Learn the basic gear required for bowhunting wild turkeys. Photo Credit: ATA

Gear You Need To Bowhunt Turkeys

  Scott Einsmann   FeaturedGearVideo   March 24, 2021

Wild turkeys are challenging to bowhunt because of their exceptional eyesight and hearing. But they’re fun to hunt because you can “talk” their language and lure toms into bow range with a turkey call. They’re also great eating. There’s a lot of good gear that will help your success rate when you bowhunt turkeys, but you don’t need all of it to get started. These key pieces of equipment will put you well on your way to fooling and tagging an old tom. 

Must-have equipment:

– bow and accessories (sight, rest, quiver, etc.)

– arrows and broadheads

– camouflage

Nice-to-have equipment:

– turkey calls

– turkey locator calls

– ground blind

– ground blind seat or chair

– turkey decoys

The turkey’s 270-degree peripheral, color vision helps it see the woods in vivid detail. To fool that keen eyesight, hunters need full camo that blends with their surroundings. That includes a face mask or face paint, plus a hat, gloves, pants and long sleeves. For safety reasons, avoid wearing red, white and blue, since they can be mistaken for the colors of a turkey’s head by another hunter. 

You can use the same bow, arrows and broadheads you use for deer. However, some bowhunters prefer to tweak their setup for turkeys. Some common changes are a lighter draw weight for a smooth draw that doesn’t involve a lot of movement, and wide-cutting broadheads to maximize the chances of anchoring a bird quickly. With just camouflage and your archery gear, you can hunt turkeys by using natural cover and patience. However, a few extra pieces of equipmentcan up your odds.  

Portable ground blinds solve many turkey-hunting challenges by fully concealing the bowhunter. The most critical maneuver in turkey hunting is drawing a bow unseen, which is why bowhunters prefer ground blinds. Many models are portable and easily moved to sites with the hottest action. The interior of these blinds is black, so to blend in with the blind, you want to wear all black. These blinds can keep you concealed in even the closest encounters. 

Calling turkeys is effective and just plain fun. You’ll choose from four basic types of calls: push-button calls, box calls, pot-and-peg calls (sometimes generically known as slate calls, though there are surfaces other than slate available) and diaphragm (mouth) calls. Push-button calls are user-friendly and require little practice before you can make realistic clucks, purrs and yelps with them. Box calls are great for calling loudly to bring in turkeys from long distances. They are also easy to use but take some practice before you’ll produce realistic sounds. Slate calls are easy to use and can produce a range of loud to subtle calls to bring gobblers in close. Diaphragm calls are the most versatile, but they’re also the most difficult to learn. They sit against the roof of your mouth, over your tongue, and you call by forcing air across their latex reeds. These calls take lots of practice to master, but they’re worth it. And because they’re hands-free, you can keep your bow ready while calling.

Locator calls, such as crow or owl calls, are also important in turkey hunting. Although toms will gobble back when they hear turkey calls, sometimes they can be startled into gobbling if you loudly imitate crows, owls or even coyotes. That helps you estimate their position without making turkey sounds that can potentially lure gobblers to you before you’re set up and ready. Basically, any call can be considered a locator call if it makes a turkey gobble back.

Decoys should be set in natural positions. Photo Credit: ATA

Decoys complete the illusion of your calling. As a tom comes in to the calls, he’ll be looking for the source, and a decoy can help his eyes confirm what he hears. They’ll also give a turkey something to focus on, which means they’ll be less likely to see you. Decoys come in all sorts of shapes and postures, including full-strut toms, and jakes and hens in various poses. You can use one or all three varieties simultaneously. Think of decoys like turkey calls; different times of year and situations will call for different decoy tactics. If you had to have just one decoy, a jake is a great bet for most situations because it represents an immature male that a tom won’t think twice about challenging. Safety is very important when you use decoys. Learn more about this by clicking here.

Calls, camouflage and bowhunting gear are available at archery shops. When you’re looking for a call, ask the staff to show you how to use the different models. The pro can also answer any of your turkey hunting questions and pass on valuable local hunting knowledge. 

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