Over 20-plus years of turkey hunting across North America, I’ve learned a few things, and when it comes to gear, I have some nonnegotiable items I feel the need to pass on. Enjoy!
by Jace Bauserman
Bowhunting turkeys is a relatively easy task. However, harvesting one with a carbon arrow fired from a modern-day compound bow can often seem like mission impossible. As I pen this, I’m in the Cornhusker state, and we are having no trouble bowhunting turkeys. We have been doing it 12 hours a day for three days. The struggle has been the harvest. I was fortunate enough to splash a SEVR-tipped Easton Axis Long Range 4MM ($171.99 dozen bare shafts) through a mature tom that, along with a pair of jakes, flogged our Avian-X Half-Strut Jake Decoy on day one. Since then, though, bitter winter weather has slowed things to a halt.
You want to capitalize when the stars align, and you get your shot at a big ol’ rope swinger. Had I pulled a swing and a miss on that opening-day bird, I would likely be going home with tag soup. Whether you’re new to bowhunting longbeards or a seasoned pro, consider adding the following to your turkey gear arsenal.
I have made my turkey-killing combo no secret over the years, and if you’re in the market for some great gobbler-getters, I recommend Easton’s Full Metal Jacket, Axis, or Sonic shafts. Lately, I’ve been a fan of the Axis Long Range 4MMs. I love their sleek profile, and even though most turkeys are shot at less than 20 yards, the arrow tracks seamlessly behind the broadhead, which reduces friction and feather build-up and allows the shaft to splash through those dense ebony feathers and hollow bones.
Best of all, early big-game pursuits for pronghorn, mule deer, and elk are on the horizon following turkey season, and this arrow is my 100-percent go-to when hunting western critters. The thin but ultra-durable profile reduces side-to-side wind drift and is the most accurate arrow I have ever fired. Hunting with these arrows during the spring means I’m ready for long-range practice during the summer, and my confidence is high going into those summer 3-D shoots and late-summer/early-fall bowhunts.
I love the simplicity of the aluminum Half-Out inserts. The stem is long, and when insert glue is applied, and a twisting motion used, the insert not only seats perfectly, creating an exact insert-to-shaft bond, but the stem spreads glue evenly along the shaft’s wall, which means inserts won’t pull out, even when the arrow seems glued to those stubborn 3-D targets.
Tip your Easton shafts with a SEVR broadhead. SEVR makes remarkable heads, and I like SEVR’s Titanium 2.0 broadhead ($15.99 per head) for turkeys. Though I use SEVR’s Titanium 1.5 heads for all my big-game hunts, I like the 2.0 for turkeys. Turkeys have small vitals, and an excellent 2-inch cut broadhead gives you more room for error and expands your kill zone.
A few years back, I shot a tom low in the drumstick. It was a terrible shot that I’m not proud of, and had the SEVR not produced such a nasty slash-style cut, which almost decapitated the turkey’s left leg, he would have been able to take a few steps and take flight. The broadhead’s Lock-and-Pivot blade design is genius, and you can’t beat being able to add a second set screw to the ferrule (SEVR provides it) and practice with the same broadhead you hunt with. SEVR calls it Practice Mode, and it’s a feature I love.
The Right Blind & Blind Chair
As much as I love Ultimate Predator Gear’s Turkey Stalker bow-mounted decoy, I do a lot of bowhunting, especially during the early season when temperatures are frigid, from a ground blind. I promise you, a ground blind is not a piece of gear you want to nickel and dime — get the best model available — and stay warm, dry, and, most importantly, comfortable.
I have a pair of turkey blinds, and when it’s time to hit the spring woods, I don’t waver (ever) on my choice. Primos Double Bull Ground Blinds are legendary, and I give them a giant stamp of approval. My favorite for turks is the Double Bull SurroundView Max Ground Blind ($399.99). I could rave about the see-through viewing, and it is cool, but mostly, it’s the easy deployment, simple, wide entrance/exit, and massive 70-inch hub-to-hub measurement.
On a typical turkey day, my hunting partner and I spend no less than 10 hours in a ground blind, and we want space. Another massive benefit of this ground blind is the included sun visor and the 180-degree full front window with silent slide window closures. This window build means that no matter what angle you find yourself in, and when hunting turkeys, the terrain never seems flat; you can adjust the high/low of your window so you can shoot to the decoys.
Another excellent ground fort I use regularly is Browning’s Eclipse. The blind will save you a little change at $299, but it’s still a durable warrior that will last for many spring seasons. My favorite details of the Eclipse include the 360-degree curtain-style viewing area and Silent-Trac window system, which allows you to quickly drop a window and slide an arrow out of the blind no matter where the bird is. This blind has come in handy numerous times when a stubborn tom has hung up behind the blind. When this happens, I drop to my knees, move my chair out of the way, open the back curtain, drop a window, and sneak an arrow out.
The blind’s 600D polyester with blacked-out backing keeps you hidden as long as you cloak yourself in ninja gear, and I love the brush loops. No, those loops aren’t essential when bowhunting turkeys, but they become crucial later in the season when your attention turns from turkeys to those cagey whitetails.
When it comes to what you want to rest your derrière on for those long sits in a ground blind, be picky. Nothing is worse than a sore back and butt from a crappy chair. For those bowhunters toting a ground blind to different locales, I like ALPS’ Rhino MC ($59.99). The chair has a triangular seat and padded back, weighing only 5.6 pounds. Its compact fold-up design is perfect for strapping to a blind bag, and the frame is powder-coated steel. The chair doesn’t pop and creak, and I’ve never been sitting in one and had a bottom fall out.
If you tend to go to the same ground blind throughout the year for your bowhunting missions — one you stake down and leave out — I like ALPS’ Stealth Hunter ($149.99). It will cost you a tad more than the MC, but it features a full back for added support and comes fitted with independently adjustable legs to adjust your chair to the terrain. The TechMesh material is durable and comfortable, and the swivel-style seat allows for quick and easy movement.
Turkey decoys have come a long way — thank God — I hated those older models that had more creases and folds in them than an origami swan. If you’re still using those decoys, stop. As I mentioned before, bowhunting turkeys is challenging, and the more realistic your fakes, the better your chances of pulling a bird in bowhuting close.
My go-to- decoys are those from Avain-X and Dave Smith Decoys. I love full-strut decoys, but I like Avian’s LCD Half-Strut Jake ($129.99) for year-round success regarding my choice of a boy bird decoy. The decoy’s PVC dura-rubber is extremely quiet, and this decoy is roughly 15 percent smaller than a real turkey. Combine the turkey’s size with a sub-dominant posture, and gobblers typically come to give this decoy a karate kick or three. The decoy also has a tire valve, so you can completely deflate it and blow it up in the field.
When it comes to the girls, I run a deadly duo. My first must-have is Avian’s LCD Laydown Hen. This $89.99 decoy has proved to be a winner repeatedly. The decoy’s wings, body, and head simulate the actual breeding position of a live hen, and when you place the Half-Strut Jake over the laydown hen, a big longbeard can’t resist.
My second hen is one from Dave Smith Decoys. Sure, you can go with all Avian’s, but I’m not a huge fan Avian’s LCD Lookout Hen or LCD Feeder Hen. Both are super lifelike, but the head and neck area don’t tend to hold air well and give the neck/head a weird-looking lean. For this reason, my hen of choice is Dave Smith Decoys Posturing Hen Decoy ($149.99). This old gal drives boss hen nuts. You can beat the craftsmanship of a DSD, and though she shines all season long, she works great on big old strutters that won’t break off a hen.
There is lots of excellent turkey gear out there, but if you still need to add the above to your turkey arsenal, do it, and then send me pictures of all those dead gobblers.