, Gloucester, MA

April 26, 2013

Outdoors: Using decoys to attract turkey

Dave Sartwell

---- — The turkey season starts on the 29th. This means you still have time to do a little preseason scouting. Once you have found a flock, working them into range can be a challenge. Using decoys can really help. Using decoys while hunting turkeys can often mean the difference between bagging a big tom or just having call shy bird stand off from you out of range.

Turkeys have extremely keen eyesight. As they come stalking through the woods toward where they heard what they think is a willing hen, they are all keyed up. Every sense they have is on alert. Because of that, any unusual movement or extraneous noise puts them off. This is what makes decoys so effective. As these big birds close in on your blind or location, they see the decoys and focus on them. You are just background to their main objective.

Although one decoy will work, to really get the big toms in close the most effective sets usually involve four or five hens and a couple of jakes. The number of decoys seem to make the tom more comfortable. Once you see the big gobbler coming, don’t be in a hurry. Often he will stand off a bit and try to gobble the hens out to him. Don’t get fooled into thinking that you can get him in closer if you give that one last call. Just wait him out.

The idea of putting a couple of jakes into the set is to make the big tom a bit jealous. If you use just one hen he will often stand off and insist the female come to him. However, with the set of hens and jakes he will often come on in to show the young males who really is boss of the woods.

With that in mind, when you set out your decoys in front of your blind or hiding place, put the hens out about 25 yards and set the jakes in a little closer to you. This way when the big tom sees the flock and picks up on the fact that there are young males vying for the affection of the females, he will come in to challenge the young jakes. He will be focusing on them and not be so wary of his surroundings. Also, if you have an idea of the direction this tom might be coming from, set the decoys off to the side of your blind so the big bird will not line up the decoys with your hideaway.

Finding the right spot to set up can really help in fooling the tom. You want to place your decoys in such a way as to make it as natural as possible. If you watch a flock work while they are feeding along through the woods, they go this way and that, but they seem to be heading in one general direction. Keeping that in mind, set them out in a bit of a haphazard way, facing in different directions. If the wind is blowing hard, face them sort of into the wind as no turkey will stand long with his butt to the wind as it pushes against his feathers.

You want to have the tom have to peer about to see the birds. The decoy spot wants to be fairly open, but not so much so that the old gobbler has a real open look. Put a decoy next to a tree or bush, another in a dip, etc. Make it so he has to move a bit to see them all. For example, if you are setting up on an old logging road with a stone wall for a hideout, set a few birds along the edge of the road, one up on a bank and another in the middle. Make it look like these birds are just meandering up the road like a wild flock would do.

Most of the new decoys you can buy now have the ability to have a little movement. Buckwing, Carry Lite, Outland Sports and Sceery Outdoors all offer collapsible and light weight decoys that permit a bit of movement for realism. I know one fellow who runs a fishing line out to the decoy that he places in the middle of his set up. If the big tom hangs up outside the shooting zone, he just yanks the line a bit to give the most visible decoy a little movement.

Remember about calling. Please do not overcall. Once the big tom hears you, he will locate you without a reminder. In fact, you can only mess things up by calling a lot. If he stands off a bit, let him. He will often strut back and forth, trying to decide what to do. He will see the decoys and will be curious. I know I am repeating myself here, but this is really important. Listen ans silent have the same letters. So listen, watch, stay still and let the set up work for you.

Remember that other hunters might see your decoys and think they are real birds. And, if you are really well hidden they may know you are there. So, be very alert and call out sharply if you see others that may not see you.

Be safe out there!