Short axle length, modest poundage and high let-off bow setups are perfect for hunting wild turkeys from ground blinds.
Come spring, like thousands of other American bowhunters, I’m a wild turkey chaser. Lately, it’s been a borderline obsession. I drive long hours in the dark to reach the best spots. Five o’clock wake up calls and two-day old donuts from the corner convenience store are the standard start to every new day. In my home state of Texas, you may fight up to 100 degree heat, but also the occasional rattlesnake, wasps and bees in your blind and most surely gnats and mosquitoes. Oh yeah, then there’s the wild turkeys.
The Rio Grande sub species has a reputation for being a loudmouth. Gobbling his head off at the slam of a car door or a rookie hunter’s first rub on a box call. Sometimes he cooperates and his gobbles sound like a rabid dog’s bark, but more often he is quiet and sneaky. Like turkeys everywhere else, big toms are never easy with archery tackle. It takes some specialized gear to win this war between man and wild bird.
One of the greatest tools a would-be turkey chaser needs to up his odds is a top-notch portable ground blind. For morning sits I like a blind about 200 yards from a roost. Close enough to call a gobbler within range, but far enough away that I can quietly enter the blind in the dark without disturbing the roosted turkeys. Midday might see me waiting in a blind over a windmill pond or on the edge of a field where gobblers gather to strut.
My blind arsenal includes several models from Double Bulls in camo patterns with Green in then. These camo patterns are a perfect blend for spring foliage, although wild turkeys typically pay little attention to the blind.
Wear dark clothing in the blind and you’ll be invisible to the wild turkeys. Use a bow holder to keep your bow ready with an arrow nocked. And select a chair that is silent in case you have to move to get into shooting position. The dark interior of the blind keeps you hidden as if you were waiting in a dark cave, greatly upping your chances of getting the bow drawn unseen.
My dream turkey bow follows a specific formula. Your deer hunting bow will probably work fine, but attention to a few relevant details will make a big difference. For shooting from inside a blind a shorter axle bow is beneficial. This allows more clearance for cams and limbs both on the floor and to the roof when shooting from a sitting position. Axle lengths between 31 and 34 inches are ideal. Over the past five spring seasons I’ve shot several near perfect turkey bows, all from BowTech Archery.
Aside from a short axle length, look for bows with a forgiving brace height. A minimum brace height of 7 inches up to 8 inches makes those shortie rigs more accurate and less critical of shooting form mistakes. A Wild Turkey’s vitals are small targets with little room for shooter error, so I wait for 20 yard and under shots. Bow designs with a long riser and relatively short, parallel limbs are bottle cap accurate at turkey distances.
So you’ve got a short axle rig with a forgiving brace height. That’s a good start. A modest draw weight is another plus for turkeys. I set up my turkey bow with a draw weight between 55 and 60 pounds. A weight where I can draw the bowstring very smoothly and hold at full draw for over a minute if needed.
Now consider a bow with a high let-off, say 70 to 80 percent. Many of today’s bows offer adjustable let-off or changeable cams with higher let-off. Increased let-off is an advantage hunting gobblers because it allows you to draw your bow before the turkey is standing directly in your shooting window. Once he’s standing in a clear lane, you can wait for him to offer the best shot angle without becoming fatigued. Try that with a low let-off rig and too much poundage and your back muscles will start to quiver like Jell-O.
Once I’ve got a short axle rig set at a modest draw weight with a high let-off, the next thing I focus on is making it quiet. Quiet to draw the arrow back to full draw and quiet to shoot. Cover the sight window and arrow rest area with soft moleskin. Anywhere that you could bump your arrow, cover it with fuzzy stuff. If possible cover your arrow rest contact points. Sound dampening devices added to the string, bow limbs, cable guard and a quality stabilizer further silence your bow. More than once I’ve managed a second shot at a turkey. I think my quiet rig allowed me to get that bonus opportunity.
Turkeys ain’t easy. If your obsessed with the spit and drum of close-range gobblers like me, pick your tackle carefully. Invest in one or more top-quality blinds. Next, choose a bow that’s comfortable to shoot and easy to maneuver inside a blind. Keep shots close and you’ll be victorious in the war between man and gobbler.
By Brandon Ray