Turkey bowhunters don’t need to pack crazy amounts gear, but experience has shown that a few critical items can make a huge difference.
The biggest challenge for most budding turkey bowhunters is often finding some birds to hunt. However, once you’ve scouted a public- or private-land tract and have determined there are turkeys to be had, it’s your gear arsenal, and deft use of it, that will often make or break your upcoming hunt. Of course those looking for turkey gear in general need to check out our 85-piece Ultimate Turkey Hunting Gear Guide, but here are some additional, “fine-tuning” gear tips aimed at helping turkey bow junkies arrive rigged and ready.The Right Bow: Not all bows make good turkey-getters. If you own a few bring along the most comfortable, easiest-drawing model. Blazing-fast speed for turkeys is unnecessary; much more important is being able to draw your weapon of choice smoothly, in a jerk-free motion. To avoid a gobbler’s amazing eyes, even in a blind, you’ll likely be required to draw early and hold longer while your target bird moves into position. To help along these lines, many people opt to drop their typical “big-game” bow weight by five or 10 pounds, which is wise. Also, consider using a shorter axle-to-axle bow (32 inches or under for compounds, 56 inches and under for recurves) that will help you maneuver in ground blinds and be less-obtrusive in the woods.
Laser Rangefinder: A good idea for bowhunters to carry any time, but near-critical gear when hunting from a blind, from which distances can be much harder to judge. A turkey’s kill zone is relatively small; knowing the range means more longbeard success. Along those lines, when setting up along a pool-table-flat field edge, increase your odds by using yardage “markers”—sticks or small logs work great—to ensure accuracy when a big tom suddenly pops up or otherwise catches you by surprise. Because they will.
Next-Level Decoys: Together with ground blinds, today’s next-gen, ultra-realistic decoys have revolutionized turkey bowhunting. If you haven’t already taken the plunge, get yourself a life-sized strutting tom or jake decoy (the great-looking new Avian-X HDR Jake is shown at top), and one or two submissive/feeding hens. Ultra-realistic decoys can seem expensive, but most are worth the investment; turkeys really seem to appreciate the upgrade. Place them no farther than 10 yards from your blind or in-woods ambush, and get ready.Broadheads: One way to go with turkey heads are large, “head-lopping” models that can be deadly effective for those with steady nerves. However, if you’ve never bow-bagged a turkey before, my recommendation would be to avoid these heads and tip your arrow with a large two- or three-blade mechanical head sporting a 2-inch (or larger) cutting diameter (the new-for-2019 Rage Hypodermic NC is shown above). Don’t aim for the tiny, bobbing head/neck, but rather, for a “more-traditional” archery kill zone: the wing butt on a strutting, broadside gobbler. Traditional archers will be well-served with most larger, razor-sharp, 3-blade heads.Ground Blinds: Not all of these portable wonders are created equal, and there are many fine, feature-packed models. First, make sure your choice is indeed portable; I like a full-size blind that packs down quickly, and silently, for those times when a strategic move can be the key to success. Also, lighter is better, and blind makers are starting to deliver. I consider a standard full-size blind about 25 pounds, and make it a habit of checking out any new blinds that weigh-in seriously lighter.
It was great to see longtime treestand specialist Summit jump into the portable blind market in 2019 with a variety of smart new models, and a personal favorite over the last few years has been the Primos Double Bull SurroundView blinds (see above). These models with their drop-dead-cool, one-way see-through mesh material greatly enhance your view of incoming gobblers, and greatly increase general blind hunting enjoyment, by eliminating that “sitting in a dark cave” feeling.
Dedicated blind hunters will want to pair them with a specially designed blind pack, especially smart designs that also consider accessories like a blind chair and decoys. One huge aspect to smart turkey hunting is being instantly mobile, and that kind of versatility starts with a truly ultralight gear arsenal.
Blind Chair: Bowhunting for turkeys is often a waiting game fueled by extreme patience, and nothing lets you tap into your inner Zen like a super-comfortable blind chair. I’ve tried many styles over the years and, at 215 pounds, have come to the conclusion that “ultralight” and “ultra-comfort” don’t often mesh. These days I’ll gladly spend a little extra on a feature-packed seat that offers extra adjustability and forces me to carry a little more weight, if it means that I can be comfortable and refreshed after a six-hour sit on uneven terrain.There are many cool adjustable-leg, swivel-style seats on the market, but another sweet concept all blind hunters need to consider is the new-for-2019 Summit Chairpack 2.5 (shown above), a versatile backpack/seat combo.Binos At The Ready. I consider toting good glass critical whenever I’m bowhunting, and I like to keep my bino/rangefinder combo nice and handy. Which is why I was happy to discover the new-for-2019 Vantage Bino Harness from ALPS OutdoorZ that not only carries your favorite bino, but also special pockets to house slate, diaphragm and box calls. Included is a lens cloth, and MOLLE system to attach a rangefinder pocket (recommended) that ALPS sells separately.Knee Pads: Strange but true; if the windows/openings of your blind allow for shooting from your knees, it can be wise to bring along a pair of knee pads to make the effort silent and painless. I make a habit of bringing the pads I typically use out West to stalk pronghorns on the prairie, and when the turkey hunting gets crazy—say, when multiple birds approach and/or you must quickly switch your shot from one side of the blind to the other—you will make less noise and commotion by maneuvering on your knees than attempting to reposition your chair. But you must make this decision early; stow your chair, bow stand, or calls well before a tom is in range so you have a nice clear, and silent, “pivot area” within your blind.