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Home / Luke Fabian / “Bowhunting Turkeys: A Game of Chess Part 1 – Shot Placement”

“Bowhunting Turkeys: A Game of Chess Part 1 – Shot Placement”

March 9, 2016
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Knight to H3. The gobbler you’ve been coaxing into your setup for the last two hours just skirted outside of bow range, and left with a group of hens. The battle of brains and wills was just won by a twenty-five pound bird that can barely fly. Checkmate!

That’s how I look at bowhunting turkeys. It’s a game of chess. And that’s about how 99% of turkey hunts with a bow turn out. A bird with a brain the size of a walnut outsmarts you, and gets away clean.

Myself and the Eastern Wild Turkeys we have here in Ohio have a love-hate relationship. When they cooperate, and at least present me with the opportunity to be successful, I love hunting them. But a majority of the time, I despise them and their ability to outsmart me. Despite this relationship we have, I respect turkeys just as I do with all other game animals and their cunning attributes. Thunder chickens have the best eyes in the woods among game animals in Ohio. They can pick out movement from great distances like a hawk, which can pose quite a task for us bowhunters when it comes time to draw our bows. Just like deer, it seems they have a sixth sense when they come into most setups. They just know something’s not right. But like I said before, with this challenge comes great respect. And that’s why I love bowhunting turkeys so much.

There’s tons we could dive into, and dissect about turkey hunting with a bow so I’m only going to talk about a few key things to hopefully help you become a more successful bowhunter. The topic I’m going to discuss in this article is shot placement.

First off, anytime you start talking about shot placement you need to know the animal’s anatomy. There are two target areas you can aim for on a turkey that will result in a lethal, and ethical shot. The first is what most bowhunters aim for and that is the vitals (heart and lungs). The second is the head or neck area. These two areas and pretty much anywhere in between the two areas with the right broadhead will result in an ethical shot, a dead bird, and a happy you.

The vitals of a turkey are located basically dead center of their body as shown in the above illustration. From the outside looking in, this is approximately where the wing attaches to the body. One phrase pertaining to this that has held true through years and years of turkey hunting is, “high they die, low they go.” Which means if you’re going to miss that center spot you’re better off to miss high rather than low. When I’ve hit gobblers a tad high, I’ve found them expired not far away. When I’ve missed the mark low, I’ve never found the bird and it’s a bad day for everyone. A turkey’s vitals are about the size of an average man’s fist. Not exactly a whole lot of room for error there. That is why over the past few years I’ve started aiming for the turkey’s head with my bow.

Just like any other part of hunting, the technology in turkey hunting gear has came a long way. Within just the last ten years several companies have developed broadheads specifically designed for turkey hunting. And more importantly, head shots. The ones I use are Magnus Bullheads which can be found on my website here: Magnus Bullheads – 125 grain. They’ve created a broadhead with a huge cutting diameter without sacrificing accuracy. This means you have more room for error. It’s either a quick, clean harvest, or a complete miss. There’s no in between. As hunters we need to stress how important it is to try our best not wound animals, and with these broadheads it’s virtually impossible.

The above diagram is an accurate representation of where your shot placement should be depending on how the gobbler is turned. If he is facing you, right above the beard is a perfect shot whether his feathers are in or in full strut. For a head shot, the best shot opportunity will be when he is in full strut. The head is tucked against the body rather than moving back and forth as it will when his feathers are in. But I must stress, the absolute best shot at success on a turkey with a normal broadhead is when he is in strut, his tail feathers are up, and he is facing away from you. He cannot see you draw your bow, plus it is an easy reference point. Right where all the tail feathers come to a point.

So if you’re up for a game of chess with the Bobby Fisher of the woods, don’t forget these tips when it comes to shot placement. Good luck this thunder chicken season, and be safe! Make sure you check out all my articles and videos and shop over 75,000 hunting products on my website here: http://launchtoi.com/LukeFabian

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About Luke

Luke Fabian

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My Bio

I am a 25 year old from Cambridge, Ohio, a Muskingum University graduate, and the Education Coordinator for the Deerassic Park Education Center. I've been a bowhunting filmmaker and writer for the past 9 years. I've trekked across North America pursuing all sorts of big game with my bow. I host "Stick & String TV" on The Hunting Channel & I have my own series of hunting films on YouTube. You can also watch my whitetail hunts on Mathews Dominant Bucks TV. I'm chasing down my dream to one day be able to educate and entertain my fellow bowhunters at a national level. As a filmmaker and writer of the outdoors, my job is to bring my fans the best quality footage and top notch information of the outdoors. Not only I am trying to pursue big game with my bow which is a hard enough task in itself, but I'm also trying to lay down top quality footage at the same time. I want to bring you a story of the hunt. My videos and articles are not only for you, but for me as well. So we can both learn, but hopefully also be entertained at the same time. It's never been about being some big name in hunting. I just do it because it's what I love to do. It's my passion. I love to relive that adrenaline rush I get from bowhunting, and sharing that feeling with others. Filming and writing gives me that opportunity. Any way I can help my fellow bow hunters I'm going to try and incorporate that in my work.  So I hope y'all enjoy.