Archery Tactics for Tough Turkeys

Killing a longbeard with a stick and string is one of the ultimate accomplishments in the turkey woods. Strut Zone recently caught up with Travis Byrd, 28, Kentucky bowhunter. Why Byrd? He consistently arrows gobblers using archery tackle. In our interview, the hardcore turkey chaser offered some tips on doing it right with a bow.

Strut Zone: What do you do differently as a turkey bowhunter than you would when out with a shotgun?

Travis Byrd: More patience! I let the birds come in close, 10-20 yards, for that higher percentage shot. I wait until the bird is in the position I want him in before releasing the arrow. Reading his body language will aid you in deciding when the best shot opportunity presents itself. You have to remember that you do not have a cloud of #5 pellets you're sending towards the turkey; just one arrow.

SZ: If you only had one archery tackle system to use, what bow, sighting system, broadhead and arrow would you pick? Any other gear?

TB: I feel a short axle-to-axle compound bow is very beneficial for turkey hunting. It will allow you to have more maneuverability and shoot more comfortably out of a ground blind or any other low to the ground shooting position. A ground blind will greatly increase the odds of a shot opportunity. Good, life-like decoys are also an important part of my gear for bowhunting turkeys. It helps to get the gobbler's attention to come your way and keeps them into shooting range as you make the shot. Shooting good broadheads are also very important; after all it is the business end of the arrow. Fixed blade or expandable heads are strictly the choice of the hunter; just make sure the blades are sharp. My personal archery gear list is: Bow-Bowtech Destroyer 340, Sight-CBE Tek-Hunter, Arrows-Easton ACCs, Arrow Rest-Trophy Taker drop a-way, Release-Scott Archery's Rhino XT, and Decoys-Avian X LCD (I cannot say enough about how these decoys have bettered my chances for success).

SZ: How can a guy who's a shotgun turkey man make the transition to using a stick and string? Any tips for them?

TB: When making the transition from a shotgun to a bow, the hunter needs to be confident in his/her shooting ability. Practice will build this confidence. Practice from many different shooting positions: kneeling, sitting, uphill shots, downhill shots, etc., because 9 out of 10 times, when you get a shot opportunity at a turkey, it will not be at a time when you are standing straight and tall, with your body square to your target. Again, I also strongly suggest using a ground blind. This will help hide a lot of movement the hunter will make while preparing for the shot.
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SZ: Briefly describe your two Spring '11 Kentucky bowkills._

TB: My first gobbler of the 2011 KY season came on opening morning. From previous scouting, I knew the turkeys were heavily using this field, so I quickly set up my ground blind by a group of trees and placed my decoys on a high spot in the field about 15 yards from the blind, before first light. The bird I was after was roosted at the opposite end of the field and had a few hundred yards to cover before making it to my set up. There were no hens in the field and I was able to get his attention with some aggressive calling.

As the gobbler slowly eased in my direction, a hen came out of the tree line and straight to my decoys. The gobbler spotted my decoys and the live hen as he came up over a roll in the field. This made him very excited and with one big gobble, he took off at a dead run towards my set up. I readied myself for the shot, and drew my bow as he went behind a tree. The gobbler then popped up in full strut and strutted right into my decoys at 15 yards away. With the release of the arrow into his vitals, the bird flopped on the ground a couple times and he was done.

My second gobbler of the 2011 KY season came after some very wet weather and again the birds were heavily using the open fields, but they were not venturing too far from the tree line. This time I set my blind up back in the woods about 20 yards from the field edge and placed my decoys a little farther out at 25 yards from my blind. Three gobblers were roosted to my left at about 100 yards away. The light rain did not slow their gobbling down at all, which made for an awesome morning. Upon fly-down the three toms spotted my decoys and made their way towards them. They all three came in full strut . . . what a show! However the three sets of eyes made it even more difficult to get my bow drawn. As the three strutting gobblers danced around the decoys for what seemed like forever, a shot opportunity arose and my second KY gobbler of the season was down.

SZ: What are the 3 most difficult challenges to turkey hunting with a bow?

TB: 1) Getting to full draw without being seen and spooking the bird, 2) Calling the birds in close; 10-20 yards for that higher percentage shot, 3) Being patient and waiting for what you feel is the best shot opportunity for that particular hunting situation.

Do you Strut Zoners have any tips to add as archery hunting turkeys goes? Any questions on bowhunting the big birds for Byrd? I'll be sure to pass them on and post below.