canada africa partner reservation Is it worth targeting turkeys with decoys?

Is it worth targeting turkeys with decoys?


A guide collects decoys after no turkeys responded to his calls. Michael Pearce/Wichita Eagle/MCT

The topic of turkey decoys often raises questions such as when, where, how, and even if you should use them.

They are bulky, add weight and take up space in your vest. Furthermore, they can sometimes have the opposite effect of what is intended: deterring birds instead of attracting them. There are times when decoys do what they were designed to do, and results can be improved if deployed properly.

The simplest spread is a single chicken used as a trust bait. The hunter calls and when he is in the right mood, a tom comes to investigate. Turkeys are not wise, but they are wary, and if the bird doesn’t see what it hears, it may not come closer. This is especially true when hunting in open areas such as fields, where turkeys can see further. In the forest, it’s better to leave the decoy behind and let the real animal find you.

Sometimes a pair of decoys – male and female – can be more effective. Spring is mating season, and while the male’s drive to reproduce is strong, the instinct to drive away potential rivals can be stronger, and a male decoy poses a challenge. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The pecking order among males is usually sorted by hunting season. A dominant bird will be more likely to approach a pair of decoys if it is not in the company of chickens. A subordinate male may be more reserved, unless your male decoy is a Jake. Even the most timid tomcat cannot pass up the opportunity to hit a young animal.

Positioning is also important, and this applies to most multiple decoy situations. Nine times out of ten, a tom will approach the male decoy first. He wants to drive away his rival before he goes to the hen. Place the Jake decoy closer and in a position that provides a clear, open shot. It’s also a good idea to place the decoy off to the side rather than directly in front of you so that an approaching bird isn’t also looking directly at you.

If you decide to add more decoys, add chickens. That simulates a more natural scenario in which a male has collected a harem of chickens. It can also be more attractive to a rival who wants to cut a stray from the group. Three is the usual number, but you can add more if circumstances require.

This may be the case if you are hunting a larger herd. They are conditioned for the group and safety in numbers. Even subordinate males can follow the group from a distance. However, they may see another, smaller group as another opportunity to find a partner without challenging the boss.

Above are some basic principles. There are many more intricacies to deceive the stakes, such as whether and when to use an adult male, and whether it should be relaxed or at full strength. You may also wonder how realistic they should be. I’ve seen toms approach some pretty pathetic looking decoys and flee from ones that were works of art.

I used a lot of hedging words, like maybe and sometimes, because you can never predict what a turkey will do. It’s a gamble, and if you play your cards – or in this case your decoys – right, you can hit the jackpot or go home with empty pockets.

Fortunately, you can keep playing. Old Tom can only lose once.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide living in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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