Spring gobblers’ acute vision is legendary. That’s why the current craze in decoys—field-ready taxidermy mounts—trumps any store-bought foam decoy. Turkeys dig them. And they can tell the difference.
Ask Gabe Jerome. A guide at Turkey Trot Acres in New York, Jerome uses a mounted, full-strut jake combined with one or two taxidermy-quality hens to lure mature toms even without calls.
Regrettably, taxidermy-quality decoys cost nearly as much as a finished mount you’d display in your trophy room. Here are several options to save you cash, yet give you the astonishing results a feathered decoy can offer.
1. Drape Cape
If you like easy, simply plunk down a credit card at a major sporting goods store for a Turkey Skinz. This ready-to-use cured skin wraps around most foam decoys to give any faux bird the look of a shimmering, fully feathered hen or gobbler. Retail price is approximately $45.
2. Gee String
Because delicate skins don’t always hold up to the rigors of the turkey woods, check out MOJO’s Fan*Tom. This enticer employs feathers mounted to a stake that raises and lowers a convincing tom fan with the tug of a string.
3. Pin a Skin
If you have a streak of Bob Vila in you, then this next option might be more your style.
First, acquire a freshly killed turkey. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gobbler or a hen; just make sure it’s legal. Then, skin the turkey out. Cut along the underbelly, making a slit from the anus to where the feathers end just below the beak. Next comes the tricky part. Slowly and meticulously, begin separating the skin from the meat. You can attempt to keep the wings attached to the entire skin or remove them prior to skinning. If you remove the wings, you can pluck a few major wing feathers and attach them to the foam decoy when you drape it with your skin.
After caping the turkey and removing all fat and meat, stretch the hide out on a sturdy piece of cardboard using tacks or pins. While it’s still wet, sprinkle 20 Mule Team Borax liberally over the skin and let dry for a minimum of two weeks. You’re almost finished. Finally, take your favorite decoy and adhere your dry skin to the outside using an all-weather adhesive such as Gorilla Glue. If you removed the wings, glue a few wing feathers at appropriate locations. You’re now ready for the field. But if you want to become a puppeteer, incorporate a stake that allows the decoy to move realistically when you pull a string, and be ready to defend your creation—toms will literally try to climb aboard.