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Tail Feathers
Ron Barnett

The early spring sun was just starting to shine down on all of God's good creations as I sat huddled back in a thicket making what I hoped was the sweetest sound to ever grace a gobbler's ears. A gentle breeze was shifting in and around my cover as the world started to come alive.

My favorite old sweetheart decoy, Henryetta, was dancing with each little breeze, as were the Lem-O-Ward FlutterBlast decoys. My set-up of three hens and a jake, with the jake set facing me at twenty yards. I was ready!

I had set up a new Champion Hurricane bow with a Whisker Biscut rest and an HHA Triple Threat sight to propel my Carbon Express CX300 arrows. My "bullet" consisted of the new SteelForce "Talon" broadhead designed specifically for use on turkeys. The design grabs the feathers on the way in and helps to hold the arrow in the bird.

Over my career, I've had both good times and bad times with turkey hunting using archery equipment. Over the course of years, I've tried just about everything you or anyone else could think of to help my odds of success.

If I had any idea at all that it might work, I wouldn't hesitate to give it a try. A lot of things I tried were just gimmicks to catch the turkey hunter, but not the turkey. Two things that I soon discovered that had the most affect on my success were blinds and decoys. There are about as many kinds of each as there are bows. Again, some work well, some not at all. Blinds are great if you are hunting birds you have patterned and can predict.

One that works real well on birds you stumble across is the Advanish Camo Bow Blind in conjunction with their Adjust-A-Bow holder. I found it hard to believe they would offer enough concealment to allow you to come to full draw and place an arrow while basically in the open. It sets up almost instantly and allows you to keep something between you and the bird.

Decoys were a boon to the turkey hunter, especially the bow hunter. It took the gobblers attention off you and on something he had thought he would see, another turkey. As more and more people use them, they have had to be more realistic to hold a bird's attention for very long. One that has worked well for me over the years is no longer made. It is fantastic in that the slightest breeze causes it to move back and forth. The latest to work for me are the FlutterBlast decoys. Every little breeze adds lifelike motion to hold the attention of your approaching quarry. Anything that works is a help and these help!

My first morning got off to a beautiful start with the help of "toys". Two gobblers came running in and immediately went into full strut at 35 yards trying to impress all the "girls". They were working as if choreographed. They strutted forward ten yards and, as if on queue, whirled around and strutted back ten yards in perfect unison. This went on for about 15 minutes. All this time, the birds were gobbling continuously.

They finally decided the girls weren't falling for it and decided to come and teach the upstart a lesson. These birds were in and around my decoys for almost an hour and I was able to draw and let down 5 different times while sitting on a log in plain sight, but they never separated enough to give me a clear shot at either bird. Both were takers, but I couldn't chance one without hitting the other. They finally left for greener pastures after beating up on my jake.

I decided to stay in the area for awhile and moved over where I could straddle a log and had a group of cedars to cover my back and one side. It sure seemed to be a better setup for me. The morning was warming up and more and more gobblers could be heard in the distance. I kept up the sweet talk, occasionally, hoping to lure in an old gobbler.

The next gobbler came in about an hour later. He was a dandy! He was quiet and cautious and seemed to have a well-rope hanging out of the front of his chest. He was proud of it too. He kept it pushing out in front of him all the time. He probably had to keep it in sight so he wouldn't be tripping over it all the time! He finally eased in close enough to get a good look at the girls, liked what he saw and went into full strut and gave a triple gobble from 25 yards away. I was ecstatic and in heaven. A full grown, proud gobbler well within range and engaged with my decoy set.

The big bird came in and turned around to face the jake with his fanned tail presented perfectly to me for a shot. He was getting a little agitated with the little boy and started to get a little vocal. I drew my bow, placed my pin at the base of his main tail feather and touched off my FletchHunter release. My arrow sliced through the tailfeather, cutting it neatly in two and touched nothing else. By the time it had fluttered to the ground the gobbler was out 40 yards and "putting". He turned back toward me and stared at the jake as if thinking "How did that little sucker kick my butt without me even seeing him move."

One go-around with my jake was all he wanted. He stayed around for almost 20 minutes but was always about 40 yards out. muttering and grumbling to himself trying to figure out what happened. All I ended up with was another tailfeather for my collection.

Soon after the bird left, a group of three jakes came roaring in they owned the world and were full of movement, never stopping. They were in and out of the decoys, checking out the girls and threatening the jake. I drew two or three times but never had a shot until one finally braced the jake face to face and went into a strut. I repeated the sequence from before and darned if I didn't end up with the same results. Another feather for the collection, but nothing for the freezer or table. Ma wasn't gonna be happy with me!

The trio ran off a little way and went back to gobbling and strutting, but started ambling off in a direction away from my un-neighborly bunch. They did help me a little, though, before they left. Another gobbler started faintly answering their gobbles from directly behind me. He continued to work closer as they faded into the distance. What a morning! Seven gobblers working my decoys, several opportunities for shots and two missed shots. Not much to show for it but a happy heart. It was truly a glorious day in the neighbor!

The approaching gobbler was soon in sight behind me. He wasn't huge, but he would work. He hesitantly moved in closer and closer all the time. At 40 yards, he stopped and started the head bobbing and weaving thing as he checked out my crew. Just then, a little breeze sprung up and gave life to everyone of the decoys. He was convinced! He gobbled and strutted, then trotted right over and challenged the jake.

This time, I went through each step in my mind as he presented his back to me with a full spread fan. I drew my bow, placed the sight pin right at the base  of his tail, took a deep breath and yelped. He head came up above the fan and I released. Everything hit the ground. I had lots of tailfeathers this time! The best part was, they were all still attached to the bird. Oh happy day!

This hunt was the start of a great spring turkey season for me. I had a very nice bird in hand, one more Kansas turkey tag and up to three Oklahoma tags.

For a while, I thought the pendulum had swung back in the turkey's favor and I would have a tough time, but then it swung in my favor and I gained a few more tailfeathers. In the process, I was also able to take one more turkey in northwestern Kansas and one in far western Oklahoma. All the birds were taken with my archery equipment and I am already looking forward to the fall. I certainly hope my momentum stays at a full head of steam and my success continues.

I have learned full well that pursuing wild turkeys with a bow is often a fool's game. (My wife says I'm well equipped to play.) I have had good success at times, but at others, nothing I do is right and everything they turkeys do is purrrr-fect. It is a bitter pill to swallow and I have a hard time with it when they win. I take it really personally!

Turkeys are not smart! That what all the fun hunters keep telling me. I tell them to leave the gun at home and bring a bow and I'll show them some of the smartest birds they will ever see. Not too many take me up on it more than once. They prefer constant success and that is not going to happen to someone silly enough to insist on using a bow on one of the wariest and most PARANOID of all God's creatures. Maybe someday I'll figure it out, but I doubt it, it's TOO MUCH FUN!


Ballistic Archery SteelForce Talon (609)397-1990
Carolina Archery Products Whisker Biscut rest (919)245-1400
Champion Bow Company Hurricane Bow (204)982-6000
Game Tracker Carbon Express CX300 arrows (800)241-4833
HHA Sports Triple Threat sight (800)548-7821
Jim Fletcher Archery FletchHunter release (760)379-2589
Lem-O-Ward FlutterBlast Decoys (800)484-3190
Triple Crown Outdoor Products Advanish Camo Bow Blind
Adjust-A-Bow Holder





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