Life is full of choices. If you’re hunting turkeys with a bow, you’ve already made a choice to either expand your hunting opportunities in the spring, as most states have longer or earlier archery seasons, or go against the grain of the mainstream gunpowder crowd altogether. Whether you are using a longbow, recurve, compound or crossbow, your next choice is where to aim when letting that arrow fly.
Without a doubt, this is a deadly choice if you make the shot. That bird will drop in its tracks when the broadhead slices through the head or upper neck. So why don’t we end the conversation right there?
I have never ventured into this arena, mostly for one reason. The arrow set-up is unique. It takes money and time to ensure you will hit your target. You can’t just take your deer hunting arrow, spin on one of these specialized head-shot broadheads and be on your merry way.
What was that I said? Specialized head-shot broadheads? Yup. There are many out there and all are a little different, some have fixed curved blades (Flying Arrow Tom Bomb), some have fixed straight blades (Arrowdynamics Guillotine, Magus Bullhead, Bloodsport Wraith Turkey Loper, etc), some have retractable blades for transport (Muzzy MORE), and some are true mechanicals (Deadringer Kill Switch), but they all essentially have the same concept: Long, thin blades that give a 2.5 to 5 inch cutting diameter.
All that blade provides a great opportunity to connect with the head and neck area for quick, clean kill. Unfortunately, it leads to one of the downfalls of this choice, too. Hit anything (branch, grass, decoy, blind, etc.) with one of those blades and the shot will fail.
The other part of the equation is the arrow. Since these broadheads have so much surface area flying through the air, they are prone to planing. Most manufacturers recommend using a full-length arrow and feathered fletching (3 or 4) instead of the small plastic vanes most of us use for our deer hunting set-ups. Some people even go to the extreme and use flu-flus.
Getting this set-up perfected can be difficult and certainly takes some time, effort, and extra cash. The other part of the equation is your target. For those of you who have observed turkeys, they are constantly moving their head!
For those who are big game hunters, this seems like a no-brainer choice, but it certainly isn’t comparing apples to apples when we look at a shot to the vitals in a turkey vs. a white-tailed deer for example. The body shot will give you a bigger target compared to the head/neck shot but not drastically. The vitals on a tom are roughly the size of a softball, and they won’t be moving erratically like the head. Unlike a deer though, you don’t need to wait for a perfect broadside or quartering shot on a turkey.
Aiming points, depending on the position of the bird, are what gets difficult with a body shot. As the bird turns your aiming point of course must change to hit the vital area. But another major factor is when toms are strutting, their body conformation changes and the position of their vitals moves as they are going in and out of the strut position.
Broadhead Choice is Important
With body shots, you can use the same set-up as you do with deer hunting. Your arrow is fine, but a broadhead might not be the best choice. I’ve effectively killed toms with a small diameter fixed blade like the Muzzy 3 Blade that I had used for deer hunting the fall before. The problem with this type is that it is designed to penetrate and pass through the animal. This is great for deer, but for turkeys you want something that is going to put more kinetic energy into bird and/or have a greater cutting diameter.
I’ve recently used the Steelforce PhatHead Feather Duster which is a small diameter, cut on contact head with razor sharp edges and notches cut in the edge to create forward facing teeth. This one and others like the Bloodsport Wraith Turkey Body Shot fall into the category of broadheads that are meant to take all of the energy the arrow is carrying and hammer it into the bird.
The Feather Duster proved effective on a giant Minnesota Eastern tom last spring. Slightly quartering away at about 20 yards, the arrow hit the head of the femur and the pelvis and entered the body cavity. The bones were broken, but the broadhead stayed strong and intact. As it went through the feathers, it collected them in the grooves which slowed down the arrow but still had enough power to break through the bones and enough sharp edge to cut into the vitals.
The other option is to use a large mechanical broadhead. Really any one will do the trick, and the benefit simply is to give more leeway to a shot that is slightly off the mark. With a target that is about the size of a softball, having a broadhead with a bigger cutting diameter will give you more room for error in your shot placement. The first two heads that I previously mentioned both have killed birds for me but are only a little over an inch in diameter. For some reason, I like to try new things even if old ones work, so this year I’ll be using the Deadringer’s Freak Extreme 2.5. There’s nothing magical about this head, but as the name implies, it’s a mechanical with a 2.5” cutting diameter.
Putting these two types of broadheads together is an interesting hybrid from Cabela’s called the Killmor Turkey Broadhead. This is a mechanical with a 1.5” cutting diameter but it also has forward facing blades in the front to slow down the arrow. I think the product description says it best: “This broadhead sports a cut-on-contact tip that slices through feathers and bone without deflecting. The two spurs crush through bone and shred vitals while creating a drag effect, ensuring all of the arrow’s kinetic energy is dumped into the bird.” I don’t know, maybe I’ll try this one instead…