Unfortunately, turkeys aren’t as big as deer. The smaller the game gets, the easier it is to ruin a whole lot of good meat with an ill-placed shot or even wound it, leaving it to die a slow and probably painful death. The
The best place to shoot a turkey is in the head or the vital organs. The latter is much easier to do but catastrophic if you get it wrong. The head is a small, often moving target, so your aim should be precise and your shot taken when the turkey is as close as it can be.
Shotguns make things even more interesting, especially if you don’t relish the idea of cracking a tooth on a pellet when you’re enjoying a Thanksgiving turkey feast. In other words, there are a lot of good reasons to have good shot placement on your kill.
Turkey Shot Placement
Fewer things are more important than shot placement, especially when it comes to turkey. If you’re no good at shooting, you probably shouldn’t be hunting turkey or much of anything else for that matter. Hunting just isn’t for everyone.
That’s not to poke fun at those who have difficulty sighting in and placing well-aimed, lethal rounds, arrows, or dense shotgun patterns down range. Wounding an animal rather than killing it outright is viciously cruel and unnecessary if you know you’re not a good shot.
Where to shoot a turkey with a bow
Bow hunting for turkey is difficult for the uninitiated. You only have one real option, and that’s striking the turkey in its vitals. An arrow to the head would be an incredible shot, if you made it, but not highly advisable unless you can call him really close.
Full strut and Jake sideways
Draw an imaginary vertical line from just in front of the turkey’s legs. Draw the line upwards and stop where it would intersect a horizontal line, the horizontal represented by the crease in the wings. You’ll notice that its center mass but slightly closer to the turkey breast than it is to its backside.
For a Jake, look for where the final wing joint would be. It’s almost the same as a full strut turkey, except the surface area is trimmed down.
Full strut or Jake facing away
For this shot, your arrow placement should be right in the “vent,” or the rectum of the turkey. There’s really no other way to put it. It might not be the most pleasing shot you’ve ever made, but it will go straight through the vitals and will likely sever the spine.
Full strut or Jake quartering to and straight on
Quartering to is almost the same for a full strut turkey and a Jake. Place your shot about two inches below the base of the neck and a few inches in front of the offside leg.
For straight on shots, the breast feathers often present a vertical line. Place your shot at the peak of that line or where the beard meets the neck.
Where to shoot a turkey with a rifle
No matter what direction the turkey is facing, it’s always best to get a headshot if the turkey presents itself as a viable shot. It’s an instant kill and you won’t spoil any of the meat because of the bullet’s velocity and heat.
If you can’t make that shot, then you’re only other option is to place your round in the vital organs. The shot methodology for a rifle is the same as it is with an arrow. You don’t need a 30-30 to bring down a turkey.
A .22 Magnum is more than enough without wasting the entire turkey in an explosion of feathers and meat. The facing away, quartering to, and sideways shots are all the same as they are if you’re hunting with a bow and arrow.
Where to shoot a turkey with a shotgun
A shotgun is a whole different animal. You have to deal with the density of your spread and kill the turkey without peppering the entire thing with shot. The weakest spot on a turkey is its head and neck. Close range with a shotgun will effectively vaporize both, regardless of your choice in shells.
If you’re hunting turkey with a shotgun, you want the turkey close. Work on those calls until it is well within killing range of your shotgun. The right shotgun and the right shells matter as well.
Your aim should be dead center at the turkey’s throat, not more than a couple of inches below the skull. It’s called the turkey’s “wattles” and it’s the thick, beefy portion of its neck. It should be close enough that your spread pattern impacts both the head and neck of the turkey.
It’s okay to miss an inch or so high, just don’t miss an inch or so low. If your spread doesn’t hit the head or sever the spine at the neck, you’ll have yourself a wounded turkey.
Best shot size to use
For rifles, it’s pretty simple. Stick with a .22 round. You can hunt a turkey with something larger but you’ll want to avoid shooting it in the vitals with a large caliber round. For shotgun shells, there is a bit more variety.
Tungsten shot was introduced for wing shooting back in the mid to late 90s, and it’s heavier than steel shot, providing the hunter with more killing power. With lead shot, the #5 copper-plated pellets are a fair compromise between heavier but fewer #4 pellets and lighter but more #6 pellets.
But lead shot should be your choice if you don’t have tungsten shot. Tungsten shot, #7 to #5, is an excellent choice for a 20-gauge and pretty good for a 12-gauge. If you purchase any shot with a turkey choke, be sure to consider how tightly packed your shot will be before you fire.
Shooting a turkey, especially for the first time, is a moment of excitement. It should be, but not so much that it negatively affects your aim. Shot placement should be precise, otherwise, you risk spoiling the meat or injuring the turkey without killing it.
Always make sure the turkey is fully visible before you take your shot, and be ready to pull the trigger when the turkey stretches out its neck. Watch the turkey for patterns first, to help avoid a miss-timed shot.
The safest shot is the closest shot possible. Use your turkey call to get them well in range and if you wound it, quickly cover the ground between yourself and the turkey and finish the job.
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