By: Jim Richman
Every season I find myself trying to decide whether or not to pack up the turkey decoys and haul them to the field. They tend to be obnoxious to carry, even in a well- designed turkey vest. They always seem to be in the way in the fast and furious moments when a bird fires up at close range. I’ve had hen decoys keep wary gobblers from coming into range. I’ve seen non-aggressive Jake decoys crank a turkey up to the point that I’ve had to yell at them to get them out of a strut for a clear shot. I’ve even had to buy new strutting decoys because birds have completely destroyed them. There’s certainly nothing troubling about the last two scenarios, but making the choice to either take decoys with you or leave them in the truck can be annoying.
It can’t be argued that decoys can be remarkably effective in the right situations. They can add a whole new dimension of excitement. The question does remain, however, which decoys or decoy arrangements are appropriate if they are necessary at all. Here are three common scenarios and recommendations I give fellow hunters when talking about this decoy dilemma. You will also see a “Decoy priority” rating on a scale from 1-5. (1 = no real reason for carrying decoys, and 5 =high priority for decoys.)
Static Timber Hunting
So you’ve roosted a tom. You know where his hens have roosted, and you know you can get into the timber between the two in a solid topographical position. You’re not all that interested in taking the time to set up a blind, and you have a feeling this is going to be quick work at first light. This isn’t a bird I’m interested in playing around with making a movie star out of. In my experience, if all of these variables come together, I’m going to get in early, get as tight to that gobbler as I can directly between him and his hens, and not bother with making any extra noise. I might even let the real hens do all of the talking. The only time I’m using a decoy in this situation is if I feel comfortable enough to set up without much extra disturbance, and for the sole purpose of drawing a gobblers eye while he’s coming my way anyway.
Decoy Priority: 2.5
Recommended type: Feeding hen, and feeding Jake (At Most)
It’s a given that most hunters will have varying opinions on how turkey decoys should be placed, the quality of decoys that should be set out, and even specific scenarios that they should, or shouldn’t be used in. Based on nearly 20 years of turkey hunting experience, I’ve found that the mantra is true that, “It’s better to have and not need than need and not have”. When it comes to decoys in the rolling cattle country dotted with rocky timber ridges and glades where I hunt, decoys can either be a hero, or nothing more than an added pain when dealing with henned-up, heavy pressure, tight lipped Easterns. The best advice I’ve been given on the whole topic is “plan the hunt and hunt the plan”. Experience is the best teacher when dealing with these incredible birds.
Have a decoy tactic you would like to share? Comment below!