By Spencer Neuharth
If you’re like me, you like consistency in your archery gear. That means going a couple years in a row shooting with the same release, from the same string, behind the same arrows, tipped with the same broadheads. But once I got serious about chasing spring turkeys with a bow, I had to completely rethink my setup. You might need to as well.
An overlooked question I had was if my fixed blade whitetail broadheads would bring down a gobbler. It seemed obvious that the same steel designed to kill a 200 lb. buck would also tear apart a 20 lb. bird, but after looking into it further, I learned it’s not that simple.
So will your whitetail broadhead work for turkeys? Use this checklist below to decide if your whitetail killer will do the same for turkeys.
What Will Work: An accurate broadhead is a deadly broadhead, and is the most important thing to consider. Although a fanned out bird can cast quite a shadow, their vitals are really only about the size of a softball.
What Won’t Work: Whitetail hunters have slightly more room for error, since deer have a killzone that’s about the size of a basketball. Although you may feel comfortable with 5 inch groups at 30 yards on a deer, that’s not a tight enough pattern to fling arrows at a turkey.
What Will Work: Most whitetail broadheads are designed with a low profile. Because of this, your shots should be limited to the body.
What Won’t Work: Going for a head shot leaves no room for error, which is why turkey specific broadheads have obnoxious blades that reach out past 3 inches. Although any whitetail broadhead is capable of decapitations, they’re not good options for that kind of shot.
What Will Work: You’ll inflict way more damage if your arrow doesn’t get a complete pass through on a turkey, so duller broadheads are actually superior. Before heading out to the blind, screw in a tip that’s already been in a deer or practice target.
What Won’t Work: Unlike with deer hunting, having an exit hole isn’t crucial in a clean recovery. A bird that thrashes around with an arrow still in it is going to die quickly and within eyesight. A bird that has an arrow pass through it is more likely to leave the scene and not give much of a blood trail.
What Will Work: Another way to slow down penetration is to be very selective on your mechanicals. Most manufacturers give hunters the option of “bone crushing” or “cut-on-contact” tips. Bone crushing tips are built to bully their way through whitetail shoulders, which actually makes them better for turkeys.
What Won’t Work: For deer hunters, the drawback of a bone crushing tip is that their barbaric design gets them less penetration on non-shoulder hits. A cut-on-contact tip will dig deeper on softer impacts (which is every turkey shot), making them less efficient for gobblers.
The reality is that any broadhead is capable of killing a bird. Still, your best option might be turkey specific heads, which are engineered with big toms in mind. I’m confident in my whitetail setup, though, which has stopped hearts in the fall and spring.