I carefully slid a couple of decoys into the back pouch of my hunting vest and checked the assortment of calls in the front pockets. My hunting partner and I knew there were big toms in the area and hoped we could find one that wasn’t with hens. We grabbed chairs and a panel blind before disappearing into the dense cover as we edged down a deer trail into the creek bottom. Utilizing the relief of the land, we snuck through the trees leading to the edge of a large field where we had seen a flock of turkeys feeding on several occasions.
The sun had just started into the eastern sky, and not wanting to bump birds, we stopped and tried a couple of hen calls. The distinct gobble of a mature bird resonated up the creek, and we scrambled to set up the decoys, flop into our chairs, and place a panel blind as concealment. Once in place, the hen call was used with the hopes of the gobbler to fix our location. The bird was already closer than he was the first time we called, and I shouldered my crossbow to anticipate the tom’s arrival.
The seasoned bird covered ground quickly, and I caught a glimpse of his brilliant red head peeking over the creek bank. He immediately honed in on our decoys and came running down the steep bank towards the hen and jake decoy positioned in front of me. The show that followed was incredible.
The big bird strutted into action, puffing up his feathers, fanning his tail, and dragging his wingtips in full display. The turkey’s head changed color from red to blue and finally white as he gobbled with ferocity. The decoys moved slightly with the soft breeze, and the gobbler reacted by running towards the artificial jake. It all happened so fast that my heart raced with excitement. The mature gobbler wasn’t going to tolerate the presence of the young jake standing with the hen and rushed towards the decoy, spitting and popping as its feathers vibrated in a display of dominance. When the old boy started to go after the jake decoy, I knew it would only be a matter of seconds before he figured out the competition was not real. The big bird lifted his head and relaxed his feathers. My crosshair found the upper wing, and I squeezed the trigger on my TenPoint crossbow. My arrow and SEVR broadhead hammered the bird, flipping it over with a killing shot. I rushed forward to get my hands on the prized possession.
The heart-pounding excitement of hunting spring turkeys has to be experienced to be appreciated. In order to collect a mature tom, you have to outwit the bird’s keen eyesight, hearing, and often competition from other turkeys. However, when you set up correctly and find a cooperative bird, the experience will likely lead to a spring hunting addiction that you will want to experience again.
Hunting a spring turkey is challenging. The challenge of the hunt is all about outwitting a mature gobbler. It requires the proper use of calls and making the turkey think you are a real hen. In order to be successful, you have to stay concealed. Turkeys have incredible eyesight, do not miss any movement, and spot anything out of the ordinary.
Good camouflage or a ground blind are great ways to increase success. Every turkey hunter has been busted by birds, and once they get nervous, there is no way they are coming closer. One of my favorite techniques is to roost birds in the evening and sneak back in the morning to set up and call them from their nightly perch. Carefully, get as close as possible to the roost without being detected and set up to bring the bird in at first light. If you know where birds are roosting, you have a significant advantage in the morning.
Set up in the dark and get there early enough that the birds still have their heads tucked under a wing and sleeping. A good rule is that you can’t be too early.
Searching for birds using locator calls, like a crow or owl, can also be effective. Gobblers are very territorial and will sound off when hearing a locator call. Learning the basic hen calls is essential. The lonely clucks of a mature hen can drive an old gobbler wild. My best advice is to purchase a box call, mouth diaphragm, and slate call to master the different sounds. There are excellent instructional videos on the internet as a tutorial.
It does not take long to master the sounds to imitate live birds with practice.
Decoys boost success, as an old tom that can hear and see a hen is more likely to come strutting. A hen decoy, or two, is best, but I like to throw in a jake to play on the territorial nature of a mature, aggressive gobbler.
Spend some time spotting. Get to know where the turkeys live, roost and feed. It won’t take you long to key in on a big bird and develop an addiction to turkey hunting.
Crossbows are ideal for hunting turkeys, as they do not spook other birds when you shoot. In most cases, the birds will stick around and follow their routine in the same area where you initially found them. Here are a couple of great options for arrowing a bird this spring.
TenPoint Nitro 505
The Nitro 505 is the fastest reverse-draw crossbow on the market, shooting an honest 505 fps or faster. The crossbow sports a 17-inch power stroke, cams that rotate 404 degrees, and a micro rail to minimize contact with the string. The cocking system requires five pounds of cranking pressure and safely de-cock the bow. The bow weighs 7.9 pounds, measures 30.7 inches long, and is 6.5 inches wide when cocked. It comes as a package ready to hunt. MSRP starting at $2,999.99; tenpointcrossbows.com
Wicked Ridge Fury 410
The Fury 410 is an economical reverse-draw limb design, measuring 29 inches long and 9 inches wide, shooting 410 fps. This crossbow is available with a cocking and de-cocking system at a value price. The cocking system reduces the effort to cock the bow to five pounds. Equipped with a 2-stage, zero-creep trigger that includes a dry-fire inhibitor, it breaks cleanly at a 3.5-pound pull. The Fury 410 weighs 7.5 pounds and is packaged ready to hunt. MSRP: $1,049.99 with ACUdraw De-Cock; www.wickedridgecrossbows.com.
ALPS Ambush Sling Pack
Turkey hunters that like to stay mobile will love the Ambush Sling Pack. The one-strap pack is lightweight and designed for “run n’ gun” hunters. The single shoulder strap holds the pack snuggly in place and is ambidextrous. The single strap allows the user to mount a crossbow or shotgun without having a shoulder strap impede the length of pull. It has MOLLE system on both sides, which allows the ThermaCELL pocket to attach to either side of the sling. The Ambush weighs one pound empty, and there are multiple pockets to pack everything you will need to be successful. MSRP $59.99; alpsoutdoorz.com.
My confidence broadhead is the SEVR Titanium 2.0, which makes short order of turkeys, with consistent deployment and penetration. Turkey hunters should consider the Robusto 2.0 is 150 grains, increasing FOC, kinetic energy, and penetration. I’ve shot multiple gobblers with the 100-grain broadhead and had clean pass-throughs every time. The Robusto takes killing power to a new level. MSRP $14.99; www.sevrbroadheads.com.