Editor’s Note: Phillip Vanderpool of Harrison, Arkansas, an accomplished bowhunter and member of Hunter’s Specialties’ Pro Hunt Team, has taken 31 gobblers with his bow. He’s recognized nationally for his hunting skills and his skill with a video camera. But taking turkeys with a bow is his passion. This week, Vanderpool will give us the 10 secrets to Robin Hooding a longbeard.
Reduce the weight of your bow so that you easily can draw the bow and hold it for 2 or 3 minutes. After you’ve reduced the weight, re-sight the bow in so you know where your arrow will hit at different distances. Many times, you’ll have to hold that bow at full draw to wait for a turkey to step into a spot where you can shoot him, because very rarely will you be able to draw and shoot immediately.
I also sit in the shade so that the turkey is less likely to see me. Set up with plenty of cover behind you if you’re not hunting from a blind. The background cover will help hide you when you draw to shoot, and you won’t be silhouetted.
Don’t let the wheels of your bow touch the ground before, during or after the shot. To solve this problem, shoot a short bow since most of the time, you’ll have to shoot sitting flat on the ground. You’ll take more turkeys shooting a short-limbed bow than you will with a bow with longer limbs. A short bow is also easier to maneuver and easier and quicker to get into position to take a shot at a tom than a longer bow.
Shoot an expandable broadhead because it has more impact when it hits than a fixed-blade broadhead does. You also have more cutting surface on an expandable broadhead than you have on a fixed-blade broadhead. I like either a 1-1/2- to a 2-inch blade on my broadhead. I don’t want to get a complete pass-through with my arrow because I want the arrow to stay in the turkey. You have a better chance of the arrow not going all the way through the bird, if you shoot a mechanical broadhead.
Use a Hunter’s Specialties’ 10-10 Hideout Blind if you’re not running and gunning on turkeys. I highly recommend the blind for sportsmen who are beginning turkey bowhunters. In a blind, you can be more comfortable, get away with more movement and reposition yourself quickly and easily. There are far less chances of a turkey seeing you when you hunt from this type of blind.
Even when I’m hunting on the ground, I’ll carry one of Hunter Specialties’ little portable blinds with me to help hide my movement. The situation dictates which type of blind I use. If I know for certain where the turkeys will be feeding, strutting or traveling, I prefer the 10-10 blind. But if I have to hunt to find a turkey and I don’t know where I’ll be able to set up, I’ll use a small, collapsible, portable blind.
I really believe that any type of blind will help bowhunters be much more effective turkey hunters. The ultimate will be to set up on the edge of a field with a cedar tree as your background and then use the portable, collapsible blind.
Use a decoy to take the attention of the turkey away from the hunter and the caller. When that turkey’s watching the decoy, you have a much better opportunity to draw, aim and shoot. Also, you can use a decoy to direct the way the turkey comes into the blind. I really like the Hazel Creek Real Hen decoys, which are actually mounted turkey hens with feathers and a head, making them look exactly like the real thing.
Regardless of what decoy you’re using, you want to face the decoy quartering-away from your blind or your setup. You want the turkey to come in and circle the decoy so that you have time to draw, aim and shoot. You don’t want to rush your shot. That’s the reason you want a bow with a high let off. If you’re using a jake decoy, the turkey will usually come in head-on to the decoy. If I have a jake decoy, I’ll set the jake decoy up quartering to me and have the hen decoy quartering away from me.
I shoot through the turkey’s thighs with the expandable broadhead to have the highest-percentage shot. I shoot for the thighs because the main artery on the turkey runs through the thighs. Also, if you don’t hit the vitals on a turkey and hit him through the thighs so that he can’t get his legs under him to run before he flies, you still can get the bird.
Don’t face your blind and the decoys toward the gobbler if a turkey’s gobbling out in front of you. You want to pull the gobbler sideways. Face the turkeys and the blind so the turkey has to approach you from the side instead of head-on. This way, he’s less likely to see you and/or your blind. If you have the turkey coming to you from the side, you’ll have many more opportunities to draw your bow and get off the shot than if the turkey’s coming straight to you, looking at you as he’s coming.
Wear a 3-D suit with some type of leaves or string hanging off it that will move in the wind and help break up your silhouette. The turkey is much less likely to see me. I’ll also go to a florist or a craft store and buy artificial plastic leaves to put on the front of my bow limbs to better camouflage my bows. I also place those leaves on my hat. I want to break-up my outline as much as possible.
Take a ThermaCELL insect-repellent device with you because it’s heat activated and puts out an odor that keeps flies and mosquitoes away from me. The last thing on earth you want to do if you’re trying to take a turkey with a bow is to be swatting mosquitoes when the turkey comes in to you. I like the ThermaCELL because I can simply hang it and don’t have to spray it, wipe it on or make sure I have it on me anywhere. The ThermaCELL will put out the odor that keeps mosquitoes and flies away from my entire body.
Taking a turkey with a bow is the ultimate challenge for a turkey hunter or an archer. Try these tips, and use Hunter Specialties turkey calls. Hopefully you’ll get a turkey in your bow sight this spring or next year. Good Luck!