Bowhunting Turkeys Without a Ground Blind

You don’t need a ground blind for bowhunting turkeys. The key is hiding behind one or two strutting decoys.

Bowhunting Turkeys Without a Ground Blind

During spring 2019, the author hid behind a strutting decoy positioned over a breeding hen.

Spring is turkey time, and while I love pursuing toms and jakes (I’m not picky) with either a shotgun or bow, my most memorable turkey hunts involve archery gear. 

Chances are good you’ve seen videos or TV shows highlighting the advantages of using a pop-up ground blind for wild turkeys. Unlike whitetails, which typically freak out when they see the black hole of a pop-up blind’s opened window, turkeys usually ignore it. This allows a bowhunter (dressed in black) to hide in the blind’s dark interior and deliver a killing shot at close range. 

Even though blinds are very effective, they do have drawbacks. Unless you have the luxury of placing a pop-up blind in advance of a hunt, you have to carry it into the field in the predawn darkness of your morning turkey hunt. Hauling your bow, decoy (or decoys), a pop-up blind and a chair is a hassle.

Then there’s the wind. In South Dakota, where I spend a good amount of spring in pursuit of turkeys, the wind is almost always howling, and setting up a ground blind in these conditions is a supreme challenge. On some days, it’s impossible. You also risk bumping nearby roosted birds by making too much noise while placing a pop-up blind.

The alternative?

Forget the pop-up blind and pack one or two strutter decoys. The plan isn’t to place the decoys at 20 yards and then hide in the brush (natural ground blind) and hope for a shot. Instead, sit butt on the ground and place the decoys in the dirt just beyond your boots. When using two strutters, leave a small gap to shoot between the two fans. 

Note: Unlike shotgun hunting, when it makes sense to lean against a tree to break up your outline, doing so when archery hunting makes it impossible to shoot your bow; your draw elbow will hit the tree. For that reason, you’ll need a stadium seat that provides back support. Sit in front of a large tree and leave just enough room so you can draw without difficulty.

Another advantage to this system is you don’t have to worry about making relatively quiet hen sounds, which get lost in the wind. Carry a gobbler call and hammer on it whenever you hear a distant tom or jake sound off.

I stop using the gobbler call when I’m sure an approaching tom or jake sees my decoys. At that point, I simply play it cool and wait for him to close the distance.

You’re probably asking: How do I draw my bow without a bird seeing me?

Believe it or not, it doesn’t matter if they see me because they are expecting some movement around live birds (my decoys). When hunting in the woods, I’ll dress in camo and sit in front of a large tree (top photo). In a field or on the prairie, I’ll dress in black above the waist so I look like another strutting turkey (below).

The author removed a dark-colored face mask for this photo. On the prairie, he dresses in a black long-sleeve t-shirt or jacket (and dark face mask) to look like another strutting turkey.
The author removed a dark-colored face mask for this photo. On the prairie, he dresses in a black long-sleeve t-shirt or jacket (and dark face mask) to look like another strutting turkey.

Draw only when a bird is within shooting range, which will vary depending on your choice of broadhead. I like the head/neck chopping broadheads, which means I want shots of 5-10 yards. I draw when a tom or jake is walking directly toward my decoys at 10 yards. Sometimes they stop when they see me move; other times they just keeping walking in. In either case, they almost always give me time to anchor, aim and release an arrow.

The author dropped this turkey in its tracks at 10 yards. The ambush here is the same one shown in the photo at the beginning of this article.
The author dropped this turkey in its tracks at 10 yards. The ambush here is the same one shown in the photo at the beginning of this article.

The next time you’re tired of sitting in a pop-up ground blind and want the joy of doing a little run-and-gun bowhunting, grab a strutter decoy or two, a stadium seat, a gobbler call and take the fight to the turkeys. Killing a tom or jake at spitting distance while sitting butt on the ground is a rush. Give it a try this spring.

Strong winds will dictate which direction strutting decoys face. Don’t worry about the direction because they’ll lure in toms and jakes either way.
Strong winds will dictate which direction strutting decoys face. Don’t worry about the direction because they’ll lure in toms and jakes either way.
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