Bowhunting Advice: Shot Placement on Wild Turkeys

Spring turkey season is just around the corner. As a bowhunter, do you know where to aim on a gobbler, regardless of his body angle?

Bowhunting Advice: Shot Placement on Wild Turkeys

As I write this article, the snow is almost waist high in my Minnesota backyard, but I know that spring —  and warm temps and gobbling turkeys — will eventually arrive.

Bowhunting turkeys is tremendously fun, but it can also be tremendously challenging. In fact, I’m one of those veteran turkey hunters who believes that if gobblers could smell human odor, we’d probably never shoot them with archery gear.

Through the years I’ve killed toms and jakes with various mechanicals, as well as broadheads designed for head and neck shots. A quick check of my quiver on any given turkey pursuit reveals extremely long arrows attached to 125-grain Magnus Bullheads for head/neck shots, as well as standard-length shafts with 100-grain Rage X-Treme Turkey mechanicals for body shots. (The long arrows are needed to ensure that the fixed-blade Bullheads don’t crash into the bowsight as you come to full draw. I choose Victory arrows with four 4-inch feathers, which help keep the Bullheads flying true.)

The 125-grain Magnus Bullhead (left) is a fixed-blade broadhead with a cutting diameter of 3.75 inches; it’s designed for head/neck shots on turkeys. The 100-grain Rage X-Treme Turkey (right) is a mechanical with a cutting diameter of 2.125 inches.
The 125-grain Magnus Bullhead (left) is a fixed-blade broadhead with a cutting diameter of 3.75 inches; it’s designed for head/neck shots on turkeys. The 100-grain Rage X-Treme Turkey (right) is a mechanical with a cutting diameter of 2.125 inches.

Whenever I sit and wait in ambush in a blind, my bow is loaded with a Bullhead as option No. 1. However, I also have the Rage-tipped arrow at the ready, just in case a tom refuses to walk into spitting distance and hangs out at 10 yards or beyond. While hidden in a pop-up ground blind, I can switch arrows without being seen. Of course, if I’m hunting without the aid of a blind, there’s no way I can move to make the arrow switch. It’s only during these times, when natural cover is lacking and it seems unlikely I can draw undetected at a close-range turkey, that I’ll go with the Rage as my first choice.

Where to Aim

The reason I like broadheads designed for head/neck shots is I don’t have to think about where to aim. The bright color of a tom or jake’s head/neck stands out against the dark feathers. It doesn’t matter if the bird is facing me, quartering away, or facing straight away: If I can see the bird’s head or neck, I can shoot.

Of course, for this system to work, the bird must hold its head relatively still. This usually isn’t a problem, although once a bird gets nervous, you can plan on the head becoming a very difficult moving target.

For straight-on shots with a Bullhead, I aim for the middle of the neck. For broadside shots, especially on a strutting tom, I aim for its cheek.

Things become far more complicated with broadheads designed for body shots. Now, it all depends on the bird’s body angle, and even whether the bird is strutting or not. 

Click here for a photo essay about turkey shot placement from Mathews Archery. As shown below, Mathews does an excellent job showing where to aim using broadheads designed for body shots.

The red dot in the left photo shows where to aim on strutting broadside gobbler when using a broadhead designed for body shots. The right photo shows the outlines of a turkey’s vital area, including the lungs (pink), heart (red) and spine.
The red dot in the left photo shows where to aim on strutting broadside gobbler when using a broadhead designed for body shots. The right photo shows the outlines of a turkey’s vital area, including the lungs (pink), heart (red) and spine.

Remember to practice prior to turkey season with whatever arrows and broadheads you’ll carry into the field this spring. A pillow stuffed in a cardboard box works well for testing Magnus Bullheads. I stick a 4-inch strip of duct tape to the pillow then try to cut it with a Bullhead at ranges of 5-10 yards.

One final tip: Don’t be surprised if at super-close range, like 3-5 yards, you must use your 30-yard pin instead of your 20-yard pin to hit exactly where you’re aiming. I’ll save the explanation of why this is for another article.

Good luck this spring!

Turkey images courtesy of Mathews Archery.


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