Every year bow hunters head to the woods to kill turkey. Most hunters are successful, yet others manage to wound but never recover their birds. It's hunter's responsibility to know and understand how to deliver a clean shot that will kill a turkey quickly and humanely. Here, we'll go over where to shoot a turkey with a bow in a manner that will knock it down fast, kill the bird quickly, and make it easier to retrieve the turkey and your recurve arrow when it's time.
Understanding Turkey Behavior
Lots of bow hunters spend time at the range slinging arrow after arrow, but spend no time studying turkeys. So what, right? Wrong. Responsible hunters need to know about the prey they are hunting before they hit the woods. For instance, a hunter needs to understand turkey behavior, traveling patterns, and their anatomy.
It's important to understand how turkeys behave because it can help you predict how they will behave when you see them in the woods. Often it helps you know where to look and what decoys or calls you should use to bring them in close. Understanding the bird's travel pattern also helps you know where to look and what time of day you can expect the birds to be up for grabs. Lastly, hunters really need to understand a turkey's physical anatomy. Not understanding where to shoot a turkey with a bow and arrow can result in you clipping a bird with an arrow and possibly escaping after being injured.
Turkey Physical Anatomy
Generally, there are only a few options when it comes to shooting to kill a turkey. In relationship to the rest of their body, a turkey has a small area of mass that will help you get a kill shot. If you aim to far forward, you'll hit the breast, which might wound a turkey but won't kill them and if you aim to far back, your hunting arrow will likely ruffle a few feathers but do nothing in terms of hunting.
Where to Shoot a Turkey with a Bow?
Here are a few different options for where and when to shoot a jake or a hen.
Upright and Away
If you can catch a turkey in the upright position looking away from you, you've got a great shot. Unfortunately, this shot is seriously situational, which means it doesn't happen often. However, if you're patient and willing to wait for opportunity to come knocking, you'll probably get your chance.
When the bird is facing upright and away from you, you have the opportunity to make a killer spine shot. A spine shot will kill a turkey almost instantly. But, remember if a turkey is feeding or walking, not strutting, don't make the shot.
Smack it Broadside
Another great shot opportunity is a broadside shot. It's this shot that familiarized the saying "shoot them high, or let them fly." When siting in a turkey's broadside, it's important to aim high. The highest part of the turkey on the furthest part of its body is where most of its internal organs are. Specifically, you want to aim where the butt of the turkey connects to its wings. When successful, this shot should break both the birds wings and hit either the heart, lungs, or both, which makes it unable to escape and kills it quickly.
The only precaution you must take in this situation is to not aim to far forward. If you aim too far forward and hit only the breast of the animal, it may just fly away. Turkeys are resilient and will fly away, even if their wounds are later fatal.
Upright Walking Towards You
Another great shot hunters could be faced with is when a turkey is walking upright towards you. It doesn't happen often, so if it does, you've got to take the shot quick. Aim about 4" below the base of the bird's neck and fire with precision. Upon success, the bird will have a broken back and you'll have hit some major organs.
Strutting Away from You
When a turkey is strutting, they aren't worrying about hunters, they have something completely different on their mind. Turkey's preoccupation makes this the perfect time to take a shot. If you happen upon a jake strutting away from you, aim your bow at the base of the tail as close to the anus as possible. Shoot the bird in the butt and you'll be having turkey for dinner.
To help create this shot, you can set up a jake decoy about 15 to 20 yards in front of where you're stalking the prey. If you really want to increase your chances add a couple lady decoys around the jake and you'll have a testosterone party going on in no time.
Strutting Towards You
Since we're on the topic of strutting, let's talk about the most common shooting situation you'll likely come across in the woods - when a turkey is strutting towards you. It happens a lot, but makes it hard to hit vital organs this way. If a turkey is strutting towards you and you don't feel like you can get off a good shot, it's best to wait for it to turn broadside, away from you, or just wait the strut out and go from there.
As a turkey hunter, you're going to hear guys tell you the only way to kill a turkey is to tag them in the neck or head. In theory, that's a great idea. In real situations, it's not that simple. A head or neck shot is almost 100% lethal, but extremely hard to do. If you are really close, and feeling really confident with your skill - go for it. When you aim for the head or neck it's usually a kill or miss situation, so you don't have much to lose.
Get your stabilizer hooked up, pick up your favorite hunting boot and hit the woods for turkey this year. Do it right, and you won't have to worry about chasing down a wounded turkey and you're family will thank you for the tasty grub.