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Why Archery Hunting Turkeys is Damn Near Impossible

Looking for a challenge this spring? Try archery turkey hunting, which is so difficult thanks to their eyes, ears, legs and wings. 

In my home state of South Dakota, archery antelope hunting is the greatest challenge a sportsman can take on. They’re fast, they have great eye sight, and they live on terrain that plays to their strengths. For proof, look to hunter harvest rates, which hovers around 22% for the ten-year average in the Rushmore State.

The next hardest hunt, as indicated by harvest statistics, is archery turkey, which is barely over 30%. Antelope seem far superior to turkey as a species, but when you break down their biology, you’ll see just how badass they really are.

For starters, they have some of the best eye sight in the animal kingdom. Their vision is three times greater than that of a human with 20/20, and the spacing of their eyes allows them to take in a view of 270 degrees. Combine that with their constant head bobbing, and they’re almost always seeing what’s going on all the way around them. Unlike a lot of the game we pursue, though, turkey’s also see in full color – and then some. They have certain cones that allow them to see into the UV light range, giving humans a blue glow from certain laundry detergents.

A turkey’s hearing is nearly as impressive. Although they lack a pinna, which is the external part of the ear that most mammals have, they make up for it with incredible internal workings. Like us, they have an inner ear, middle ear and outer ear. Their columella, which speeds up the process of sending vibrations to the brain, is what really sets them apart, though. This quick progression allows turkeys to discriminate sounds up to 1/200 of a second, which is literally 10 times faster than us.

If they sense danger with their perfect vision or impeccable hearing, they’ll flee the scene on foot or in flight, both of which allow them to easily escape predators. For running purposes, turkeys have backwards knees that can get them to reach speeds of 25 mph, only slightly slower than the fastest humans, whitetails and kangaroos. For flight, they have one of the lowest wing loading scores in the world of ornithology, meaning that they have just big enough wings to achieve flight. It’s hardly a chore, though, as they can fly over a mile at a time by alternating wing beats and gliding while achieving speeds of 50 mph.

Just be thankful that turkeys basically lack a sense of smell, because when you add it all up, it’s hard to believe that archers are even successful 1/3 of the time.

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