Bowhunting Turkeys: A Colorado Double

Can a pair of certified turkey nuts pull off an opening morning double in the Centennial State?

Bowhunting Turkeys: A Colorado Double

I’m a turkey junkie. I can’t help it. It’s an addiction, and one I don’t want therapy for. Few things in bowhunting rival the sights and sounds of spring — a deafening gobble — a strutting tom bowing up to an imposter decoy. Just penning these words gives me chills.

My good friend and fellow outdoor writer, Danny Farris, has the same disorder. The man is infatuated with springtime “Butterballs.” Danny and I have been friends for years, but we’d never hunted together. Job and family obligations pulled us this way and that. Last season, however, was different; Danny and I joined forces in the ponderosa pines and sage-dotted flats near his Colorado home.


Snow Bird

My boy’s baseball game kept me from arriving at Danny’s house before the sun traded places with the stars. Danny, however, made it out to scout. His words upon my arrival: “Dude, there are at least four toms and some hens, and they roosted in the perfect spot. The morning should be good.”

I didn’t sleep a wink that night. One would think that after all my seasons in the turkey woods, I’d be able to get some prior-to-opening-day shut-eye. Nope.

The truck thermometer read 23-degrees Fahrenheit, and snow crunched under the Goodyears as we wound up the mountain two-track. As we drove, Danny briefed me on the property, and went over the morning’s plan once again.

There was a sizable meadow surrounded by towering pines. The birds were roosted on a ridge approximately 250 yards from the meadow. Danny had been running a Browning trail camera in the opening for close to three weeks, and morning and night, the birds worked their way through it. In addition to camera proof, piles of turkey tracks slicing this way and that told Danny the locale was a hotspot.

There was no need to press in on the roost. This is a mistake I see a lot of turkey hunters make. Trust your scouting, your calling and your decoys. You can blow a great hunt by trying to make it another 50 or 100 yards into the woods. 

Danny and I were using a Primos Double Bull SurroundView 360, a blind that works much like a two-way mirror; you can see through the fabric but game can’t see in (see sidebar below). I backed the blind up against some small pines and situated the front opening while Danny set the fakes. I stepped off the distance (12 yards), and gave Danny left, right directions on where to anchor the decoys. This is an important pre-dawn tip. If you’re hunting with a partner, have the shooter sit inside the blind and tell the decoy-setter exactly where to place the imposters. If you’re hunting by yourself, determine distance to the blind and then lay the decoys where you think they ought to go. Don’t stake them down. You want to first get into the blind and make sure the decoys don’t need to be moved. Improper decoy placement can hinder shot opportunities. Get it right before the birds arrive. Also, don’t set the decoys too far from the blind. Turkeys have small vitals, and you want them close. My magic distance is 12 yards.

The author has learned it’s critical to take your time prior to releasing an arrow to ensure proper shot angle and shot placement.
The author has learned it’s critical to take your time prior to releasing an arrow to ensure proper shot angle and shot placement.

The stage was set. A 3/4 Strut Dave Smith Jake was positioned near a laydown hen. Of course, we left enough space between the laydown and the jake for a ready-to-fight tom to walk between. We faced the hen and jake toward the blind. I like for the tom to have to circle and face the jake decoy. This placement typically gives me a broadside shot.

Though temperatures were still in the mid-20s, it was a gobble fest from the start. Don’t ever let weather hold you back. Turkeys will be out being turkeys, and unless you go, you never know what type of day it’s going to be. 

We didn’t call back at the gobbling-on-the-roost toms. Why? We wanted to wait for the first hen to give some soft yelps, and because we were certain the birds would head our direction, there was no reason to crank on the calls. In addition, the birds were still in winter-like flocks, and intense roost gobbling was expected. After fly down, once boisterous toms often get quiet. We wanted to keep things as natural as possible.

After the first hen let out a soft, subtle tree yelp, I followed suit. I didn’t yelp aggressively or cut. I simply mimicked her call. She called back. All the area gobblers thundered.

The birds got quiet after fly down, and so did we. Again, our plan was to listen more and call less. Minutes passed, and then a hen got vocal, which cranked up the already excited toms. Danny and I went right back at her, and a trio of gobblers thundered. They were close. As early season birds tend to do, this threesome had been working our way since hitting the dirt after fly down.

It was a foot race to see who could get to the jake first once the toms hit the meadow. I didn’t draw. Danny was filming and we wanted to enjoy the show. Remember, once toms commit to a decoy spread, you typically have lots of time. Don’t get in a rush and fling an arrow. Wait for the right angle and the right moment. As long as the birds are in strut, you’re fine. If the bird or birds drop strut and take a fast few steps away from your decoys, the gig is up.

A tom, especially one in full strut, can be a difficult target. Black feathers make picking an exact aiming point difficult. Just remember that a turkey’s vitals sit farther back and higher than most realize. When a tom is puffed up, bowhunters tend to shoot too low. A low shot will put you in the lower breast region. On a broadside bird, put the arrow right where the butt of the wing connects to the bird’s body. Do this and the bird will typically expire within sight.

The Easton T64 FMJ was perfect, and the bird’s death sprint was short. What a magical morning it was. The sun had yet to crawl fully into the sky, but its rays were warming the earth. Bits of frost danced in the morning light, and the bird, well, it was my biggest Rio to date, a triple-beard with a monster body.

This monstrous, triple-bearded gobbler was the biggest Rio taken by the author to date.
This monstrous, triple-bearded gobbler was the biggest Rio taken by the author to date.

Not Done Yet

After a quick celebration breakfast back at the Farris household, Danny made the decision to head down into the plains and chase some birds along a sage and cottonwood-dotted creek-bottom.

It was just after 11 a.m. when we rolled into the property. Temperatures on the flats were in the upper 60s — a drastic change from the frosty morning. Letting our binos do the walking for us, we spied a pair of gobblers easing up the creek’s edge. The birds weren’t gobbling or in strut, but they were pecking at fresh shoots of grass and seemed in no hurry to move up the creek. We could easily get in front of them.

When hunting public or private ground, I always drive and glass perimeter roads for birds before diving in. Let your glass do the walking. Not only is this a good way to find birds, but it also eliminates the chances of walking in blind and bumping birds.

Danny is a bow-mounted turkey decoy nut, and because the birds were traveling together, we figured the duo would come in looking for a fight. When one or more toms or jakes are traveling together, they typically feel they have the upper hand on a lone bird. Using our binos, onX App and Danny’s experience on the property, we decided to swing around the birds and set up on the edge of a sizable sage flat about 150 yards off the creek bank. I would stay behind and set up a ground blind to film from, and Danny would move in close with his bow-mounted Eastern Stalker Turkey Decoy from Ultimate Predator Gear. He had a GoPro strapped to his bow to capture the up-close action.

Once Danny got to the edge of the sage flat, he worked up a small embankment and set up. This is a great tip for the bow-mounted turkey goer. The dense sage mixed with the slanted embankment allowed Danny to hide his body and show only bits and pieces of the decoy. Showing approaching birds only bits and pieces of a decoy will often peak their interest and keep them coming. They will want a better look at the imposter. Of course, bow-mounted turkey decoys will work in the wide-open as well; it all depends on the attitude of the approaching bird or birds.

After Danny was situated, he gave me the signal and I started calling. I started soft. Just a few yelps, clucks and purrs. No response. I waited. Just like we’d done during the morning, the plan was to listen more and call less. Just because you don’t get a response after your first calls, don’t freak out and start pouring it on. Give the birds time to work toward you, especially if you know they are in the area.

I let 10-minutes pass and called again. No aggressive cutting. Only a pair of yelps. When I raised my bino, I saw black bodies bobbing through the sage. I moved the bino to Danny and he was giving me the thumbs up. When the birds saw his decoy, they gobbled and started moving quicker. If birds are working toward you, stop calling. I call again only if birds hang up or start working in an unfavorable direction.

Danny has a crazy goal: He wants to get a turkey so close that the broadhead enters the bird before the arrow completely leaves the arrow rest. I honestly thought it was going to happen. The birds came close, but at a distance of 5 yards, I could tell the lead bird was getting nervous. When Danny drew his bow, however, the birds stopped and stared. It’s important to remember that approaching birds expect a reaction from the bow-mounted imposter. As long as you draw in a smooth and steady motion, they will just stand and watch.

Danny’s arrow was true. The bird didn’t go 100 yards before toppling over in the sage. We were elated. Two mature toms before noon on the same day using two totally different tactics in totally different terrain. Yes, I love spring turkey hunting.

Danny Farris hid behind his Eastern Stalker Turkey Decoy to arrow this gobbler at point-blank range.
Danny Farris hid behind his Eastern Stalker Turkey Decoy to arrow this gobbler at point-blank range.

Sidebar: Primos Double Bull SurroundView 360

No, the goal of this article is not to send you running off to Cabela’s. If you have a ground blind that works for turkeys, great. However, if you’re a serious turkey junkie and want to add a new element of excitement to your sit-and-wait turkey adventures, the Primos SurroundView 360 will provide it. The blind does come with a black cloth that allows you to darken out the blind’s back, but except for that, you have total visibility.

The Primos Double Bull SurroundView 360 has one-way, see-through walls, making it easy for you to spot game.
The Primos Double Bull SurroundView 360 has one-way, see-through walls, making it easy for you to spot game.

Being able to see birds approaching from any direction is super cool. Warning: You will feel totally exposed! The first time a bird approaches, it’s normal to try and crawl deeper into the blind’s back corner or duck and dive. Relax and enjoy; they can’t see you.


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