Longbeards, Broadheads, Your Aim

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Tackling a wily spring gobbler with archery gear is super exciting, yet the broadhead you select can make all of the difference.  I learned this the hard way last spring after work caused me to miss the opening week of the season.  I have permission to hunt a small farm that has lots of birds and hunting pressure.   After getting skunked my first day out, I changed areas and roosted a trophy longbeard.

The next morning, I arrived extra early, set up against a large sycamore tree with honeysuckle for concealment.  I placed a jake decoy 15 yards in front of me and waited for the first gobbles of the morning.  As daylight arrived, the gobbler began to thunder and I called just enough to keep it worked up.  Eventually, I heard nothing but silence as the big tom sneaked toward the small clearing where my charade played out.

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I caught a slight movement to my right as the big gobbler walked past at ten yards and headed right for the decoy.  My Excalibur crossbow was already on my lap and I watched the big bird circle the decoy at point-blank range.  As the gobbler strutted and approached broadside, I launched a bolt with a large-blade broadhead.  My jaw dropped as I saw the arrow bounce off of the wing butt and the dumbfounded gobbler walk away.

Extra large broadheads are designed to cut the spine of a gobbler with its neck extended or facing head on, a detail I wasn’t aware of.  It was exceedingly exciting to have a plan come perfectly together, but oh so frustrating not to close the deal.  I cut a few feathers from the bird, but otherwise it was unharmed and I watched it walk 100 yards away and gobble as if taunting me.

Broadheads for longbeards come in two basic categories: penetrators and loppers.  If you plan to make a body shot, you want the largest broadhead you can shoot accurately.  When practicing, if you can’t make the fletch touch on a target at 20 yards, switch to a shotgun.  Hitting a wild turkey with an arrow takes extreme accuracy and practicing on a 3-D target helps immensely since a strutting gobbler will disguise the location of its vitals with a fluff of feathers.  You know exactly where the vitals of a deer are, but turkeys can expand their feathers and turn their body in a way that makes picking the exact spot difficult.

Expandable’s work well for turkeys so use the largest one you can find.  Some manufacturers offer heads up to three inches and the greater the diameter of the cut the better.  Cut-on-contact heads offer the advantage of a large cut on the way in and don’t rely on moving parts.

Lopper broadheads are designed to break the bones in the neck or decapitate the bird.  Personally, I don’t like the heads-off action because it looks bad for hunters even though it’s very humane.  Again this is my personal opinion, but wild turkeys are such beautiful birds, dismembering one seems disrespectful to the bird.

As I learned last year, the angle of the shot is critical if you are using a lopper head.  I should have waited until the gobbler faced me directly or made a putting sound with a mouth call so that it extended its neck.  That way, I would have made a clean, instant kill.

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Where to Aim

Lopper-style broadheads require a very specific position for a shot.  Basically, any angle where you can hit the extended neck is good.

With expandable or fixed heads, you can shoot for the body or the base of the neck.  By using a decoy, a gobbler will often strut near the bogus bird and stand perfectly still.  Use this time to take the shot.

  • If the bird is head on, shoot for the beard
  • If the bird is facing directly away, shoot in the middle of the back
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  • If the bird is broadside, come up the leg and shoot in the middle of the body.
  • If the bird is strutting, aim for the base of the neck.

If you body shoot a turkey and it runs off, give it time to expire like a deer.  And like for whitetails, you can’t practice too much.

Good luck!