Decoying Spring Turkeys

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 7, 2010

Twenty minutes had passed since the tom gobbled on the ridge in front of us. Alert and facing the ridge, my youth hunter, Tyler Carr, and I sat at the base of a red oak. Rain the night before had dampened the leaves. Hearing a turkey approach would be difficult.

We had arranged a decoy spread—two hens and a jake—behind us in the pasture field to draw the attention of turkeys that might approach from that direction. Moments passed. I caught movement to my right. At 20 yards, five jakes popped over the ridge to our right and ran, half strutting, to our decoys.

“Don’t move,” I whispered to Tyler. “We’ve got five jakes in our decoys. When I tell you, turn around and tag one of those birds.”

To aim at one of the jakes, Tyler would have to move 180 degrees. I watched the young gobblers and read their body language. Nervous and alert, the jakes stood tall with stretched necks, waiting for pecking-order confrontations from their new company—the decoys.

When none developed, the jakes started to relax. One began preening its back feathers; another pecked at a blade of grass. When the jakes all turned their backs to us, I whispered to Tyler to make his move. He made a smooth 180-degree turn and aimed carefully at the jake on the far right. The jakes caught his movement but stood where they were with stretched necks. At the shot, Tyler’s jake tumbled.

Without the distraction offered by our decoys, it’s unlikely this hunt would have ended with Tyler bagging one of those jakes.

Turkey decoys have proven their worth in many hunting situations, but they are not a cure-all. Their effectiveness hinges on when, where and how they are used. Sometimes they are almost essential; other times they can be a hindrance or, worse, a safety hazard.

Safety First

When you’re hunting ducks over a spread of decoys, there’s a remote chance another hunter might slip in and shoot at one of your decoys with you in the line of fire. When using decoys to hunt turkeys, however, particularly if you include a jake or a gobbler in your decoy spread, there is a greater chance that could happen.

You can all but eliminate that danger by following some common-sense rules.

Never use turkey decoys in timber. Use decoys only in open fields that allow you a broad field of view—at least 100 yards. This allows you to

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