Choosing and setting up turkey decoys is an ever-changing art form. Long gone are the days of staking out a plain Jane hen deke in any old field corner and waiting for a tom to find you. Here’s our simple cheat sheet for your spring hunt.
Breeding Stage Clues
Turkey hunters complain incessantly about the state of their gobblers. The season always seems to be too early or too late. Toms that gobble hard on the roost and moderately during the course of the morning are in the gathering and breeding stage that is indicative of the early season. If toms are fighting, it means that the pecking order among the birds is still being established.
Decoy to Use
If the clash for dominance is still on, use a jake decoy with one or two hens. A jake decoy–in half-strut or straight up–should help elicit a territorial response. Otherwise, a lone hen or group of hens works best.
How & Where to Set Up
High-visibility field edges or open oak flats are perfect places for this ruse. Remember, too, that longbeards can sometimes hang up out of range if they can spot your decoy from too far away. If you’re using a jake in your set, stake it 20 to 25 yards away and at a 45-degree angle from your body–slightly off to your left if you’re a right-handed shooter.
How to Call ‘Em In
Call sparingly and let the decoys do the work for you. Try to yank the bird in close enough to see your decoy, then quit and wait for the tom to make his move.
Gobblers can be confounding. No one knows exactly why a spring gobbler does what he does, and that goes double when you’re decoying. Hit the wrong bird on the wrong day, and even the King Kong of your turkey woods will turn fan and run at the first peek at a strutting jake. Don’t let it dissuade you. Try him on another day.