Shooting at a turkey with shotgun couldn’t be more straightforward: Put the bead on that glowing red head and neck and pull the trigger. Where to shoot a turkey with bow, however, is more complicated. You can shoot at the head and neck or at the heart-and-lung vital area, which is about the size of a softball and requires different aiming points depending on what angle the gobbler is facing.
But don’t worry. I’ve chased turkeys all across the country for 25 years with archery tackle and have dialed in the ideal aiming points for clean kills. Below is a full breakdown of where to shoot a turkey with bow, each spot ranked from my favorite to my least recommended. All will kill, but some are better than others.
1. Where to Shoot a Turkey With a Bow: Head-On
For this shot, aim dead-center, just above the beard. John Hafner Photography
This is my favorite shot of all because it’s 100 percent lethal, and the beard gives you a precise aiming point whether the bird is in full strut or not. It’s a common angle in the field, too. Often a tom will approach a gobbler decoy from behind and walk up alongside the imposter, giving you a perfect head-on shot. Also, 90 percent of your shots will be frontal if you use a bow-mounted decoy.
While at full draw, find the beard and settle your pin about an inch above it. If you’re a little high, you hit the neck, which is fatal; if you’re a little low, you cut through the beard and drive the arrow through the vitals.
2. Where to Shoot a Turkey With a Bow: Broadside
Find the “dark triangle” (shown at right) and aim just an inch or so behind it on a broadside strutter. John Hafner Photography
If the turkey is in strut, which is common if he’s trying to intimidate an imposter, find the dark triangle. This is where the dark line of feathers on the side or neck and chest meets the point formed by the upper and lower wing. Find this triangle, come back on the body an inch, and the bird will die in seconds. Some bowhunters like to aim right at the dark triangle, whereas I aim and inch back, but either is deadly.
If the bird is not strutting, aim in line with the legs a little more than halfway up the body. Look for the dark bar of feathers that separates the upper and lower wing and shoot at the front portion of it.
3. Where to Shoot a Turkey With a Bow: Quartering To
With quartering-to tom, run your pin up the far leg until it’s even with the base of the beard and shoot. John Hafner Photography
I could have easily be ranked this shot number one, but I know too many curmudgeons that would get their shorts in a bunch if. Here’s what I know from decades of doing this: If I get a quartering-to shot, I’m shooting.
With a strutter, put the arrow into the leading edge of the dark triangle described in the Broadside section above. If the bird is not in strut, find the offside leg, and lift your pin straight up until it is even with or slightly above the base of the beard. If you do your part, that gobble is as good as tagged and may drop in his tracks.
4. Where to Shoot a Turkey With a Bow: Head/Neck
If you get a face-on head shot, aim a little low on the neck, so your arrow can punch through and hit vitals as a backup. John Hafner Photography
Don’t shy away from this shot, and don’t worry if you don’t have a decapitating-style broadhead on the end of your arrow. Yes, decapitating broadheads like a Magnus Bullhead give you more room for error because of their huge blades, and they kill like crazy—but chopping off a turkey’s head isn’t my style. Plus, if I need to take a little longer shot, I would rather have a standard 2-inch cut expandable broadhead on the end of my arrow, which will fly much better.
This is an all-or-nothing shot, which is a good thing. Hit, and it’s game over. Miss, and you mostly likely miss the bird altogether, with no harm done. I prefer the bird to be in full strut for a head shot, because that way, the head rests against the dark black back feathers, giving you clear target. I don’t mind a head/neck shot if the bird is not in strut; but for this, I like the shot distance to be 10 yards or less.
5. Where to Shoot a Turkey With a Bow: Facing Away
The old “Texas heart shot” is lethal on a gobbler. Just take your time. John Hafner Photography
Some bowhunters prefer this shot to all the others, and it is indeed very lethal. The only reason it comes last on my list is because there’s a tendency to rush this shot. When a bird is walking away, you can get the sense that your opportunity is disappearing, and that you have to shoot fast.
That said, if you decide the shot is for you, shoot at the base of the fan, at the vent. Like the “Texas heart shot” on deer, your projectile will drive through the bird and reach the vitals for a quick kill.
Best Setup for Bow Shots at Turkeys
The absolute best setup for getting a lethal shot at a tom turkey is with a ground blind combined with highly realistic decoys, like a Avian X or DSD, fitted with a natural tail fan in the case of a strutter. You certainly can pull off a successful bowhunt from a natural blind, especially if you sit in deep shade and have great blocking cover from the direction you think turkeys will come. That said, nothing hides you better than a pop-up ground blind. And realistic decoys will focus all of a tom’s attention on it’s “rival” or potential “mate” and take it away from you, especially while you draw. A tom that’s busy beating up a fake jake or tom, or mounting a hen decoy, isn’t likely to see you draw.
Wait for Your Shot
Be patient when a tom comes in. Now that you know exactly where to shoot a turkey with a bow, let your bird get close and wait for the shot you want. I lot of hunters, understandably, get very antsy when there’s a tom in the decoys. It’s pretty exciting stuff, especially if there are multiple longbeards in front of you. But do your best to stay calm. As long as the bird or birds are not obviously spooky, there will be plenty of time to watch them strut and spin and gobble—and eventually give you the perfect shot.
Best Broadhead Choice for Bowhunting Turkeys
The author prefers a good expandable head with a 2-inch cutting diameter, like this one by SEVR. Jace Bauserman
Too many bowhunters shoot fixed-blade broadheads at turkeys. Doing so is an absolute no, in my opinion. A fixed blade reduces your cutting diameter, giving you less error margin, and you’re not shooting a heavy-boned bull elk, so you don’t need a ton of penetration. Put a Titanium SEVR 2.0 or a Rage Hypodermic NC on the end of your arrow and kill birds stone dead. Bowhunting turkeys is a blast, and you can hit the woods before the shotgunners in many states. Follow this shot-placement guide, and you’ll be filling out an archery turkey tag before you know it.
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