If you’re like me, you like consistency in your archery gear. That means going years in a row shooting with the same release, from the same string, behind the same arrows, tipped with the same broadheads. But once I got serious about chasing spring turkeys with a bow, I had to completely rethink my setup. You might need to do so as well.
An overlooked question for archery gobbler hunting is whether your whitetail broadhead can bring down a tom. It seems obvious that the same steel designed to kill a 200-pound buck will also tear apart a 20-pound bird, but it’s not that simple.
So, will your whitetail broadhead work for turks? Use this checklist to decide if you can feel comfortable with the same gear.
What Will Work: An accurate broadhead is a deadly broadhead; this is the most important thing to consider. Although a fanned-out bird can cast quite a shadow, their vitals are really only about the size of a softball.
What Won’t Work: Whitetail hunters have slightly more room for error since deer have a killzone that’s about the size of a basketball. Although you may feel comfortable with 5-inch groups at 30 yards on a deer, that’s not a tight enough pattern to fling arrows at turkeys. Your turkey broadhead needs maximum consistency.
What Will Work: Most whitetail broadheads are designed with a low profile for true flight and deep penetration. For this reason, your shots on turkeys should be limited to the body.
What Won’t Work: Going for a head/neck shot significantly reduces your target size, which is why broadheads designed for decapitation have blades that reach out past 3 inches. Although any whitetail broadhead is capable of acting as a guillotine, standard fixed blade and mechanical heads aren’t a good option.
What Will Work: You’ll inflict more damage if your arrow doesn’t make a complete pass-through on a turkey, so duller broadheads are actually superior. Before heading out to the blind, screw in a tip that’s already been in a deer or practice target.
What Won’t Work: Unlike with deer hunting, having an exit hole isn’t crucial for a clean recovery. A bird that thrashes around with an arrow still in it is going to die quickly and within eyesight. A bird that’s had an arrow pass through it is more likely to leave the scene and not give much of a blood trail.
What Will Work: Another way to slow down penetration is to be very selective on your mechanicals. Most manufacturers give hunters the option of “bone crushing” or “cut-on-contact” tips. Bone crushing tips are built to bully their way through whitetail shoulders, which actually makes them better for turkeys.
What Won’t Work: For deer hunters, the drawback of a bone crushing tip is that their barbaric design often means less penetration on non-shoulder hits. A cut-on-contact tip will dig deeper on softer impacts (which is every turkey shot), making them less efficient for gobblers. Select for mechanicals that will drag more upon impact.
Although your best option might be a broadhead that’s engineered just for longbeards, they’re not a requirement. The reality is that any fixed blade or mechanical is capable of killing a bird, but some are better than others. I’m confident in my whitetail setup, though, which has stopped hearts in the fall and spring. Use this checklist to gain the same kind of optimism for your arrows.