Crossbows provide a lot of opportunity to the modern turkey hunter. They can also provide new challenges to veteran hunters.
For hunters without the physical ability to hunt with a compound bow, the crossbow fills the gap. Crossbow turkey hunting is also great for younger hunters who may shy away from the noise and recoil of a shotgun.
Crossbow technology has evolved so that these “medieval” weapons are safer and more effective than ever. However, crossbow turkey hunting is not exactly like hunting with a shotgun or even a bow. Read on to learn what you need to know about turkey hunting with a crossbow.
Can you hunt turkeys with a crossbow?
Legally, you can hunt turkeys with a crossbow in most US States. According to this reference compiled by TenPoint Crossbows, 28 states allow crossbows for hunting during archery seasons and 11 allow them during firearms seasons.
Other states allow them for physically challenged hunters, older hunters, on private land, or during a portion of archery season. As always, check your state’s regulations before hunting.
Now that we’ve determined the legality, let’s talk about the practicality of hunting turkeys with a crossbow.
Advantages of Crossbow Turkey Hunting
Crossbows offer advantages over shotguns as well as other archery equipment. They are great for women, children, and physically challenged hunters. Scratch that, they are a lot of fun for everyone!
Unlike compound and traditional bows, crossbows can be drawn at the beginning of the hunt and left drawn until you are ready to shoot. That means there is no need for any big or sudden moves that might spook a turkey.
Additionally, crossbows do not require near the strength to draw/cock as a compound or traditional bow. Cranks and other devices offer mechanical advantages for the hunter to cock the crossbow with ease. In fact, an adult can even cock the crossbow for a youth hunter, unlike other archery equipment.
For hunters with less-than-perfect vision, a crossbow can be outfitted with a magnifying scope. You’re not going to have that advantage on a compound bow.
The noise and recoil of a shotgun can be a turnoff to inexperienced hunters. As they age, older hunters become more and more recoil-sensitive. A crossbow is much quieter than a shotgun and does not have any noticeable recoil.
Not only is the crossbow a great way to get new hunters involved in the sport, but the relative silence of the crossbow also saves your irreplaceable hearing.
Challenges when Crossbow Turkey Hunting
Now, if I gave you the impression that crossbow turkey hunting is easy, I apologize. Turkey hunting is rarely easy. It’s even more of a challenge with archery gear.
Modern firearms, chokes, and shells allow for ranges well past 40, 50, and even 60 yards on turkeys. That’s not the case when turkey hunting with a crossbow.
40 yards would be my suggested max for a very experienced, well-practiced hunter shooting under excellent conditions. The rest of us should probably keep our shots to about 25 yards or less.
Unlike shotguns and compound bows which are fairly easy to shoot accurately freehand, crossbows are best shot from shooting sticks, tripods, or some other shooting rest. Remember that turkeys have very small vitals so your accuracy needs to be pinpoint.
If you don’t kill the turkey on impact, it is very difficult to track a wounded turkey. Unlike deer, they generally don’t leave great blood trails. We will talk more about this in the section below, but choosing the right broadhead is vital for your success.
Because of how close you need to be to take a turkey with a crossbow, a lot of hunters will use a ground blind to disguise their movement. Keep in mind that if your crossbow comes into contact with your blind during the shot, it can easily throw your shot off.
Choosing a Crossbow Broadhead for Turkey Hunting
When you are choosing a broadhead for turkey hunting, you want a broadhead that will fly accurately. As I previously mentioned, turkeys provide fairly small targets. You want to feel confident your broadhead is going to hit that target .
I personally like broadheads that fly like my field points. It limits the variables and makes it so I don’t have to change things up too much from practice to the real deal.
Another factor to consider when choosing a broadhead is the amount of damage it can inflict. Larger broadheads are naturally going to leave bigger wounds than smaller broadheads.
Unlike whitetails and elk, penetration is not as critical when hunting turkeys. In fact, sticking the arrow in the bird can keep the bird from flying off.
Where to Shoot A Turkey with a Crossbow
If you haven’t gotten the point by now, turkeys have small vitals and arrow placement is super important. My grandpa always said, “aim small, miss small.”
But where should you aim at a turkey when shooting him with a crossbow? That’s going to depend on the type of broadhead you are shooting.
Most people are not comfortable shooting at the head with a crossbow. If you fall in this camp, shooting a bird just above the beard is a good shot on a turkey facing you. The photo below shows where I would aim at this forward-facing tom.
On a broadside turkey, I would aim for the area where the wing meets the body or just forward of center mass (depending on his orientation). Some people will shoot for the lowest part of the neck.
This part of the turkey does not move as quickly as the upper neck and head. It provides for a reasonably substantial target that should kill the bird on impact.
Some brave turkey hunters will shoot to sever the head from the body. There are specialized broadheads for this type of shot. The argument for this is that if you do miss, you are unlikely to wound the turkey in the process.