When it comes to hunting turkeys with a conventional bow, a good pop-up blind is practically a must. The act of drawing the bow at the moment just before a shot must be taken can be a deal breaker without a blind when the motion is spotted by the gobbler. It’s almost a guaranteed fail if the extra eyes of a flock are milling about the targeted bird.
For hunters with a crossbow, a good blind is certainly not a requirement for success, but using one definitely ups the odds as well as adds to the hunter’s overall comfort. Even shotgun hunters have found the use of a blind to greatly improve their chances in certain setups. And with the popularity of filming hunts continuing to grow as fast as crossbow use, the blind allows a guy wielding the camera to position behind the hunter, communicate with him and move a little when necessary to keep bird and hunter in the frame. So here are the hows, whens and whys of using a good blind to create the ultimate turkey hunting setup.
Why a Blind?
So first the “why?” A crossbow requires no more movement than a firearm to release a projectile, so why the extra hideout layer? Even the most patient, well-camouflaged hunter will shift where he sits to get more comfortable, turn his head to look or move his hands and arms to work a call. All of this motion defeats the benefits of the best camouflage clothing when spotted by a nearby turkey, whose eyes are geared for detecting not only color and detail, but every little movement as well.
Sitting inside a blind hides all of this motion allowing the hunter to move when needed, thus staying more comfortable, including working calls or peering about. More turkey hunts are probably blown from a hunter moving to get comfortable than any other reason. When a hunter is in a blind, however, even birds sneaking in silently from the side or rear won’t make them until it’s too late since they can’t see through the blind.
Also, the crossbow doesn’t have to be held at the ready for extended lengths of time, which also aids comfort and ensures the hunter is fresh and at his strongest—and steadiest—when it is time to take aim and release an arrow.
When To Use a Blind
Blinds are ideal when hunting with children, new hunters and physically-limited hunters. The interior spaciousness of today’s pop-ups often have room for two and even three hunters where they can sit close together and keep hidden allowing for communication, instruction and even physical assistance, if necessary, even as a turkey approaches.
Many areas of the country lack the dense cover common to the southeastern United States. In open forests, large open ag fields or prairies, blinds can provide additional cover where little stuff to hide among is present, particularly when birds are moving through one of these areas where there is nowhere to hide. When the weather turns bad, particularly rain, a blind also provides shelter, keeping the hunter dry and comfortable allowing him to keep on the hunt for a longer period of time. Turkeys, after all, are still out there, so you should be too.
Hunting years ago during the heyday of northern Missouri turkey hunting, it was nothing to stand on a rolling ridge at dawn and hear more than two dozen longbeards gobbling at every owl hoot. On one hunt there with turkey hunting legend Ray Eye, he actually insisted his group of hunters all hunt from blinds because moving through the open woods and fields made it more likely a hunter would spook more turkeys than he would ever see.
“I don’t need you all scaring all of my turkeys,” he barked. And while I initially questioned the tactic, everybody on that hunt took a bird from Eye’s well-placed blinds. I took one within 3 minutes of flydown, one of my shortest hunts ever.
For hunters with crossbows, a blind is particularly advantageous because it allows you to set out and organize your calls and other gear such as spare crossbow arrows, cocking devices, such as the Dedd Sled 50, and removable quiver so you can quickly access them when and if needed. Because even the shortest limbed crossbow can still create more of a visual profile than a shotgun, the blind also permits the hunter to move the bow more freely in order to get on target and ready to shoot an approaching longbeard.
Create the Best Setup
As mentioned in the Six P’s of Turkey Hunting, pre-season scouting is the big step in making sure your blind is setup in the right location. It’s not enough to simply set it up along a field edge or in a creek bottom. You need to spend a day or two observing the area beforehand, listening for and locating gobbles, and watching birds from a distance to determine where they roost and where they prefer to loaf during the day. If turkeys have a preferred spot they enter and exit a field or one side of a creek they tend to work, setup on that side. It is easier to call turkeys where they want to go instead of where they don’t.
Unlike when hunting deer, a hunter doesn’t need to set his blind up a week before hunting from it in order to allow game to get used to it. Where deer will take awhile to adjust to a new object in their environment, turkeys will pay it no mind. This allows turkey hunters to adjust their blind setups on a moment’s notice, potentially changing setups multiple times in a day if needed with a quick set-up blind. Most modern pop-ups take only minutes to setup and take down.
Inside the blind, use a good hunters stool or folding chair that allows you to set high enough to comfortably shoot through the windows in the blind. Open just enough of the windows to provide you a good 180-degree view to the front and out of the front sides of the blind. Set your seat back enough so as to remain in the shadows of the blind’s interior, but not so far that you cannot adequately see an approaching bird. Remember, birds are apt to approach from behind so always listen for gobbles and foot falls in the leaves and be prepared.
To better utilize the limited space to move within a blind, choose a crossbow that has smaller limbs. This provides more range of motion inside with which to get lined up for a shot and will also limit the chance you bump the side of the blind creating turkey-spooking noise or motion. A reverse draw crossbow like the Horton Crossbow Innovations’ Storm RDX with its reverse limbs is one of the smallest limbed crossbows ever with a mere 10-inch cocked axle-to-axle width.
TenPoint Crossbow Technologies’ Vapor crossbow package is also an excellent choice with a cocked axle-to-axle measurement of only 12.6 inches. With these lightweight, easy-to-shoot crossbows, when the turkeys don’t cooperate and move on well away from the blind, as soon as they are out of eyesight, you can slip out of the blind and run-and-gun. Crossbows give a hunter that level of versatility.
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