Take Aim: Where to Shoot a Turkey
Every hunter dreams of an instant kill, where their prey simply hits the ground dead. It's the perfect shot, the best intention, and the only way to make sure the animal doesn't suffer. Here, we'll take a look at your placement when you're trying to take down the gobbler you've got your eye on.
If the turkey approaches you broadside, the best place to put your shot is right where the wing joints to the body. You'll slice through heart and lungs and there is no more instant kill than that. Plus, should you miss your mark by an inch or two on any side of this shot, you'll still hit enough necessary organs to take the bird down in one go (almost certainly).
We do have to note that broadside shots are usually the most preferred to take with both firearms and archery since they allow for a much larger target and an easier spot. Plus, broadside shots allow you to see spurs on gobblers and assure you that the bird you're shooting is not a hen.
Above the Beard
Maybe your gobbler is just demanding that you shoot it from the front. It wants to look you in the eye when you put it down and you know what? You're game for that.
Shoot just above the bird's beard to get that turkey's pretty fan on your wall. Shooting under will likely damage the breast meat and may cause a gut shot, which could end up ruining the entire bird. If you take the turkey with a shot above the beard but below the neck, you'll go straight through the heart and lungs once again and put it down in a blink.
Where the Fan Meets
Or maybe you're experiencing the opposite problem. The turkey won't turn around and is being, well, a turkey. In this case, we recommend calling vigorously to try to get the gobbler's attention. A broadside or front shot is so much easier than trying to knock off the bird's backside.
However, we take whatever shots we can, right? It's more important to bag your bird than it is to let it get away because it's only showing its back to you.
Shoot at the base of the fan, just below the actual tail of the bird but above the cloaca. Unfortunately, you'll likely see some meat loss with this shot but that doesn't matter quite as much if you're just after the fan and you're feeding your dogs the rest. Still, even if you're just after the fan, this probably isn't the best shot in the world, anyway.
Try to get the bird to turn, but take what you can if it won't.
Maybe the turkey doesn't even care enough to flip its fan at you. That, or you're after a bearded hen that you've had your eye on and she couldn't care less. Go ahead and shoot in the same position, but across the back rather than from underneath the fan. You're looking to aim for the tail joint at the body and sort of up along the spine rather than down into the body cavity.
Again, ideally, you get the turkey to turn your way and try to get that broadside or front shot. If you can't, the joint of the tail and the body is a simple place to put a shot.
The Head Debate
It is preferred to kill a turkey by placing a body shot across the heart or lungs to ruin as little meat as possible and to kill the bird instantly. After all, we want their meat and the trophies, and we want the turkey to die as fast as possible.
So why not try for a headshot and be done with it?
Turkeys have incredibly tiny brains. Anyone who's watched them for a while will probably chuckle at that, but we aren't making fun of their intelligence. Instead, this is a simple fact. The heart and lungs of a turkey are far larger than the brain and better targets. Yes, your rifle is probably going to completely behead that turkey if you manage to get a really solid shot at it.
The target is tiny, the brain is minuscule, and you don't want to take a bird's beak off and leave it to starve to death by a misfire. A body shot will kill almost any bird, even if you don't clip the heart and lungs. The damage done to the internal system of the turkey is simply too much for the body to bear. That isn't so if you miss their very small head (and smaller brain).
We strongly recommend either a broadside or a front-facing shot. These are the easiest to take and assure that the bird is probably dead before it hits the ground.
Looking for some more tips? Check out our other articles: 15 Expert Tips for Spring Turkey Hunting and How to Clean a Wild Turkey.