How to Use Calls, Blinds and Camo When Bowhunting Turkeys

Editor’s Note: Hunter’s Specialties’ Phillip Vanderpool loves to hunt turkeys with a bow and has for the last 15 years. He’s taken one gobbler with his bow in 2009 and took four gobblers with his bow during the 2008 season. This week he’ll tell us how to use calls, blinds and camo when bowhunting for gobblers.
A good blind is critical if you’re going to take a tom with a bow. If I’m going to run and gun, then I’ll carry one of the Hunter’s Specialties’ portable and collapsible blinds, so I can to set it up anywhere. Another blind I like is the Hunter’s Specialties’ Backpacker, which also is easy to set up, and you can adjust the height of it.

If you know where the turkeys should be and you want to set up a blind where you feel confident turkeys will come to, like on the edge of a field or a route the turkeys take every day, then I’d suggest using the Hunter’s Specialties’ Boiler Room ground blind. The Boiler Room blind is a total-concealment blind. It’s also a great blind to hunt from in the rain, because it will keep you dry and comfortable. Too, you’ll be able to hunt from inside more efficiently under those conditions.

When we are videotaping turkeys, we often use the Boiler Room blind, because it can fit two people in it comfortably. I also try and set up my blind in a shady area with the sun coming from behind me. I believe the shade conceals a blind better than a blind that’s set up in the open sun.

A hands-free turkey call, like a diaphragm mouth call, is a crucial piece of equipment for successfully bowhunting turkeys. I’ll often use a Gobbler Grenade, the new Ring Zone Friction Call or a box call like the Beard Collector to get the turkey to come to the blind. But when the gobbler is in close, and I want to manipulate him to take a shot, I want my hands free. Then I can call to the bird, even when I’m at full draw.

I may need to just cluck and purr to get him to take one more step or turn to the left or the right to get the shot I’m trying to take. Or, the gobbler may be a little out of range, and I may need to call to him some more to get him to move closer. Too, the gobbler may be walking, and I’ll need to call to him to make him stop. I really believe that knowing how to use a mouth diaphragm call is critical to getting the best shot you can get with a bow.

You need to be invisible to the turkey, and he shouldn’t see any part of you. Therefore, you must have a good set of camouflage clothing as well as headnet and gloves. But just as importantly, wear camouflaged clothing that is extremely quiet. I wear Realtree AP camouflage made by Medalist, because then I have the camo pattern of Realtree AP that fits in any terrain, and I have the quiet material that Medalist produces. When you draw your bow to get ready for the shot, you don’t want to sound like a freight train running down the tracks. You want to make your draw as quietly and as inconspicuously as possible. That’s the reason quiet camouflage clothing is critical to success when you have gobblers in close.

Shot placement is very important on a turkey. I really believe that the best shot to put a target down quickly and effectively is a shot placed through the thighs of a turkey. When I’m aiming, I put my point of aim on the turkey’s leg and then move my pinsight to the turkey’s thighs. One of the biggest problems that most hunters have when they bowhunt turkeys is they try and shoot too far forward, making the shot go through the breast, instead of it going through the vitals. The main artery on the turkey will be right at the top of the thighs. If you get the arrow through both thighs, then even if you miss that vital artery, the turkey can’t move his legs to run, get off the ground and fly away. This way you won’t lose the bird if you shoot for his thighs.

The next best shot for when a turkey that’s facing away from you with his fan spread is to shoot right for the base of the tail. When the turkey is facing away from you in full strut, he can’t see you when you draw. If you aim for the spot where all the tail feathers come together, your arrow should penetrate all the way through the tom and bring him down quickly.

Now if the gobbler is facing you, and his attention is locked on the decoy, you can shoot for the base of the neck, a very-good and deadly shot. In that situation, I try and aim between the turkey’s neck and the turkey’s beard. If the turkey is quartering away from you, aim between the thighs. Then the arrow will pass all the way through the gobbler.