Hunting gobblers with a crossbow is about as fun as it gets. Let’s take a deeper look at what makes spring gobblers tick and how to take advantage of their weaknesses.
Wild turkeys can be very predictable and pattern-able. Turkeys as a whole do not travel very far or fast in the spring time. There’s plenty of abundant food sources. Hens won’t stray far from established dusting and nesting sites, and gobblers are reluctant to leave their established breeding area. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen a gobbler with several hens stay within a two-hundred yard radius the entire day.
Generally all of the birds will be in the same roosting areas night after night and visit the same feeding areas day after day. Obviously, food sources change and on any given day things can happen to break their pattern, but more often than not, there’s a lot of familiarity and redundancy in a wild turkey’s routine.
Plowed fields can be a real game changer in the areas that I hunt. Almost instantly turkeys will start utilizing plowed fields when they become available. They make great strutting areas for mature gobblers and offer the security of openness while worms, insects, seeds and dusting areas can be easily accessed.
Your scouting objective should be to locate as many gobblers as possible before opening day. The best way to accomplish this is to listen for both gobblers and hens near known roosting areas in the early morning hours or by visually glassing them in open fields throughout the day.
Many times they will use the same entrance and exit points when utilizing the fields. After two or three quick glassing sessions, you can have the birds relatively patterned and you’ve not educated them in the least.
Because I primarily hunt open fields when turkey hunting, I hunt exclusively from pop-up ground blinds. Not only am I completely concealed, but I am protected from the elements. This total concealment is more forgiving to unwarranted movement without the danger of being spotted by the turkey’s keen eyesight.
Pop-up ground blinds are very easy to set up and take down. They can be mastered by almost anyone in a matter of minutes, making them a very versatile piece of hunting equipment that allows hunters to change positions rather quickly and easily. They also can be set up and left for days on end if they’re tethered properly.
There are several commercial blinds available on the market, but I’ve found the hub style blinds to be the most effective for crossbow hunting. An opening across the entire front of the blind allows for easier maneuverability for horizontal crossbows, and the larger openings are more forgiving concerning target acquisition. Practice shouldering the crossbow as to shoot in any direction that a turkey may present itself. This will also determine the best possible position for your seat.
Using a knee pod or shooting stick will improve your accuracy greatly. Whether you choose to use a shooting aid or shoot off hand, it’s very important to make certain the arrow will clear the blind window at the shot. Simply shoulder the crossbow and give it a visual inspection. If the arrow’s path looks like it will be anywhere close to the bottom of the window, adjust accordingly.
All commercial blinds are black on the inside. Therefore, you can leave your camo at home when hunting from them. It’s best to cover your head, hands and face in black. Then you will be completely invisible while inside the blind.
Decoys are another valuable asset when you’re hunting field gobblers. I always incorporate three decoys into my setups. If you’ve scouted your area properly, a wary old gobbler will often times cover those last few fatal yards if he spots decoys in an area where he typically expects to see other turkeys.
The decoys will divert his focal point from the shooter. Decoys also give the crossbow shooter an instant yardage reference point. It’s important that you know the exact distance to your decoys so you can estimate the yardage accordingly before you take the shot at an approaching gobbler.
Once a gobbler is in range, you have to seal the deal by putting a lethal shot on it. Turkeys have a relatively small vital zone, leaving little room for error and rarely will a turkey stay stationary for any extended period of time. Therefore, shot placement is crucial.
I believe the only shot you should ever take at a gobbler is when it’s broadside or nearly broadside. Shot placement should be into the wingbutt. The wingbutt shot provides the largest exposure to the vital area and also affords you the opportunity to incapacitate the turkey by breaking its wing.
A wingbutt shot gobbler will generally expire within sight if not immediately upon impact. There’s simply too much room for error when targeting other areas. If your shot placement is off by as little as one inch, the turkey can escape recovery.
Patience is the key to killing spring gobblers with horizontal archery equipment. Scout before the season to find an area the birds are using. Set up a ground blind to cover the area. Stake out multiple decoys at pre-ranged distances. Call sparingly and have faith in your set up and equipment. Once you’ve mastered these few details, you’re on your way to experiencing the joys of hunting horizontal gobblers.