Turkey Decoy Buyer's Guide
By: Sean Sutherland
Whether the tom you're after has a rumble or romance on his mind, turkey decoys seal the deal.
Turkeys are killed every year by calling alone, but the most effective way of hunting turkeys, in most situations, involves using decoys.
When a tom comes in to a call, even in tight cover, he's looking for a hen. If he doesn't find one, there is a good chance he'll hang up outside of shotgun or bow range. Plus, decoys grab a tom's attention as he struts, inspects or attacks, letting the hunter make an undetected final move into shooting position.
A hen/jake combo is one of the most effective ways to get a dominant tom fired up and running in. The sight of a young-of-the-year male (jake) tending one of the tom's ladies will often incite a swift, violent response. Jake decoys also are not as threatening to subordinate toms and jakes, making them a smart option for hunters wanting a turkey dinner as much as a trophy turkey.
Gobbler decoys mimic mature birds in full- and half-strut positions, challenging the dominant toms to a spurs-out, drag-down duel. While these decoys bring mature, aggressive birds running, they may intimidate subordinate toms and jakes.
An all-hen setup lures in toms too, and is the safest option when hunting public land. A relaxed flock of hens pulls gobblers most effectively when hens leave the harem to nest. Jakes and subordinate toms often come running to a hen-decoy flock, especially when the dominant birds are preoccupied with their own flocks.
Motion decoys can be a deadly effective option, too. Decoys with bobbing heads and motion stakes sometimes give a wary tom confidence to cross those last few yards.
Decoys generally come in three styles: collapsible, inflatable and solid.
Collapsible decoys are the most popular, as they stuff conveniently in a vest or pack. They can be extremely realistic in form and texture. It's important to avoid keeping them folded or packed tightly during long-term storage, as they could become creased and difficult to reshape. If this happens, most can be reformed and unwrinkled with a hair dryer or other flameless heat source.
Lightweight, space-efficient inflatable decoys fit compactly in a vest or pack. They do require a bit more time than other decoy styles to set up, as the hunter needs to muster a bit of "hot air" for their deployment. This is easier for some more than others.
Solid decoys are durable and extremely realistic, but they can be a burden to transport due to their bulk. They set up instantly, though, and are a favorite of hunters who don't need to cover large amounts of ground chasing turkeys.
For safety's sake, all decoys, especially jake and gobbler decoys, should be carried in a hunter-orange bag or tucked out-of-sight in a vest or pack during transport in the field.
Turkey decoys are proven-effective tools for luring gobblers into shotgun and bow range.