As that flaring red head stopped at 30 yards and surveyed the situation, I was sure he would strut right into my single hen decoy and give me that 15 yard shot we all dream about when bowhunting gobblers. Unfortunately, he didn’t read my script and hung tight at 30 for over 15 minutes. Fearing he might be ready to bolt, I took aim at his beard and the 2” Broadhead ripped through him and put him down.
Earlier this spring, myself and my brother-in-law spotted a strutting bird courting a couple of hens on a steep hillside. We devised a plan to sneak above the bird and call him uphill (in my opinion, the best direction to call a bird). Without decoys, we set up 15 yards apart with me closer to the bird. A cacophony of calls came from my partner and a pair of excited jakes that snuck in to 10 yards behind us. 15 minutes later, the gobbler crested the hill with hens in tow, and a load of 3 ½” #5’s hit him hard, making the term “jelly head” ring true.
Having had many experiences killing turkeys, and about an equal number with shotguns and bows, I feel I have a good grasp on the nuances required depending on the weapon in my hand. The way I tend to describe it is the actual hunt when you have a gun in your hand is fantastically fun, but the shot is most times anti-climactic. With bowhunting, the opposite tends to be the case. Long hours in a dark blind typically make the hunt a bit boring, but as soon as the gobbler steps into range the fun is just beginning. Gobblers are very tough, and can often times require another arrow or the old head stomp to finally subdue a gobbler.
All this being said, I still can’t really decide what method I find more fulfilling or fun. Other than a couple days a year for our rifle deer season and the turkeys and pheasants killed with a shotgun, I typically don’t pick up a gun for hunting. Almost a complete majority of time, I use my bow to kill my game in my home state and around the country. In my heart I am a bowhunter, but lately I’ve had a change of tune when it comes to hunting turkeys with archery equipment. My experience with the two turkeys I shot this year makes this sentiment ring true even more.
Simply stated, I’m not sure (unless it’s a special season for archery equipment only) that I will choose archery equipment to hunt turkeys any longer. This comes down to a very simple reason for me in that there is just too much ruined meat when bowhunting gobblers. The turkey I shot with archery equipment this year had a 2” slice from front to back, essentially ruining pounds of quality breast meat. Conversely, the bird I shot with my shotgun had not a single pellet penetrate the fine breast or leg meat.
I’ve had this experience in the past as well, almost with every bird I’ve shot with archery equipment. Turkeys are tough, damn tough. They take a big cutting diameter head to bring them down quickly and cleanly. Unless you plan on taking headshots only (and I may do this in the future), slamming a large cutting diameter head through a 25-pound bird essentially ruins it. Sure you can get chunks here and there, but for someone who enjoys the entire bird, this is becoming unacceptable.
So I’ll continue slipping broadheads through the rib cages of deer, bears, and other big game when I draw the tags. However, until I start lopping off heads of gobblers, I’ll be sticking to my magnum loads out of my 870 to bring home my spring meat. What say you?