by Dana R. Rogers
I love bowhunting turkeys, being fortunate enough to chase them in several states successfully over the years. The old adage is definitely true when it comes to bowhunting wild turkey: Roosted doesn’t mean roasted, but if you get on a pattern and use the terrain and seasonal preferences to your advantage, you can consistently arrow a tom or two each spring.
In vast public settings, like National Forests or Grasslands, after arriving in an area cold I’ll spend time driving and hooting every mile or two, attempting to locate a longbeard to set up on come morning. The standard M.O. for most turkey hunters is to slip into their scouted area to determine which roost tree holds that loud-mouth, love-struck bird to set up on at O’dark thirty. I love to roost birds late just like everyone else but when the toms aren’t talking you may have to use different tactics to get them to give up their location, or aggressive western tactics on open-country birds.
Don’t get me wrong, I carry the full array of box, slate, glass, diaphragm and other assorted friction calls. But if you’ve roosted a bird and come in on him the next morning, and he’s been pressured to the point his beak seems glued shut, you’ll need to get creative. Turkey hunting tactics like hitting them with coyote calls to elicit a shock gobble often does the trick for me. Coyote calls are loud, high pitched and cut through wind or dense timber, often revealing the location of a spring strutter when nothing else will.
If I’m in country with mixed open and rolling terrain I’ll spend time putting my Leupold optics to work. I’ve found turkeys often work the same circular pattern off the roost — to strutting zones, on to feeding areas, and then loafing grounds later in the day. Don’t forget your binoculars in big-field areas either. Additionally, game cameras aren’t just for whitetails. You can often track movement and pattern flocks with Swiss precision until a food or breeding cycle changes. Get some cameras out and discover where and when gobblers are spending time on their daily routes.
Advancements in decoys and ground blinds over the past 20 years is amazing and has really transformed bowhunting turkey from the realm of a fools’ errand to something that can consistently put dinner on the table.
There are so many great options I won’t get into them all here, but there’s an option that’s fairly new, and an exciting way to chase spring strutters. Kansas turkey hunter Garrett Roe developed the bow-mounted Heads Up Decoy System. With a preserved gobbler fan you can create realistic decoys shielding you from approaching birds. A bit of ground cover helps conceal your torso, but you can really move around and intercept birds instead of being locked into cumbersome ground blinds. If you enjoy the freedom of run-n-gun hunting, give it a try and I’m sure you’ll become hooked.