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Now that you have the mind set of where to make a clean, lethal shot on a gobbler with your bow, it’s time to talk about how to call one in, and the best decoy/blind setup for success. In this article I am going to give you some inside information on calling turkeys within bow range, and different decoy setups that can bring gobblers in those last few needed yards.
I believe the most common mistake turkey hunters make is calling too aggressive or calling too loud. As it goes for any other aspect to hunting, being a patient caller can help lure that swamp chicken in those last few yards. Now, I’ll be the first one to say I’m included in with the aggressive callers. I can’t help it. Something about the communication from call to gobbler, and getting one fired up just gets my blood pumping like no other. Hearing one gobble so close it vibrates in your chest will give any man, woman or child the rush of a lifetime. With this being said, cuts, cackles, and excited yelps can work great in the right situation. But more often than not, a gobbler is going to respond much better to softer calling like clucks and purrs. Just lowering the tone of all of your calling can help better your chances. You can’t really call too soft. And just because that gobbler doesn’t respond, doesn’t mean he isn’t picking up what you’re putting down. Many mornings in the turkey woods I’ve heard gobblers way off in the distance. I’d give a few cuts, and clucks and let him know there’s a hen in the area and then wait. A lot of the time that gobbler would come in silent without gobbling once, and appear as though out of thin air. Then panic, the dropping of calls, and scrambling for my bow would ensue.
But what if soft, patient calling isn’t enough? It’s time to break out the decoys. Decoys can be a great tool to bring gobblers that extra few yards needed for a shot with your bow. With the hundreds to choose from on the market nowadays it can be a tough task to decide which is the right for you. I would suggest buying the highest quality decoys your wallet (and wife) will allow. With the popularity of turkey hunting skyrocketing higher and higher, birds are becoming more and more educated every time a hunter misses on an opportunity at one. It can’t be helped. It happens. But it seems as though they aren’t fooled as much by the lower end decoys as they were 10 years ago. So buy the most realistic ones you can. Second, try to assemble a decent flock. Three is usually perfect, but if the billfold will only allow one, go with a single hen. Aside from that a jake decoy would be the next buy for me, and then another hen in a different pose would be my third.
When it comes time to place your decoys, here’s a few things to keep in mind. I like to have the jake face the direction the gobbler will be approaching with the hen looking as though she’s leaving the field. Unless you know you have a dominant gobbler on the property, just a hen or two may work better. Younger, less dominant gobblers may feel intimidated by a male bird decoy. So a hen or two should do the trick. There are thousands of ways to turn and set them but this has gave me the best results. Another thing to remember is to make sure they are spread out far enough. Gobblers can be claustrophobic, and if there isn’t plenty of space between decoys for them to strut, they may get uneasy and leave without presenting a shot. I always try to make sure I keep my decoys at least 5-8 yards apart. But keep them close to you. Just because you feel comfortable making a 20 yard shot with your bow doesn’t mean you should place your decoys there. I’ll keep them at about 8 yards, and a lot of the time I’ll even put them 10 yards behind me. 9 times out of 10 that gobbler will hang up outside of bow range. But if the decoys are close or behind you, it’s game over, gobbler.
To hide a lot of the movement needed to draw my bow I hunt out of a ground blind. You have to be a very still, patient, and veteran bowhunter to make it happen just tucked in the brush going after a turkey. As we discussed in “Part 1”, turkeys can pick out movement like no other game animal in Ohio. As for placement of that blind, most of the time I’m set up on a field edge or an open area in the woods I know turkeys travel through. With a few weeks of scouting you’ll know too, these are the places turkeys want to be on spring mornings. Gobblers want to be out in the open strutting their stuff for the ladies. Then mid to late morning, they’ll retire into the woods until later that evening. So a great way to catch these gobblers either off the roost first thing in the morning, or late morning when they head for cover, is to set up on a field edge.
So what I hope you’ve taken from these past two articles is the knowledge to make a clean, lethal shot, and the ability to put yourself in the right place to make that shot. And if the gobbler is being stubborn, let that call just softly coax him into his ultimate demise. I wish you all good luck this spring! Tune in next month as we talk black bear hunting! launchtoi.com/LukeFabian