John's Journal...

Bowhunting’s Ultimate Challenge – the Wild Turkey

Secrets of a Master Gobbler-Getter with Brad Harris of Neosho, Missouri

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: You need nerves of steel, the shooting confidence of the legendary Robin Hood, the woodsmanship of Daniel Boone and the positive attitude of Dale Carnegie to bag a gobbler with a bow. Most bowhunters agree that going after gobblers with their bows usually means they’ll each have 10-to-one odds against themselves. For every 10 times you encounter a tom within bow range, you only may take that bird home on one of those attempts. Some of the best turkey hunters and bowmen in the nation will tell us why this week.

Brad Harris, a nationally-known outdoorsman and videographer, has hunted turkeys with a bow for more about three decades. Harris shoots a 75-pound bow. Some archers consider this bow too-much weight for hunting turkeys. However, Harris explains that, "I use the same bow and the same setup for hunting elk and deer as I do for hunting turkeys. I'm more comfortable shooting off my knees, the position I use when hunting turkeys with this bow at this weight. So, I don't change the weight of my bow or use anothClick to enlargeer bow. Because turkey hunting can be very intense by its very nature, I feel I have to be as comfortable as possible in my stand and with the equipment I'm shooting to shoot accurately. But I do believe that because turkeys aren't a dense animal, a hunter can be just as effective with a 50- or 55-pound bow as he can be shooting one as heavy as mine."

For a broadhead, Harris prefers a large 4-bladed broadhead because, "A larger broadhead will give me an extra cutting edge. And, a 4-bladed broadhead cuts a good-sized hole. However, which broadhead you shoot is not as critical as correct arrow placement when you're trying to take a turkey with a bow." Harris, who has mixed emotions about string trackers, allows the terrain and the distance of the shot he must take to dictate whether or not he'll utilize one. "For shots less than 20 yards in open areas, the string tracker works well," Harris observes. "However, I've found on shots more than 20-yards away, I lose some accuracy with a string tracker. I also feel the arrow is inhibited if you're hunting in brushy terrain and using a string tracker, since the string often will become entangled in the brush through which you're attempting to shoot. I shoot without a string tracker most of the time. But, I have bagged gobblers when using a string tracker." Harris doesn't advocate the use of arrow stoppers to stop the shaft in the bird and possibly inflict more damage because the arrow stays in the bird and continues to cut as the turkey moves. "Shot placement is the most-critical part of the hunt," Harris reports. "If you put the broadhead into the turkey where it should go, you won't have need of a string tracker or any type of arrow-stopping device." Click to enlarge

Harris doesn't suggest you utilize a blind but rather prefers to move unencumbered to the gobbler he's calling. “I try to call numbers of turkeys in a day and work with several turkeys to get them into position so I can take a shot," Harris says. "Because I cover a vast expanse of ground to work numbers of turkeys, I don't want to carry gear like a portable blind around with me. I run, gun and work as many turkeys as I possibly can in a day. Turkey hunting with a bow is a numbers game. The more turkeys you can call to you, the better your odds are for bagging one of them with a bow. The only time I do use a blind is when I'm trying to make a video of bowhunting a bird. Then I'll find where a gobbler is strutting, feeding and watering, set-up a blind and sit there until the turkey shows up. But I feel that using a blind is much-less efficient when you're bowhunting for turkeys."

To prevent the turkey from seeing him when he's calling or drawing, Harris tries to find two large trees relatively close together. "I use one tree for back cover and have the other tree right in front of me," Harris mentions. "I can hide behind the tree in front of me and make my draw. The tree behind me will help to conceal my movement from anything approaching from the rear."    
Harris also uses turkey decoys at times but only in certain hunting situations. "If I'm hunting around a field or in open timber where the turkey can see a long distance, I'll set up a turkey decoy to distract the gobbler," Harris advises. "But when I'm hunting in dense cover where the turkeys won’t be able to see for more than 30 yards, I don't use a decoy. When I can see the turkey, I should be at full draw and waiting for the turkey to present the shot."Click to enlarge

If Harris hunts alone, he uses a diaphragm mouth call exclusively. However, when he's calling for another bowhunter, and they're team-hunting toms, he may utilize a wide variety of calls, including boxes and slates. "I've been involved in effectively bagging turkeys with a bow by putting the archer 30 to 40 yards in front of the caller," Harris explains. "Then as the turkey comes in, the caller changes positions to manipulate the turkey to the spot where the archer can take a shot. For instance, if the gobbler comes in to the bowman's right, the caller will move to the bowman's left and begin to call to turn the turkey and make him walk in front of the archer. The caller always keeps the shooter between himself and the turkey and tries to pull that gobbler right over the shooter. Using this tactic, the archer concentrates only on the shot and the turkey.  When the turkey gets close to the bowman, the caller should call very aggressively to get the turkey to double-gobble and triple-gobble. Then the bird will be so excited the archer will have an opportunity to draw his bow and make the shot." Harris prefers aiming at the point of the wing forward to the top of the tom's head. "Although I miss quite a few birds shooting this high, when I do connect with a gobbler, I generally break the turkey's neck or spine and don't have to run through the woods chasing after him." Like Dale Faust (Day 2), Harris thinks the best shot occurs when the turkey quarters away from you and looks away from you.  Then you can get a shot at his back.
Tomorrow: Mark Drury’s Tips on Turkey Hunting with Your Bow

Today's Video Clip

Fishing on Zeke’s Lady with Captain Butch Tucker

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Check back each day this week for more about "Bowhunting’s Ultimate Challenge – the Wild Turkey"

Day 1: Mossy Oak’s Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland’s Sound Secrets for Bowhunting Turkeys
Day 2: Dale Faust on Where to Place the Shot and Why to Use Decoys When Bowhunting Turkeys
Day 3: Bowhunter Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland and John Demp Grace on Whether to Blind or Not When Hunting Turkeys
Day 4: Secrets of a Master Gobbler-Getter with Brad Harris of Neosho, Missouri
Day 5: Mark Drury’s Tips on Turkey Hunting with Your Bow


Entry 557, Day 4