Becky Nicosia slowly drew her bow back and placed her pin on a wise old gobbler and released the arrow.
The broadhead smacked the longbeard in just the right spot and he never knew what hit him.
Calling wise old gobblers within shotgun range is difficult for even the most seasoned hunters, but calling up an old tom and shooting them with a bow and arrow takes it to another level. Becky Nicosia, of Baton Rouge, La., is a talented archer who loves to turkey hunt and call in the wary old birds, and she prefers shooting them with her bow.
Nicosia shoots a Matthews bow and she harvested her first gobbler with a bow in 2000. Nicosia was hunting near Sonora when she harvested that first gobbler in Texas. That first kill was an amazing accomplishment, and it ignited a flame that developed into a burning passion for calling up gobblers and shooting them with her bow.
“It’s one thing to shoot deer from a tree stand but quite another calling and harvesting gobblers from a ground blind,” Nicosia said. “In the beginning they would see me draw back and spook, so I had to practice sitting in a blind and shooting from ground level. I finally blacked out everything behind me and I usually wear all black too. I would draw my bow back from the side and then shoot through the window when they walked by.”
Hunting out of blinds
Hunting out of a blind is about the only way you can draw back on them, but it really limits your ability to move around.
These days Nicosia usually sets up a Primos Double Bull blind on the edge of fields where the gobblers like to feed and strut and in areas where hens like to be.
“I’ll get out and scout the gobblers and then set up in an area that they like to be,” Nicosia said. “If I go early, I’ll do an owl call with my natural voice to see if I can get a response from any gobblers in the area. I’ll try to locate one in that area and if I know that a bird is in there I’ll slip in the blind and make some soft calls. I try to get the hens pulled on in near me and usually the gobblers will come in too.
“I used to run and gun with a shotgun, but I don’t do that anymore. I’m more successful hunting this way by being patient and calling them in to where I am.”
Nicosia loves to bow hunt so much that she knew she could extend her bow hunting into turkey season. Nicosia hunts on family land in Adams County and nobody else in her group turkey hunts with a bow. She likes the challenge it presents and there’s nothing easy about it.
“I have several blinds near food plots and fields, and I’ll use my game cameras to see where they’re hanging out,” she said. “I’ve got one or two permanent blinds and four Double Bull Blinds out in various locations.”
Calling the gobblers and listening to hens
Nicosia uses several different box calls like a Primos box and several slates or glass, by Lynch and Woodhaven calls.
You can really get soft on those slates and glass calls too, Nicosia said.
“I’ll use little soft calls and do what the hens are doing and mock them,” she said. “I’ll let them set the pace and go from there. I have stayed with some flocks from daylight until noon. I had one turkey that I hunted for several years and finally named him Booger because he always seemed to booger me and get away.”
Old Booger set up in a field one afternoon and spent the day with the hens well out of range. As the afternoon wore on Nicosia knew it was time for a change of pace. Booger disappeared for about an hour giving Nicosia a chance to make a move.
“I slipped out of the blind and circled around and tried to get in front of where I thought they’d go,” she said. “I set up on the edge of the field and called the hens up and Booger walked right in front of me, following them, and I shot him. Sometimes things don’t work out like you plan so you have to make adjustments. Sometimes it works and in this case it did.”
Old Booger had an 11-inch beard, 1 ¼ inch spurs and he eluded Nicosia for 3 years, but he finally met his match at the hands of an expert archer and turkey caller at 6:30 p.m.
“I use a fixed broadhead, a 3 blade 100 grain Wasp Boss,” Nicosia said. “I’ll shoot them where the wing touches the body, or through his lower fantail from the rear when looking directly at his back. That’s a killing shot, too. But I like to get them as close to me as I can.”
“I like to hunt in the fields in the afternoon from 1 to 6 p. m.,” Nicosia said. “I’ve had a lot of success hunting around those fields during mid to late afternoon and it’s much easier to kill one where they like to hang out.”
Fields are excellent spots for hens that like to feed during midday and late afternoon. If the hens are there you can believe that the gobblers will be somewhere close by because they stay on ready during the mating season. They don’t want to waste a minute or a chance at finding a lovesick hen.
Gobblers will follow the hens and keep them in sight even when the breeding is over. If the hens get away to go nest or lay eggs the gobbler might wake up and find themselves alone and it’s a different game. If that old gobbler gets lonely and he’s by himself late in the season, then he’s a lot more vulnerable and is much easier to call up. If he’s looking at hens, he’s not apt to move on to some unseen turkeys, but let the hens disappear and they get desperate and let their guard down many times.
“Those gobblers don’t even know what they’re going to do from day to day,” Nicosia said. “So it’s almost impossible for us to know what he’s going to do except for one thing. He’s going to be in areas where the hens like to be and during the midday hours that’s wherever their favorite feeding, nesting, or dusting areas are. Usually that’s in fields but it can also be on sandbars on creeks, or on sandy roads running through a pine plantation. They will leave their sign including their dusting areas for gobblers and humans to see.”
Perfect practice makes perfect
Nicosia is used to hunting out of tree stands when she bow hunts for deer, so she had to practice regularly with a bow to get the hang of shooting off the ground.
“I started shooting from a chair on the ground first,” Nicosia said. “Then I started shooting from a blind sitting down. Shooting from the ground is different than from a tree because you have a different anchor point and there is no substitute for regular practice. I started off shooting a couple times a week when I first got into hunting turkeys from a blind and then I put a pop-up blind in the camp yard to practice at camp.”
While she killed her first turkey with a bow back in 2000, she’s still been at it and has killed eight with her bow to this point.
“I’ll still hunt with a shotgun occasionally, but I prefer hunting with a bow if I have the opportunity,” she said.
If turkey hunting is your game, then you need a ton of patience. If hunting turkeys with a bow is your preference, then you need patience and a ton of experience. Everything has to go right to be able to harvest a gobbler with your bow.
Calling a wise old gobbler to a specific spot is hard no doubt, but to call them to a blind that can’t be moved at the spur of the moment makes it harder indeed. That’s where Nicosia has an edge over many hunters. She has patience and is also confident in her ability to call a gobbler into range. She also knows that her hours of regular practice will enable her to make a clean kill when the opportunity arises.
Calling gobblers in close
If you want to call the gobblers in close like Nicosia, then it is a good idea to learn how to master a pot call or box. Yelps, purrs and clucks are all you need to be able to do if you know how and when to use them. Nicosia doesn’t use mouth calls, but she prefers these calls and that’s all it takes to call in gobblers. Try a few of Nicosia’s tips and techniques and you might just become an expert at calling in and harvesting turkeys with your bow.