Turkey Shot Placement for Bowhunters

An archer’s guide on where to tag that turkey for ideal shot placement.


A wild turkey’s vital area is only about the size of a softball, making precise arrow placement a must. To make the shot you have to practice properly, but also know exactly where to aim on that mass of feathers.

Practice: Three Points to Remember
1. Rarely, if ever, do you get a bow shot at a turkey from the standing position. Most archery gobblers are taken from inside a blind of some kind, meaning you’ll be seated. If you are outside the blind and sneaking about, often you’ll end up shooting from your knees. If you hunt like this, practice your shooting accordingly. I find I have a tendency to shoot a bit high when kneeling or seated in a chair inside a blind. It takes a while for me to get dialed in.

2. Practice shooting at either a life-sized 3-D turkey target or a turkey silhouette. Bull’s eye shooting is the best way to get your sight pins set and work on shooting form, but the final preparation is best done on something that emulates the real thing.

3. Use a bow set at a lighter draw weight than you would use when hunting big game. This will help you hold at full draw for an extended period of time before tiring, something turkey hunters often have to do. I turn my own bows down about 10 percent, but I have friends who will reduce pull weight by 20 percent.

Where to aim?
If the bird is broadside, I aim for the wing butt. This will both break the wing(s), which will keep him from flying off, while penetrating both lungs. If the bird is facing me in full strut, I aim for the top of his beard. If he is facing me but not strutting, in a more erect posture, I aim for the top third of the beard. If a bird is strutting and facing away from me, I aim for the center of his fan, just about the base.

The one shot I do not advocate and never take is the head shot. It may be tempting but rarely is a gobbler’s head not in motion, making it doubly difficult to hit this small target.

How far away should you shoot?
That’s an individual determination, dependent on your own shooting skills and the position and attitude of the bird. When hunting from a blind, I set decoys at about 15 yards from the blind so that any approaching gobbler that stops short of the deke will be about 20 yards off. Anything inside that range is point blank for me. The farthest away I have ever killed a gobbler with an arrow is 40 yards, but the planets were lined up in terms of bird posture and attitude, no wind and no other altered birds. Generally speaking, though, I limit my own bow shots at gobblers to 30 yards or less—and like it a whole lot better if they are half that distance.

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3 Responses to Turkey Shot Placement for Bowhunters

Miguel santiago wrote:
April 11, 2012

This is my first time bow hunting or hunting game in massachusetts. I just bought a PSE rally with a 50lbs pull which in Massachusetts you cannot use any lower than 40 lbs can anybody give me some tips.

Barry Herrmann wrote:
March 24, 2012

Wade I have found out in the past that if your blind is dark and you wear dark clothes and dark (black)mask you don't need the mesh. Works for Turkey and deer, then you don't need the mesh or wounder about the effects of it.Some times it does and some times it doesn't affect arrow flight. Confidence is everything1

Wade Warnecke wrote:
March 19, 2012

My son and I ( age 10 soon to be 11 ) will be doing our first bow hunt together for turkey in South East Ohio. Both myself and my son have been practicing bow aprox. every other day mostly @ 20yrds and he is almost getting better than me. I'm no longer making bets with him because he kicking my butt, what fun it is seeing him mature mentally. We are praticing in a ground blind but have not been shooting through the mesh yet. He has great confidence in his own shooting ability as well as I, when I see him getting frustated we shoot @ 15 yards to get some bulls eyes on full size replica target. My question is how will the mesh effect the arrow and should we practice with the mesh netting in place? A side note reading books and watching videoes has really helped us. Are there any other reccomendations, he has been in stand with me and this is his second year under the Ohio apprentance program. I have only been having us practice broad side shoots on the target but after reading the above pointers we will be turning the taget to simulate differnt options. Thanks