I get asked what kind of decoy is best for turkeys a lot. Now, I always answer these questions by admitting I am not the best turkey hunter in the world. There are a lot of opinions I value more than my own on the subject. But, let me tell you what I think and why.
Now when I first started out, I didn’t use a decoy. If you are under the age of 20, you might think it is impossible to kill a bird without at least one decoy. Well those of my era, I time so long ago they didn’t yet teach history in school, shot a lot of turkeys without a decoy. The difficulty was calling enough to keep the Tom hot and interested but not so much that he would pin you down and bust out of there while you made the slightest movement.
I then started using a standing “Look out” hen decoy. My thinking at the time is the decoy could be seen from a ways out and gives the Tom something to focus on other than where is the yelping coming from. What I learned however, is that those Tom’s have pretty good hearing and they know from a ways out the hen that is yelping isn’t coming from that hen statue. They are still looking for the one who’s doing all the talking. Yes, I think it may help the Tom relax a little knowing other turkeys are there but his eyes, the tool he is using to try to beat you, are still actively searching for YOU.
I then started using the Jake decoy. I went with the logic that stated a Jake wouldn’t “scare off” a non-dominate Tom. Sounds like it makes sense.
What I experienced was that some Toms don’t seem interest in a Hen decoy or a Jake decoy. And either way, when they come in to the decoy they are looking for the Hen making the noise. It is true that with a Jake decoy you are more likely to get the Tom to walk between you and the decoy. I like a Jake decoy better than a Hen for that reason. But I have also had Tom’s pretty fast dismiss the Jake decoy and be focused on finding the Hen.
A few years back I went to using a single Tom decoy with a real tail fan from a prior harvested turkey. This works best for me. No, net every turkey comes a running to the Tom but no decoy generates that kind of response anyway (regardless what the commercials or the TV hunt shows tell you! I haven’t experienced Jakes avoiding Tom decoys. In fact, I have had obviously immature birds pick at my Tom decoy testing him.
My experience has been that many Toms, come into the Tom decoy and focus immediately on assess if this decoy is a threat or not. Even Jakes will come up and try to interact with the Tom decoy. They are also less likely to focus on trying to determine where the Hen when they approach. My belief is that the approaching Tom “Knows” there is a Hen here and believes his first responsibility is to see if he can run off or otherwise intimidate the Tom decoy before seeking out the Hen. Yes, at times I will have a Tom come in almost like he is disinterested in the Hen calling or the decoy. But guess what, that happens when you have a Jake or a Hen decoy out too. Yep, sometimes the Tom with Hens won’t come at all. Guess what? That happens with any decoy set up.
The most important factor to getting a Tom in to kill is a Tom who’s HOT. By hot, I mean whose hormones are flowing and he is looking for an active hen. Next is producing sounds of an active Hen. After that it is having a decent hide, and not moving when he is looking at you.
A Tom decoy provides me the best opportunity to have a Gobbler come in a focus on the decoy while I get behind my shot gun and line up a shot.
Until I see you in the field, be SAFE, be good, and BE LUCKY!
Thoughts on Turkey Decoys