By Brandon Ray
Like thousands of American bowhunters, come spring I’m a 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 the standard start to every new day. In my home state of Texas, you fight not only the 100 degree heat, but also the occasional rattlesnake, wasps and bees in your blind and gnats and mosquitoes by the millions. Oh yeah, then there’s the turkeys.
The Rio Grande sub species has a reputation of 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 every where else, big toms are never easy with archery tackle. It takes some specialized gear to win this war between man and bird.
One of the greatest tools a would-be turkey chaser needs to up his odds is a top-notch ground blind. For morning sits I like a blind about 200 yards from a roost. Close enough to call a bird within range, but far enough away that I can quietly enter the blind in the dark without disturbing the roosted birds. 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 Bull by Primos. The camo patterns are a perfect blend for spring foliage, although turkeys typically pay little attention to the blind. Wear dark clothing in the blind to become invisible. Use a bow holder to keep your bow ready with an arrow nocked. And select a chair that is silent if you have to shuffle 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 can make a big difference. For shooting from inside a blind a shorter axle rig 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 rigs. Most recently it is with BowTech.
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. Turkeys vitals are small targets with little room for shooter error, so I try 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 best bows offer adjustable let-off or changeable cams with higher let-off. Increased let-off is an advantage 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 arrow rest, sight window and rest area with soft camo moleskin. Any where you might bump your arrow cover it with fuzzy stuff. Sound dampening devices added to the string, bow limbs, cable guard and a quality stabilizer further silence your rig. More than once I’ve managed a second shot at a wild turkey. I think a quiet rig allowed me to get that bonus opportunity.
Turkeys ain’t easy. If, like me, you’re obsessed with the spit and drum of close-range gobblers, 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.