Is it Ethical: Crawling With a Strutting Gobbler Decoy?

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?