Turkey Decoys Can Be Deadly while Turkey Huntingby Doug Howlett
Turkey decoys can be a great tool in any hunter’s turkey vest, but using them correctly is vital.
While not every hunter swears by decoys, they can be a great asset in many situations. For one, they give a suspicious tom looking for the source of the calls he heard a turkey to see. And, if the decoy is set in an open area such as a mature oak bottom or along a field edge, those decoys can act as a visual call to birds who may spot them from a distance, but has yet to hear you call—especially when you are calling sporadically (or like many hunters are prone to do on a slow day, napping).
Decoys come in several different styles ranging from photo-image silhouette decoys to fold out and inflatable ones and even ones that move via pulling a string or operating a small remote control rocker. Inflatable decoys are great because they can be quickly inflated for setup and just as quickly deflated to store compactly in a turkey vest. All of the decoys on the market offer a good dose of realism and have been used successfully to bring turkeys in close.
Successful Decoy Hunter
Photo by: Author
Set a Classic Spread
One key thing to remember when setting decoys out however, is that wild turkeys are not like geese and that just because they do tend to gather in huge winter flocks, you don’t need a massive spread of decoys to entice them your direction. In fact, the opposite is often true.
A good decoy spread for turkeys can amount to no more than more than a pair of hens and a single jake. Place the jake facing you so when the jealous gobbler rushes in to square off on his younger competition, his back will be to you offering a chance to make any last minute adjustments in your aim. Hens—ideally a feeding hen and a squatting hen—should be placed out in front of the jake as if he is following the hens out into the field. An alert hen can also be useful, but some hunters avoid using them for fear it puts an approaching tom on guard, wondering what the hen keeps staring at.
The breeding jake and hen decoy is another great setup that has been around for years, and is great for spurning a jealous longbeard into range.
Get ‘Em With a Gobbler
Whether trying to catch a longbeard right off the roost or working a field later in the morning, today’s life-like gobbler decoys are simply awesome tools. They can bring a jealous tom running from hundreds of yards away and can improve the odds of a hunter who isn’t proficient at calling or who is hunting call-shy toms.
Set the decoy no more than 20 yards from your set-up and angle him facing as if he is looking past you. If a tom comes in, he will likely go into strut and face-off with the decoy giving you a chance to settle your aim and shoot. Make sure you pull the bird out of strut and raise his head by cutting at him or even just saying something out loud.
To add more realism, set a couple of hen decoys lounging around him as if the gobbler is following them as they feed. Adding motion can also greatly improve the sense of realism. The Sidewinder Motion Stake is designed specifically for gobbler decoys and helps you make them look like they are rotating like toms will do when in strut.
Every year, manufacturers come out with newer, more lifelike finishes and improved designs that tend to only increase a decoy’s effectiveness in the field.
Some years back, award-winning taxidermist, Cally Morris, through his company, Hazel Creek Taxidermy, began to offer real taxidermied hen decoys. The results for anybody who has used one of these gems has been nothing less than stellar. As good as most of the decoys are on the market, nothing compares to the realism a real stuffed hen can deliver.
In fact, Morris’ decoys have been so well-received; he is now making jake decoys as well. Of course, at $545 a piece, you have to be one committed decoy hunter. But for anybody who has used one, they swear by them and say the investment is well worth the success they can bring to the hunt.
Like every aspect of hunting, safety is a key concern when using decoys. Here’s a few tips on decoy safety:
• Never carry an uncovered decoy any distance.
• From a seated position, identify the clearest line of vision to your front. Establish a sight line that allows 100 yards of visibility. Then set your decoy(s) approximately 20 yards from your position on the line.
• If you are calling over decoys and elect to move to a new location, check carefully to ensure that no one is stalking your decoys. Check before leaving your setup. Should you see someone in the area, (especially close to your line of sight) call out to them in a loud, clear voice.