watched.

Suddenly the turkeys went scurrying off. I didn't see a bird flopping, so I figured Roy had shot and missed. Then he stood up, walked out in the field, and hoisted a good-sized jake.

The arrow, fired from a crossbow, struck the turkey in the upper body and passed entirely through. It was as clean and lethal a shot as could have been made with a shotgun.

During Tennessee's deer archery season, bow hunters are allowed to kill a turkey, and that's how most are taken -- random targets of opportunity that wander past a deer stand.

It's not easy to bag one with a bow. Frankly, I have enough trouble trying to hit one with a shotgun.

Roy, who has taken countless turkeys with a gun, wanted to try his crossbow for the challenge, to see if he could do it.

With a special optic sight, the crossbow is accurate up to 30 yards or so -- about the effective distance of most shotguns. However, a shotgun throws a wide pattern at that distance; if you shoot close to a bird's head, it's dead. But a bow fires a single shaft, and coming "close" will leave you serving Spam on Thanksgiving.

I was a tad skeptical about Roy being able to tag a crossbow turkey, but he proved it can be done with the right combination of skill and patience. And he assures me that a bow-bagged turkey tastes just as delicious as one delivered to the dinner table with a scattergun.

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