As hunters we long for the fall season and the ancient harvest ritual it brings, but there’s a season that brings another ritual, a time of year when tom turkeys perform their annual dance. We as hunters rise before the dawn’s light with anticipation to witness such a dance and in our efforts to do so we are tangled in our own dance with the wild turkey. Join us as we talk about bowhunting turkeys with Tim Cool…
Saxton Outdoors: What is it about turkeys that gets you out of bed in the early morning?
Tim Cool: It’s the songbird’s song before the gobbling starts, sitting out there as the darkness turns into light, all the sounds of spring and the birds. Spring just has a different feeling about it than the other seasons, you know?
Saxton Outdoors: When did you shoot your first turkey with the bow? And what was that like?
Tim Cool: My first turkey with a bow took a long time; About 5 seasons. I think I over called mostly and wasn’t getting positioned correctly. I have been doing it since before it became popular as it is now but I have become way more successful.
To be honest I almost cried. It was shortly after my friend passed away and we were young, only 19 or 20 years old, and I felt his presence after I shot that bird. Especially the fact that the tom came into about 70 yards and hung up for the longest time and it was calm all morning but a gust of wind came out of nowhere and spun my strutting tom decoy around 360 degrees, after he saw that he dropped his fan and came right into 20 yards.
Motion is key when trying to get them in bow range. Decoys now aren’t as stationary as they once were.
Saxton Outdoors: Whats your typical bowhunting set-up for hunting turkeys?
Tim Cool: Patience above all else. To be honest I don’t hunt huge tracks of land (unless I’m hunting public land) so I essentially deer hunt turkeys. I give them time to do their thing in other parts of the property or the neighbor’s.
I use a blind, jake or tom decoy and one or two hens. I use Avian X decoys but there are several good brands. I think the good decoys are worth the money. I’d rather have one good one then three less detailed and quality decoys.
I position the blind, typically against a hedgerow, and the decoys no more than 7 yards in front of a corner of the blind so I optimize my shooting radius. Hub style blinds are essentially diamond-shaped and you want to line up the corner of the blind with the decoys. This will allow you to shoot left and right as needed. The point of the decoys being close is to get close shots, but worst case scenario, if a tom hangs up 10-20 yards behind the decoys as they often do they’ll still be in range.
I have positioned the blind in the middle of a field and that works but not always, so it’s better to place it against a hedgerow. I call as much as needed but it’s hard to say how much is needed without years of experience. Call about half as much as you think you should, and then half of that.
Saxton Outdoors: How many turkeys have you shot with the bow?
Tim Cool: I have shot personally 5 but I have also spent a lot of time calling in birds for others or introducing others to turkey hunting. That’s more important than anything.
Saxton Outdoors: What was your most exciting turkey hunt?
Tim Cool: Most exciting turkey hunt was last spring in Alden, Kansas. It was a Rio gobbler and that bird started screaming his head off and what I didn’t realize was that there was a fence between him and I and he crawled right under. That is something I have never seen an eastern do in my 14 years hunting turkeys. The tom came right up to my decoy at 7 yards and I shot him with my bow. The video is on my youtube page Kansas Rio Gobbler Bow-Hunt
Tim Cool with a Rio Grande Gobbler bow kill
Saxton Outdoors: What do you consider the hardest part of hunting turkeys or bowhunting turkeys?
Tim Cool: The hardest part for me is getting right on the X, because of lack of scouting or ability to scout due to work, weather, life. I feel like it’s easy to “waste” a morning by not scouting in cases like my current situation. It’s 2 hours from home, so I’m not going to drive 2 hours just to roost birds and then drive home. I’m just going to sit it on Friday and enjoy the great outdoors. With that being said it could turn into a nature watching session if you don’t land on the X. Google Maps and Earth help. If you can read them usually you’re fine. I’m at the point where I can predict a lot, even roosting areas off Google Maps and have done so in Nebraska.
Tim Cool with a Nebraska Bow Kill
Saxton Outdoors: What type of calls do you use?
Tim Cool: I like a ghost cut mouth call, usually Wood Haven but they are all good. Second I love a nice glass call with an ash or oak striker.
Saxton Outdoors: How did you get into hunting?
Tim Cool: My dad got me into hunting but I got lost in it. I got him more into hunting than he was initially so I am thankful for that. Hunting is my life.
Father and Son with a pair of Eastern Wild Turkeys
Saxton Outdoors: What’s your favorite way to cook a bird?
Tim Cool: I enjoy marinating and grilling it. I also enjoy giving it away. I don’t buy any meat and solely live off what I hunt, but sharing wild game is life changing to others. It’s something that people appreciate and never forget.
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Photography courtesy of Tim Cool
All Photography in this article is property of Tim Cool