Bowhunting turkeys involves two primary tactics: silently and patiently waiting in ambush; or moving and calling to locate them, and then coaxing them to your setup.
The tactic you choose depends on the situation and personal preferences.
Ambushing a turkey requires scouting to learn where they roost and feed. Then, set up a ground blind in the feeding area or along a travel corridor leading to it. Much of your success depends on scouting and patience, which are turkey hunting’s greatest tools.
Ambushing turkeys is a waiting game, but perseverance provides your greatest chance at arrowing a bird. If decoys are legal where you bowhunt, they can help coax turkeys into your position for a close shot.
Ambushing is a low-impact tactic that’s excellent for pressured areas when turkeys become call-shy. It’s also an excellent tactic for new bowhunters because it doesn’t require calling expertise.
If you’re impatient and insist on walking occasionally, you’ll prefer calling turkeys because you’ll be more active. That can be fun, but it increases your chances for mistakes. Those risks, however, can provide unbeatable excitement if you fire up a gobbler and coax it into range.
The first step in calling is finding a gobbler. Walk to a hilltop or field edge to watch and listen. If you don’t hear any gobbles, try to incite a “shock gobble” with crow or owl calls. Make a loud, short burst of calls, and then listen for gobbles. If nothing responds, walk 100 yards and repeat until hearing a gobble.
When a tom responds, quickly set up your portable ground blind or hide in natural cover. Make soft hen yelps, and increase the volume. Once a tom gobbles back, remain quiet or call softly occasionally. It’s tempting to call back and forth nonstop with gobblers, but silent patience is usually more productive. Playing hard-to-get can frustrate lovesick toms, and bring them into bow range.
Calling and ambushing are excellent tactics. Try both methods to learn which tactic works best for your area.