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Is it Ethical: Crawling With a Strutting Gobbler Decoy?

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April 23, 2012
Is it Ethical: Crawling With a Strutting Gobbler Decoy? - 15

I can’t stop watching the first 33 seconds of this video. I dare you to view it only once. Watch a guy close the distance on a strutting longbeard by moving a full-fan gobbler decoy in front of him. What happens next might be the coolest, strangest and maybe unexpected filmed turkey sequence you’ve ever seen:

Crawling with a full turkey tail fan or strutter decoy moved in front of you is trending for sure. Why does it work? Real gobblers often challenge what seems to be another gobbler moving into their territory. For the record there’s historical evidence Native Americans used the tail fan tactic too.

This crawling/decoying tactic has been fuel for modern turkey camp debates. Some hunters use full fans taken from a previous gobbler kill spread in front of them. Others employ a realistic decoy like this video guy and push it along to get in range. Some say this is cheating and flat-out dangerous (especially on public land), while others belly-crawl without a fan or decoy using terrain to “reposition” and close the distance on turkeys.

Rewind to last week. I’m just back from the first leg of my Oklahoma and Nebraska spring turkey tour, killing four longbeards (two in each state). Calling the gobblers into range was a major feature in both camps. Speaking a turkey’s language to fool one into range is surely satisfying and always has been. Then again like you, I’m interested in turkey hunting tactics others use too.

On the way home, I struck up a conversation at the airport with some other traveling turkey hunters. They’d used the turkey tail fan trick in a different camp than mine, crawling on Nebraska gobblers they spotted at a distance, and killing them once in range. “We got as close as 20 yards on some of the gobblers moving with a turkey tail fan in front of us,” one said with pride and a little awe at what they’d done.

Is this a tactic you’ve used to get close enough to shoot a gobbler? Is it unsafe since full-bodied gobbler decoys look pretty realistic these days? Is it unethical turkey hunting?

Regular Strut Zoner “charlie elk” who’d also seen this video wondered in an email whether this was shot with backyard birds. Would the turkeys you chase smell a rat with this sort of move where you hunt?

Comments (15)

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from res1956 wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

"The Old Pro Turkey Hunter", hilarious read. I gave my copy to a friend who came down to hunt with me from Arkansas and never got it back.
How about the old guy who would walk backward up a sandy trail to make the turkeys think he had left, or the fellow who shot numerous times at a turkey's head, only to find out that it was a mosquito on his eyeglasses, good stuff.
Sad thing is, after 40 some odd springs in the turkey woods, I can relate to most of them,,,

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ChancyWalters wrote 2 years 11 weeks ago

I hope everyone loves my man vs turkey video & my style of hunting turkeys i developed a few years ago! Im telling you it is a rush when them ole gobblers come in & wanna fight! Gotta love it! I do love calling turkeys in but i wanted to fire the turkey hunting world up with my new style! Its out of the box! Thats what i wanted... somthing new & unlike anything else that people have ever seen before. This style of turkey hunting is fun but u have to be very smart and SAFE while doing it to. You have to be in the OPEN & where NO OTHER HUNTERS ARE and NOT ON PUBLIC GROUND. I do not recomend it! Myself Chancy Walters and the rest of my turkey reaper crew have tons more awesome & over the top footage coming soon to the outdoor tv world!Hope everyone loves it. Also check out My Turkey Reapers and my good friend Jeremy McCartys Chasin The Rut
on youtube. Editing by Kvin Rynolds Clutch productions. Be Safe!! & hunt hard!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from willyfresh wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I was talking to my dad just this morning about "more than one way to skin at cat." Whatever gets the job done, I say. I've crawled up on a tom with just a tail fan on a stick. My dad and I have imitated a cow to get closer to some holed up toms. Do what'cha gotta do man.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sven_Katur wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I wonder if those describing this tactic as "cheating" or "unethical" have ever hunted with commercially made decoys, scent, calls or bait?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

One fact not stated...the indians were meat hunters and were not known for killing for sport. They used every advantage that they could. Most people would not crawl through a field for fear of ticks, chiggers and/or snakes.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ishi wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Other than being extremely dangerous, I see nothing unethical about it. I own all sorts of decoys which do all sorts of things, and as mentioned, decoys have been around for hundreds of years.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sorry about the second post, my computer got messed up!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Ethical? Absolutely! Safe? Not so sure!
I don't see how you could have any problem with the ethics of this, it's really not that different from using a screen a brush, rocks, etc. to stalk a turkey, is it? As far as the safety goes, maybe on private land with tightly restricted access, but even then I'd be nervous.
Not to get off-subject here, but did anyone else notice that the shot at that nice buck at about the 49 second mark in that video was absolutely brutal?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Good stuff. If you ever happen on a copy of Gene Nunnery's book "The Old Pro Turkey Hunter" (copyright 1980) he includes an account of a town doctor dressing up in a cow costume to sneak on turkeys. What goes around comes around, eh.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Ethical? Absolutely! Safe? Not so sure!
I don't see how you could have any problem with the ethics of this, it's really not that different from using a screen a brush, rocks, etc. to stalk a turkey, is it? As far as the safety goes, maybe on private land with tightly restricted access, but even then I'd be nervous.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I have a Montana strutting decoy that I've tried hiding behind before, but hunting mostly public land I don't just pull it out of my pack on any occasion. The time or two I've used it I think it was too late and the turkey already saw something it didn't like, or maybe they were intimidated by it, but I haven't had any turkeys charge it.
I think those cow decoys could have turkey uses as well, one of the areas I hunt frequently has cows grazing there in the spring and fall. It can be really hard to sneak around because a lot of the area is open, I've thought many a time about buying the cow and trying it on the turkeys.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Those suburban living turkeys who attack unsuspecting city folk then accidentally fly out into hunting land could be in big trouble. But then an old lady with a shopping bag costume might be a better decoy option.
Must say I am intrigued with this decoy option sure looks like it is an exciting way to hunt. Like JM points out it is on par with a moving blind on steroids.
Doing it in a limited visibility area like a woodland might be a safety problem but out in the open where rifles are not allowed should pose no safety issues.
If a decoy hunter like this got within shotgun range you would think another hunter would notice something a little strange? And when something is a little strange we all hold our fire; right? Like a guys rear-end swinging from side to side of the fan. ;)
later,
charlie

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

That's neat, but I feel like it violates not so much ethics as a lot off common sense guidelines that help keep one from getting shot by mistake in turkey season.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Good stuff, JM. Yep, that cutout cow also has a field waterfowl application too. Have seen marketed versions. Your blind analogy makes a lot of sense. Never thought of it that way, but you're right. Safety issues? Any thoughts?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from JM wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

--As far as ethics go, shooting a turkey with a 12 gauge at point blank range will mainly be an instant kill every time, so why not? Definetely a clever method; it's no different than hiding behind a blind in my opinion(if anything it is more challenging).
-The BFRO should try walking around with bigfoot cutouts =p..not like they could be any less creditable(Might as well make it interesting/amusing to get more viewers).
-You might not want to use a bear/cougar cut out or it may charge you like this turkey did - you wont be able to stand up and shoot it.
-I remember reading about how the indians figured out that they could hide behind their horses(or maybe they learned this skill from someone else) and get up close to animals, so this sounds like a modified application of this idea.
-I do not watch much hunting on TV, but I saw a show where they were hunting pronghorn in flat wide open territory and they hid behind a cut-out of a cow to get close to the pronghorn.

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from JM wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

--As far as ethics go, shooting a turkey with a 12 gauge at point blank range will mainly be an instant kill every time, so why not? Definetely a clever method; it's no different than hiding behind a blind in my opinion(if anything it is more challenging).
-The BFRO should try walking around with bigfoot cutouts =p..not like they could be any less creditable(Might as well make it interesting/amusing to get more viewers).
-You might not want to use a bear/cougar cut out or it may charge you like this turkey did - you wont be able to stand up and shoot it.
-I remember reading about how the indians figured out that they could hide behind their horses(or maybe they learned this skill from someone else) and get up close to animals, so this sounds like a modified application of this idea.
-I do not watch much hunting on TV, but I saw a show where they were hunting pronghorn in flat wide open territory and they hid behind a cut-out of a cow to get close to the pronghorn.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Those suburban living turkeys who attack unsuspecting city folk then accidentally fly out into hunting land could be in big trouble. But then an old lady with a shopping bag costume might be a better decoy option.
Must say I am intrigued with this decoy option sure looks like it is an exciting way to hunt. Like JM points out it is on par with a moving blind on steroids.
Doing it in a limited visibility area like a woodland might be a safety problem but out in the open where rifles are not allowed should pose no safety issues.
If a decoy hunter like this got within shotgun range you would think another hunter would notice something a little strange? And when something is a little strange we all hold our fire; right? Like a guys rear-end swinging from side to side of the fan. ;)
later,
charlie

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Good stuff, JM. Yep, that cutout cow also has a field waterfowl application too. Have seen marketed versions. Your blind analogy makes a lot of sense. Never thought of it that way, but you're right. Safety issues? Any thoughts?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

That's neat, but I feel like it violates not so much ethics as a lot off common sense guidelines that help keep one from getting shot by mistake in turkey season.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I have a Montana strutting decoy that I've tried hiding behind before, but hunting mostly public land I don't just pull it out of my pack on any occasion. The time or two I've used it I think it was too late and the turkey already saw something it didn't like, or maybe they were intimidated by it, but I haven't had any turkeys charge it.
I think those cow decoys could have turkey uses as well, one of the areas I hunt frequently has cows grazing there in the spring and fall. It can be really hard to sneak around because a lot of the area is open, I've thought many a time about buying the cow and trying it on the turkeys.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Ethical? Absolutely! Safe? Not so sure!
I don't see how you could have any problem with the ethics of this, it's really not that different from using a screen a brush, rocks, etc. to stalk a turkey, is it? As far as the safety goes, maybe on private land with tightly restricted access, but even then I'd be nervous.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steve Hickoff wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Good stuff. If you ever happen on a copy of Gene Nunnery's book "The Old Pro Turkey Hunter" (copyright 1980) he includes an account of a town doctor dressing up in a cow costume to sneak on turkeys. What goes around comes around, eh.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Ethical? Absolutely! Safe? Not so sure!
I don't see how you could have any problem with the ethics of this, it's really not that different from using a screen a brush, rocks, etc. to stalk a turkey, is it? As far as the safety goes, maybe on private land with tightly restricted access, but even then I'd be nervous.
Not to get off-subject here, but did anyone else notice that the shot at that nice buck at about the 49 second mark in that video was absolutely brutal?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Sorry about the second post, my computer got messed up!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ishi wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

Other than being extremely dangerous, I see nothing unethical about it. I own all sorts of decoys which do all sorts of things, and as mentioned, decoys have been around for hundreds of years.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sven_Katur wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I wonder if those describing this tactic as "cheating" or "unethical" have ever hunted with commercially made decoys, scent, calls or bait?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

One fact not stated...the indians were meat hunters and were not known for killing for sport. They used every advantage that they could. Most people would not crawl through a field for fear of ticks, chiggers and/or snakes.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from willyfresh wrote 2 years 12 weeks ago

I was talking to my dad just this morning about "more than one way to skin at cat." Whatever gets the job done, I say. I've crawled up on a tom with just a tail fan on a stick. My dad and I have imitated a cow to get closer to some holed up toms. Do what'cha gotta do man.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ChancyWalters wrote 2 years 11 weeks ago

I hope everyone loves my man vs turkey video & my style of hunting turkeys i developed a few years ago! Im telling you it is a rush when them ole gobblers come in & wanna fight! Gotta love it! I do love calling turkeys in but i wanted to fire the turkey hunting world up with my new style! Its out of the box! Thats what i wanted... somthing new & unlike anything else that people have ever seen before. This style of turkey hunting is fun but u have to be very smart and SAFE while doing it to. You have to be in the OPEN & where NO OTHER HUNTERS ARE and NOT ON PUBLIC GROUND. I do not recomend it! Myself Chancy Walters and the rest of my turkey reaper crew have tons more awesome & over the top footage coming soon to the outdoor tv world!Hope everyone loves it. Also check out My Turkey Reapers and my good friend Jeremy McCartys Chasin The Rut
on youtube. Editing by Kvin Rynolds Clutch productions. Be Safe!! & hunt hard!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from res1956 wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

"The Old Pro Turkey Hunter", hilarious read. I gave my copy to a friend who came down to hunt with me from Arkansas and never got it back.
How about the old guy who would walk backward up a sandy trail to make the turkeys think he had left, or the fellow who shot numerous times at a turkey's head, only to find out that it was a mosquito on his eyeglasses, good stuff.
Sad thing is, after 40 some odd springs in the turkey woods, I can relate to most of them,,,

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