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To Decoy or Not


Hen Decoys are very effective

It seems there are two distinct schools of thought when it comes to killing turkeys. There are those who use decoys exclusively and those who don’t use them at all or if they do it is very sparingly. The choice isn’t as clear cut as many may think.

To the decoy-user, there is no good reason NOT to use the decoys. They work and work very well; which is exactly why some don’t use them. As one seasoned turkey hunter told me – “It just isn’t fair to use decoys.” He continued, “If you kill a turkey over decoys, all you have done is killed a turkey, you haven’t hunted the turkey. His statement implies that the use of decoys makes killing turkeys far too easy.

There is little doubt that every year a lot of turkeys are killed in front of decoys. They are extremely effective at luring and distracting otherwise wary Tom turkeys. But the question is, if I want to use decoys, what is the best method, or style of decoy to use?

To effectively decoy mature birds you need just two decoys, one will work but two is better. It starts with the hen decoy; a subtle hen decoy has on more than one occasion brought in a gobbler to the gun. But to really get his dander up, couple the hen with a Jake decoy or another gobbler decoy and his lust turns to rage when he sees a competitor for his love.

When I use a pair of decoys (which is seldom) I place the hen at twenty yards and the Jake just behind and beside the hen. The Jake will be about twenty five yards from me and about ten to fifteen feet from the hen. This combination seems to work well, especially if visibility is good and the target birds can see this set up from a long way. If I am in a more wooded setting, the hen alone seems to work well enough to get the attention of the gobbler.

Hunters who tend to move a lot don’t like to use decoys. I am one of those, especially when hunting public land. I may hear several gobblers cutting loose in the morning, and lugging a pair of decoys several miles isn’t something I enjoy. Even the light weight foam versions get bulky after several miles. I will opt instead to forgo the extra baggage and try my luck without the hen and jake.

If you have decided where you will set up prior to sunrise, by all means stake out a few decoys, it certainly cannot hurt. But it seems when I do this, more times than not, I have to get up and chase a bird and end up leaving the decoy behind.

So at the end of the day, there really is no clear answer. Decoys are very effective and for those who prefer to sit in blinds and decoy the birds to them, they work well. For those who prefer to chase gobblers all across creation, they are a bit more burden than benefit. It really comes down to preference and hunting style. But if in doubt, get a small light weight version of a hen, pack it along and when the mood strikes, set her out and see if she is worth toting along. There really is no bad choice.