Digging Into Decoys
Do you use decoys? If so, what brand, what style, how many? The choices go on forever! So where does a new hunter begin to choose a decoy? Luckily for the new hunter, we live in a time where they can get a ton of information at the click of a button. Within minutes of searching, asking social media platforms, etc., a hunter can have a good idea of what kind of decoy they need. While the internet can be a great and quick source of information, nothing beats getting real life knowledge from one of the old timers. They can tell you what decoys you need, when to use them, and when to leave them in the truck. Plus, you're likely to hear a few good stories that only the woods can write. If you don't have that kind of source to tap into, check with some local guides. Guides experience a lot of different situations with turkey in a relatively short amount of time and can share what setups have worked for them at least on a more consistent basis anyway. If an experienced hunter or a guide is not an option, then research and scouting will help you determine what decoy(s) you need. Learn the natural way turkey interact with one another and make your decision based on that. As I mentioned earlier, guides can be a great source to tap into, I've been blessed to be able to guide for several years now. My absolute favorite thing to do is to put someone on their first turkey. Aside from that, I try to help others be successful by simply sharing what I've experienced in the field. The rest of this blog will be exactly that....things I've experienced in the field with decoys.
First, we will hit on brand of decoys. This will be short and sweet. What brand now days doesn't really matter that much anymore. All decoys today are so lifelike, they all will get the job done as far as looks go. What you use a decoy for and your style of preferred hunting will be a better determining factor on what brand you should buy. If you like to run n gun more, get a hollow body that you can fold up. If you prefer more sit and wait type hunting, get a heavier air up decoy. The heavier decoys do keep their shape better and longer than the hollow bodies making them more realistic on a consistent basis. If you do lots of filming and want good footage at the decoy, spend the few extra bucks and get a heavier decoy that airs up and will last awhile like Avian X or DSD. Flextone also makes a quality decoy for a little less money than the two previously mentioned. If you are more of a shoot soon as you get a good shot type of hunter and solely use a decoy to get a gobbler in range, then the cheaper hollow bodies work just fine. I can definitely recommend the Strut-lite series decoys from Hunters Specialties for that sort of purpose. It's a very detailed decoy for the money. I'll also add, the all-terrain decoy stands by Hunters Specialties are worth their weight in gold and can be used for secondary camera stands too. If you use decoys, get some!
Now for the most important part of decoys...when to use them, how many, and what decoys to use. Before I go any further, I want to mention there is no one way or one setup for decoys that works every time. Turkey have been killed around every decoy ever made at one time or another. I'm simply sharing what I've seen work on a more and clear consistent basis. When to use decoys? More importantly, I'll mention when I don't like using decoys. One, is when there is an overabundance of jakes. Jakes will beat a decoy into the ground, allow you to set it back up only to return minutes later and repeat. No tom wants to get involved with that. If you have several groups of jakes around, it's pointless to use a decoy. The other time I don't like using decoys is when they are still in fairly big groups. This usually happens early in the season and because bigger groups don't come to decoys as well, you usually have to make a move on them. So, decoys in that situation are more of an inconvenience rather than a hinderance. Any other time, I love using decoys. It completes the hunt for me and my hunters often enjoy it as well. Before I go into the two best setups I've used I will mention I'll never use a single hen decoy ever again. The natural thing is for the hen to go to a tom. We've all seen toms come in and hang up just out of range, gobble or strut for a few minutes, then turn around and go the other way when using a single hen decoy. That's because he wants the hen to go to him. I'll never put my hunters or myself in that situation again. If I ever want to travel light and use one decoy it will be a single jake. Now for the good stuff! The very first time I used a jake over a laydown hen, a beating ensued from an old tom and I used that setup more often than not. Sometimes I'd add a lookout hen but a jake over a laydown hen is killer. For years, I didn't think there was a better setup to use. But every now and then, you'd call in a tom that simply didn't want to fight that day and outskirt the jake over laydown. So, I started messing around with different setups that didn't just present an aggressive atmosphere for those nonconfrontational birds. I bought a couple of feeding hens and used them along with a jake. Just a regular standing jake. This combination, to my surprise, has been by far the best combination of decoys I've used based on the turkey's reactions. I may be overthinking it, but I believe that setup appeals to an aggressive bird as well as nonaggressive with the two feeding hens. Responses have been so good I'll never use a lookout hen in any setup. I like to put the two feeding hens somewhat close together in the most visible spot and the jake where I want my shot. Most toms will come right into the jake and take care of business, but I've had two toms stay away from the jake and try to feed with the hen decoys.
Decoys can be a pain sometimes to carry around but add so much more to a hunt that you wouldn't see without them. In the end, it's about what you want out of a turkey hunt and that's all that matters. They sure complete the whole experience for me. On behalf of the MTR Camo family, good luck this spring!