Editor’s Note: When you’re looking at versatility in bowhunting, game calling and wildlife videography, Harrison, Arkansas, resident Phillip Vanderpool has done it all. With over 40+ years of hunting experience, Vanderpool is the complete hunting/videography package. After hunting turkeys since childhood with a shotgun, Phillip decided to try the ultimate challenge – bowhunting the wild turkey – and has taken about three dozen turkeys with his bow and has captured some of his turkey bowhunts on videotape. Vanderpool also is in high demand as a seminar speaker.
1) When bowhunting, where do you shoot a turkey?
Vanderpool: There are several different good shots. For instance, if the turkey is strutting, and he’s facing you, you want to shoot him right at the base of the neck just below the wattles. You have to watch the bird and make sure he’s not moving too much before you release the arrow, especially left to right. If he’s facing away, try to shoot him right at the base of the full fan on the tail. My favorite shot is the broadside shot. If I can get this shot, I like to shoot through the bird’s thighs. When you shoot through the thighs, the gobbler can’t get his feet under him to run off. There’s also a main artery that runs through this area, so this shot breaks the bird down, prevents him from getting away and gives you a killing shot.
2) What pound test bow do you use when you hunt turkeys?
Vanderpool: I feel comfortable shooting a 60-pound bow, and I prefer to have 80% let-off. That’s the reason I prefer to shoot a short Mathews’ bow (https://www.mathewsinc.com/), so that when I’m sitting on the ground, I can get the bow to full draw without bumping any limbs or obstructions.
3) How close do you get to a turkey on the roost?
Vanderpool: I personally feel that if you can get in close, the closer the better. You’ve got to know a little bit about the lay of the land to get close. If you don’t know the lay of the land, then don’t attempt to move in close. I like to get 50 or 60 yards from the turkey, if I possibly can, without bumping the gobbler off the roost.
4) What calls do you use?
Vanderpool: I use all of them. I like to use several different calls. For instance, if you call to a bird using a mouth call, and he’s not answering, switch to a box call or a slate or glass call to see if he’ll answer these calls. Since each call sounds different, I use a variety of calls and let the turkey tell me by his gobbling which call he prefers.
5) Why do the people you hunt with seem to have such great turkey-hunting success?
Vanderpool: I’ve been very fortunate to hunt with several celebrities throughout my career. Each and every person I hunt with has his or her own unique style. For instance, Eddie Salter, Matt Morrett, Rick White, J.R. Keller – all these guys have their own styles and do their own things. They don’t try to hunt like anyone else. They’re all very successful because over the years, they’ve learned the calling techniques and hunting strategies that work best for them. These great hunters aren’t afraid to try new techniques and calls. They’re also very versatile and can adapt what they’ve learned to any turkey-hunting situation they encounter.
To learn more about turkey hunting, check out John E. Phillips’s book, “The Turkey Hunting Guides’ Bible,” at https://amzn.to/2ZlSXEP, and available in Kindle, print and Audible versions.