10 of the Fastest Ways to Ruin a Turkey Hunt

“Want to get your gobbler? Avoid these costly mistakes.


After positioning my pop-up blind 200 yards from two roosted gobblers, I planted my decoys 10 yards from the blind, then settled in and awaited daybreak. Fierce gobbling boomed from the towering white pines along the field edge. Half an hour later, the rowdy toms fluttered to the ground and were cutting off my calls. Immediately, they beelined my way.

About 100 yards out, they began veering north. Still, they simply couldn’t resist my decoys and calls; they turned on a dime and came in hot. I drew my Mathews V3 27 just before the two longbeards reached the decoys. They made a few circles around my jake decoy, and finally, the stutter held still facing directly at me. I sunk an arrow right beneath his neck. Seconds later, the Wisconsin gobbler laid dead 10 yards beyond the decoys.

I’ve enjoyed dozens of successful spring turkey hunts over the last 22 years, but unfortunately, not all turkey hunts end that way. I’ve flubbed lots of opportunities, and I’ve watched other hunters do it, too. If you’re ready to learn from our mistakes and increase your odds for a successful spring turkey bowhunt, avoid these 10 blunders.


1. Hunting a Property That Doesn’t Have Birds

Hunting turkeys where there are none is frustrating and fruitless. I’d know because I did it as a young turkey hunter. Whether you hunt on public land or private land, you can’t kill a gobbler where one doesn’t exist. I don’t care how good the property looks; if you aren’t hearing gobbles or seeing birds, find somewhere else to hunt.

Now, if you don’t have permission to hunt other properties and there aren’t any public parcels nearby, drive around and scout from roadways until you find birds. Then, determine who owns the land on the HuntStand Pro app’s Property Info layer. Next, go knock on the landowner’s door or find his/her phone number on whitepages.com and call it. You can’t score a new place to hunt if you don’t ask, and the only thing worse than being denied hunting permission is to keep hunting on a property that doesn’t have turkeys.


2. Busting Birds Off the Roost

If you know where a gobbler is roosted, the only thing worse than setting up too far away is trying to get too close and busting him from his roost. Or, if you’re unfamiliar with the property, it’s easy to accidentally walk beneath a roost only to hear a turkey or several of them explode from the trees above you and fly away.

Busting a gobbler from the roost typically means that your hunt is before it ever began. This is especially true if you’re hunting a relatively small property because the gobbler has likely vacated it. So, don’t get greedy and try to sneak too close to a roosted bird. And when you are hunting on land you haven’t pre-scouted, stay vigilant and scan the treetops for dark blobs against the dimly lit sky.


3. Calling Too Frequently

When a gobbler is answering all of your calls but staying put, it usually means he’s waiting for the hen (you) to come to him. I’ve had numerous encounters during which I called incessantly to a hot gobbler, only to have him lose interest and move off. If a gobbler is hot but staying put, lay off the calls.

I’ve killed numerous toms by putting the call away and letting curiosity build. Yes, he’s asking for the hen (you) to come to him, but when the hen (again, you) that expressed interest in him suddenly goes silent, he doesn’t want to lose her and is liable to come looking.


4. Being Spotted While Cutting the Distance

If you have a bird spotted or hear one gobbling in the distance and are using the terrain and cover to get closer, you can instantly squander the opportunity by exposing yourself. Of the animals we hunt in North America, I’d believe turkeys have eyesight second only to the binocular-eyed pronghorn. In other words, as soon as a turkey detects unnatural movement — even from hundreds of yards away — it will typically disappear as quickly as possible.

So, choose your route carefully. I often study HuntStand Pro’s Terrain layer. Once I know the contours that lie between the gobbler and me, I’m better equipped to choose a course that will keep me undetected as I approach.


5. Drawing Your Bow At the Wrong Time

Drawing back at the right time is everything. Some gobblers approach decoys out of curiosity rather than dominance. When they do, they’re typically alert. Also, some ground blinds have wide window openings, making it easier to get caught than one would think.

If you’re hunting without a ground blind, timing your draw becomes even more important because you’re far more exposed. Try to draw when the gobbler’s head passes behind a fairly large obstruction, when his fan blocks his view, or when he’s attacking your jake decoy.


6. Waiting For the Action To Come To You

In my early years of turkey hunting, I’d set up in a location where I could hear gobbling and then try to get the gobblers to come to me. While calling sometimes makes this possible, being set up too far away from the action usually yields minimal results. If the action is clearly happening elsewhere, move, especially if you have a limited amount of time to hunt and suitable terrain to work with. I believe your time is best spent being in tight on birds rather than waiting hundreds of yards away for them to come to you.


7. Making Unnatural Noises

 Rushing to set up and causing too much commotion can quickly ruin a turkey hunt. Now, you can get away with making some noises because turkeys are often noisy. Get close to a flock of turkeys in the timber, and you’ll typically hear leaves rustling as the birds scratch for food. That being said, the noises you make should resemble that of scratching turkeys, not a human plodding through the woods, talking too loudly and snapping sticks.


8. Failing To Understand Wild Turkey Anatomy

 No matter what angle a gobbler is standing at or if he’s relaxed or strutting, he’s one of bowhunting’s most perplexing targets. Failure to understand wild turkey anatomy and where to aim can end with nothing more than a fistful of feathers. Diligently study wild turkey anatomy before you hunt so that you know how to place a lethal hit.


9. Rushing the Shot

 After 22 years of bowhunting turkeys, I still have to remind myself to slow down. When a gobbler comes in full-tilt to the decoys and starts jumping all over your jake decoy, it creates a false sense of urgency to shoot immediately.

Rushing the shot can yield many poor outcomes. I’ve seen a bird lunge at a decoy the moment an arrow was released, altering the arrow’s point of impact. I’ve seen marginal hits result from the hunter aiming for the middle of the bird rather than carefully picking an exact spot. I’ve seen poor arrow placement because the hunter thought the bird was standing at a different angle than it actually was. These are just some of the possible outcomes of rushing the shot.

Slow down and study the bird as you prepare to shoot to decrease the chances of a poor outcome. Stay mentally present in the moment, and remember that you almost always have more time than you think to make your shot count.


10. Chasing A Gobbler Immediately After the Shot

If you’ve hunted turkeys with a shotgun or even watched other hunters do it on TV or YouTube, you’re most likely familiar with the bird being shot and the hunter jumping up and running out to step on its neck until it quits flopping.

Bowhunting is different. Once you arrow a turkey and it’s flopping around or running away, take a follow-up shot — if possible — or just hold tight. You wouldn’t run after a deer that you just arrowed, and you shouldn’t run after a turkey, either. Turkeys can take flight or run for cover when threatened, and they usually leave little to no blood for you to follow. Treat the shot as you would while deer hunting because if a bird flies or runs away, your recovery odds decrease exponentially.

Previous Next

Get Connected