Turkey Hunting Decoy Buyers Guide

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Turkey Hunting Decoy Buyers Guide

by Matt Wettish

There are as many forms of turkey decoys out on the market today as there are turkeys running around the woods.  They are made of foam, rubber, plastic, and fabric, and come in hard body, collapsible, inflatable, and silhouettes, in the form of hens, jakes, and toms, strutting, relaxed, breeding, alert, and on and on and on.  There is certainly no shortage of turkey decoys to chose from. 

So why is it, that we have issues with which decoy to buy?  Well, it doesn't need to be that tough.  By having a basic understanding of what material will best suit your hunting needs, what posture means what, and how birds react to certain decoys, you should be able to pick a decoy that will work best for you next time you hit the woods.

Types Of Turkey Decoy Materials and Designs

Foam style or collapsible style decoys look good in the field, and have great portability because they are light weight and can be folded up.
Photo by: Author
To choose a decoy, you must first decide what type of material is going to best suit your style of hunting.  Choosing materials that are more packable may be better suited for the hardcore run n gun guys, while the full body hard shell decoy may work best for the field hunter that is going to stake his claim in a blind for the morning.  Both are great decoys, and both have their place.

Foam, collapsible type decoys are great, because you can ball them up, or flatten them out, and stick them in you vest for when you really need them.  It is usually no problem to fit more than one in your vest as well, just in case you need the pulling power of more than one bird, or want to put out a male and female combo.  They are generally light weight, but tend to lack a little in detail.  This is the price you pay for packability. 

If you do decide to set up on a bird, and not use the decoys, the soft body style will allow you to back right up to a tree without having the interference of the hard shell behind you.  They still work in the field, and are far better than running around with a solid decoy, and looking like a hunchback walking through the woods.

Inflatable or rubber bodied type decoys are right in the middle of the road, and one of my favorites.  You can achieve some amount of collapsibility with them.  Not quite as much as foam, but what you give up in being able to pack, you gain in detail.  The new rubber type inflatable decoys offer amazing detail, without the weight and hard shell. 

They still may give you a slight issue setting up if it's in your back and you're not using it, but not too bad.  A slightly deflated rubber decoy can be easily pushed to one side or the other, allowing you to get right up close to the tree, or whatever it is your setting up against. 

Hard body decoys aren't the best choice for trecking through the woods, but in areas where you may be sitting for a while, they are very realistic, and work well.
Photo by: Author
The hardbody decoy is exactly as the name suggests.  It is usually a hard plastic shell.  Now as far as detail is concerned, these can be amazing, but be aware that carrying something like this around the woods with you can get old in a hurry.  Also, hard plastic tends to make a lot of noise when scratched against by branches etc while walking around.

It's a great decoy to use in a field situation where detail is important, and portability is not an issue.  Many of the larger decoys, such as a full strut decoy, are made of harder plastic so they hold thier form better than softer materials.  If you plan on spending your morning set up in a blind, or on a field edge for a while, this may be a good choice for you.

The silhouette decoy is another type, and comes in a rigid plastic form, or a fabric fold up form.  Either way, they don't take up much room, and it's a great decoy to use if you really want to put out more than one.  The silhouette decoy is extremely thin, so many can be carried easily, and carrying enough to put out a flock of six to twelve is not difficult.

These silhouette decoys have great realism, and can be folded up super small. They are great for days when your walking a lot, or if you would like to pack a bunch of decoys in to create a flock.
Photo by: Author
These are fantastic field decoys, and  where having more decoys out may just give you the edge needed to pull in a gobbler locked up with multiple hens.  The attraction of a flock in wide open places like fields and meadows can often times draw multiple birds from great distances, when just a single decoy or two may be ignored.

Picking A Decoy

No matter what type of decoy you use, it's hit or miss, just like the call you choose to run.  Either the turkey likes it, or he doesn't.  All that can be done by us as hunters, is bring one along, because you can't use a decoy if you don't have one with you.  Putting out a decoy will at very least give a wary gobbler something to look at, and offer up something that may be making the calls he is hearing.

Be sure to pick a style of decoy to match the type of hunting you are doing.  Don't go picking a big, heavy, noisy, hardbodied plastic decoy if you're going to be running a gunning the ridges all morning.  Pick something soft, light, and compact that will easily fit in the game bag of your vest.  This won't way you down, will allow for a quick setup, and it won't make you uncomfortable if you decide not to use it and sit against a tree with it on your back.

Think about how many birds are in the area, and if there will be competition enough for a decoy like a full strut gobbler.  If the bird is alone, there is always a chance he would make a move on a lone hen, or maybe cut the distance on an intruding jake.

Think about what part of the breeding cycle they are in.  If the hens are still actively breeding and looking for mates, an alert or active hen may work in your favor.  If the hens are done breeding, it may be best to take out a feeding hen to mimic a nesting bird out for a mid-day feed.

If there are other hunters in the area, always be aware of what your set up is, and how you are positioned away from the decoy.  Make sure you back is up against a tree as big, or bigger than the width of your shoulders.  And as always, be aware, especially when using gobbler or jake decoys, of who may be in the same woods you are hunting.  Other than that, put them out, start calling, good luck, and hunt hard, and hunt safe.


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