Until a few weeks ago, I’d never tried to kill a turkey with an arrow. While bows are permitted during the spring turkey season in my home state of New York, there is no dedicated archery season, so I’ve always just hunted them with a shotgun. When you fire one and a half ounces of number-five lead shot through a tightly constricted turkey choke at a bird’s head/neck area at close range, there is little chance of wounding it. The result will more than likely be either a miss or a very dead turkey.
And then I was invited to try and kill a couple turkeys with a crossbow in Nebraska the last week of March during that state’s archery turkey season. Needless to say, I was intrigued. After all, I do understand the appeal of the challenge of trying to kill a bird with an arrow, and if a state like Nebraska is going to provide an opportunity to hunt turkeys in March (another thing I’d never done) then why not take them up on it? (By the way, if New York tried to implement a three-week bow-only turkey season prior to the firearms season, I’m fairly certain there would be riots.)
After a week in camp where eight of us—all experienced turkey hunters, mind you—filled fewer than half of our 16 tags, I have to say I’m a bit soured on the whole idea. And it wasn’t for a lack of birds. Our outfitter, Doug Stults, had us on enormous flocks of Merriam’s and Rios—I hunted groups of as many 300 birds. When they flew off the roost to feed in large pastures, they resembled herds of miniature buffalo. During the hunt I shared a ground blind with Tad Brown, who designs calls and decoys for M.A.D. and Flambeau, and he said that in 40 years of hunting turkeys he’d never seen anything like it.