Bowhunting Turkeys: Why I Don’t Pass on Jakes

This spring while bowhunting turkeys, the author won’t pass shot opportunities on jakes. Will you?

Bowhunting Turkeys: Why I Don’t Pass on Jakes

The author, left, and his hunting buddy, Scott, with a daily double on South Dakota jakes.

During archery deer season in South Dakota, I pass shot opportunities on immature whitetail bucks in hopes of tagging an older/bigger one. However, during the state’s archery turkey season, I won’t hesitate to release an arrow on a jake. Why the two different mindsets? 

Reason No. 1 is simply a food supply consideration. Because I also whitetail hunt in Wisconsin, where multiple antlerless deer tags are available and affordable, I can keep my freezer stocked with delicious venison. If I fail to tag a whitetail in SoDak, I won’t starve.

Another food factor is I love to eat wild turkeys, but because they are small, the meat from a springtime harvest is gone well before summer arrives. If I fail to tag a turkey in SoDak, I won’t starve, but my appetite for fresh wild turkey meat will go unsatisfied; this spring I don’t have any other states on my turkey hunting schedule. 

The biggest reason I shoot jakes with a bow is after a few decades of pursuing wild turkeys with archery gear, I’ve learned that fooling one is just as tough as fooling a tom. Are gobblers with beards so long they drag on the ground wiser than jakes? Sometimes. But in my experience, jakes can be just as wary and difficult to lure into bow range. In general, this isn’t the case with whitetails; older deer are more of a challenge.

It’s up to each bowhunter to decide when they’ll release an arrow. I’ve tagged plenty of 1.5-year-old bucks (and does) with my bow through the years, and I don’t begrudge anyone who punches their tag (bow or gun) with any legal animal.

Of course, if I have a jake and gobbler standing side by side in my decoys this spring, I’ll aim for the older bird, but only because he might provide one extra meal!

In the author’s opinion, it’s just as difficult to arrow a jake (left) as a tom (right), so he doesn’t pass shot opportunities on jakes.
In the author’s opinion, it’s just as difficult to arrow a jake (left) as a tom (right), so he doesn’t pass shot opportunities on jakes.


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