Turkey Hunting with the Xero X1i Crossbow Scope

With Garmin’s new Xero X1i crossbow scope’s robust features, crossbow hunters will have more arrows in their quiver as they pursue turkey this spring.

Maybe more than any other animal, the North American wild turkey is everywhere out of season and nowhere to be found on opening day. Speaking from experience, an educated “Tom” (adult male) turkey may be one of the most challenging animals to pursue in the spring. Like any native animals, they have adapted to their surroundings, putting hunters at a disadvantage. You are literally on their turf.

However, there is something addictive about hunting turkey that’s hard to describe if you haven’t experienced it. Like so many have written before, it’s the thrill of waking up before dawn, silently making your way through the woods and waiting for a turkey to thunder to life with a gobble that shakes the ground you’re sitting on. It’s a call that leads millions of hunters across the country into the woods and fields each spring with the hope of bringing home a coveted Tom with gorgeous fan, dagger-like spurs, and in the end, one of the best-tasting, free-range meals available.

Success is never guaranteed, however, and preparation and the right equipment are critical. This is especially true as we see more individuals getting outside and increasing popularity of public hunting areas.

As crossbow hunting grows within the sportsmen community, so does the use of crossbows within turkey season. With the new Garmin Xero® X1i crossbow1 scope’s robust features, crossbow hunters will have more arrows in their quiver as they pursue turkey this spring.

We sat down with Chad VanCamp, Xero product manager and turkey hunting enthusiast, to discuss some of the reasons why he uses a crossbow during turkey season and how the new Xero X1i can give spring turkey hunters an advantage.

What is the advantage of using a crossbow over a shotgun or a compound bow?

Well, first you have to be willing to challenge yourself because using archery equipment for turkey is just that — a challenge. However, once you get comfortable with your equipment, there are some real advantages to using a crossbow for turkey hunting.

In pursuing turkey, the two things that will end a hunt instantly are noise and movement. Typically, people hunt turkey with a shotgun or a compound bow. Both methods have an advantage and disadvantage.

When using a shotgun, the advantage is minimal movement to aim your gun; however, the report of a shotgun will many times scatter all the turkeys in the area. The compound bow has the advantage of a silent shot when compared to a shotgun; however, the disadvantage is the movement needed to draw the bow, typically with turkeys in close range. Many times, drawing a bow will alert turkey to your presence, and you’ve been had.

This is where the crossbow gains the advantage — it effectively offers the advantages of the shotgun and compound bow, with none of the disadvantages. Using a crossbow, you aim it with minimal movement, which is the advantage of the shotgun, then when you pull the trigger, the crossbow offers the quiet shot similar to a compound bow.

Aside from the crossbow itself, how does Xero X1i give an advantage to crossbow turkey hunters?

The Xero X1i is the most advanced crossbow aiming solution on the market for hunters. It took years of work and countless man-hours developing new technology to provide the precision aiming solution within this scope.

Like the Xero A1® and Xero®A1i bow sight, it provides single-pin aiming solutions. This means when you range a target, a digital pin (or aimpoint) is dropped onto your field of view at the exact range, so you know it is precisely where it should be. The Xero platform uses various algorithms to compensate for angle and distance too. This takes the guesswork out of pin gapping, leading to more ethical harvest opportunities.

Turkey are notorious for hanging up just outside of your decoys, so being able to range with minimal movement and knowing the exact distance helps hunters decide if a shot is within their capabilities, and it also helps to make the correct shot placement. 

Unlike some camera-based scopes, the Xero X1i is based on a 3.5x magnification optical platform. In practical terms, a bird at 35 yards is going to look like it is standing 10 yards in front of you, essentially bringing the bird closer so you can better choose your aiming reference, which is also critical in turkey hunting.

A typical 400-grain crossbow bolt, fired with precision from a TenPoint RS470 or Havoc, can carry kinetic energy further than shotgun pellets, so you can extend your range. This is not to say you should take shots beyond your practiced ability or those that would be considered unethical. Just the opposite, in fact. The Xero X1i scope provides precision aiming, so when you are sending a single bolt downrange at the turkey, you have the advantage of knowing that you have increased accuracy over a shotgun bead or a static red dot shotgun scope.

Where the extended range provides a significant advantage is if you need to take a second shot, which extends beyond many shotshell capabilities. Hopefully, we don’t need a second shot; however, if you do, knowing this always makes me more comfortable. In the spring of 2020, during development of X1i, this exact situation happened to me. I made a good initial shot on a nice Tom. I could tell he was hit well, but he started to walk off into the thick woods, unaware of what had just happened. I was able to reload and make a follow-up shot, which helped me recover him quickly, rather than risking a track job through dense cover.

What other features on the Xero X1i will help turkey hunters this season?

The high-quality optics and digital range-finding capabilities provide an advantage over static compound sight and scope; however, we didn’t stop there.

It’s a natural tendency for people to put crosshairs on their target and let it rip, because the moment before you pull the trigger is full of adrenaline and excitement. We intentionally designed the Xero X1i features to help people through the aiming process, and we are very proud that this is helping people take more accurate and ethical shots. 

The two features that aid in this are Steady Aim and Aim Point Level. Seeing a bird finally walk into range is exhilarating, and any hunter worth their salt will tell you they get excited and sometimes get the shakes. Steady Aim acts as a coach in that moment. If you are shaking, you’ll see a circle expand and contract around the pin. This is to signify if you pull the trigger, you might not be on target. So, slow down, take a breath and steady yourself. Aim Point Level works similarly in the sense that if you have your bow canted, it will guide you to get back on level, and hopefully, make a clean shot.

Are there any other recommendations or tips you could give hunters using Xero X1i? 

Don’t pack up the decoys at 9 a.m. While turkeys are going to be most active during the morning, you can pattern them and hunt them throughout the day. As the old saying goes, “A lot of turkeys are harvested at 11 o’clock.”

If you pattern them, you can effectively hunt them all day in states where it’s legal to do so. However, it’s tougher, and the changing light conditions hunting at different times of day have historically presented a challenge within electro-based scopes. Either your reticle was too bright in low light conditions or not bright enough during bright light conditions.

The X1i digital overlay automatically adjusts to various light conditions, so you can have the confidence when you look through the scope, it will provide the best reticle illumination.

Would you recommend crossbow turkey hunting for youth or new hunters?

Absolutely. Steady Point and Aim Point Level features are especially important when hunting with young kids or new hunters. It provides silent instruction so you don’t have to try to whisper and correct them during a high-intensity moment prior to taking a shot.

Additionally, the recoil of a crossbow is nearly nonexistent, so if you have a youth or someone who is recoil shy, crossbows offer a unique opportunity to be physically more comfortable and minimize trigger flinch, leading to greater accuracy.

Being able to give new hunters a positive experience is critical in keeping them involved and active in their outdoor pursuits. I hope Xero X1i helps not only experienced hunters enjoy their time in the field, but also helps new hunters enjoy their first-time turkey hunting.

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Just like in life, there are no guarantees in turkey hunting. It takes patience, practice and a little bit of luck. However, while you’re on the turkey’s turf, practicing and hunting with tools like Xero X1i will help you even the playing field. If you’re lucky, you can head home and enjoy one of North America’s most popular game animals.

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Note: Turkey hunting represents a significant part of American’s history and one of the country’s greatest conservation success stories. In the early 20th century, turkey populations across the country were at all-time lows due to habitat loss, minimal harvest regulations and commercial hunting. For example, in 1936, Missouri had approximately 2,500 wild turkey across the state. Due to coordinated conservation and management efforts, the North American wild turkey has rebounded in nearly every corner of the country. Now in Missouri, there are approximately 300,000-400,000 turkey across the state. In 2018, adult and youth hunters harvested 35,784 turkeys across the state.

1Some jurisdictions regulate or prohibit the use of electronic bow sights for hunting. Always know and obey all state hunting regulations before using this device.