What would spring be without gobbles rolling from ridgetops at daylight? Well, about as much fun as a turkey hunt without a solid stable of fakes.
Today’s turkey decoys are far more realistic, durable, and, yes, costly than those of seasons past. We found some great bargains, as well as some premium, über-realistic decoys that, while a significant investment, can add a new level of excitement to your encounters with longbeards this spring.
We put 14 decoys—including hens, jakes, and strutters—through a gauntlet of tests to help you figure out which to add to your arsenal this spring.
How We Test
We invited decoy manufacturers to send us models of their choice in any or all of our categories: hen, jake, and strutter.
Weight was measured with a postal scale. Durability considered puncture resistance, general abrasion resistance, and finish. Realism was evaluated at distances of 25 and 75 yards. To test portability, each decoy was placed in a Tenzing turkey vest. Some decoys came with their own bag for transportation. In those instances, the bag was judged as an alternate method of toting the decoy. Ease of deployment was evaluated by timing each decoy’s setup time from vest (or storage bag) to hunt-ready position.
A standard floor fan and a gas-powered leaf blower were employed to analyze wind resistance. Each decoy was hit with bursts of air for 10 seconds at a distance of 5 and 10 yards, and monitored for movement.
Each stake system was evaluated on its quality of build, deployment speed, and potential for getting lost. To determine versatility, each decoy was considered for use in multiple hunting situations, including as a standard stationary decoy, for reaping and fanning, and in multi-decoy scenarios such as breeding poses. Value is a measure of cost versus features.
Dakota Decoy has done a marvelous job of replicating the snood-up display of a boisterous jake. It’s an attitude that antagonizes mature gobblers, which often come rushing in to swat the upstart youngster.
This premium decoy not only nails the jake posture, but it does so with some of the most realistic color schemes we’ve seen, right down to reproducing a jake’s rippling iridescence in the sunlight.
Some of the most aggressive responses to decoys I’ve witnessed in the woods have been when a semi-aggressive jake has been involved. A jake fake of this quality will be an outstanding tool and is well deserving of our Editor’s Choice honor.
The decoy proved highly durable in all tests and, thanks to its staking system, was virtually unaffected by wind.
While the decoy is a solid body, the included bag makes carrying it around a breeze. And, of course, it has Dakota’s superior stow-away stake system. It’s an all-around perfect replica.
With a superior staking system, outstanding realism, and exceptional durability, the LCD earned Great Buy status even though it isn’t cheap. If we could own only a single decoy that would have to last for years, this would be our pick.
The Breeder Hen looked terrific from all distances and angles, and the legs, while a touch goofy, actually did enhance its overall realism. Deployment does require a bit of huffing and puffing into an air valve, but the decoy is easy to transport when deflated. In most situations, the decoy doesn’t need to be fully deflated, and the included carrying bag greatly aids in portability (and adds to the decoy’s overall value).
In our wind test, the LCD was buffeted around slightly by the leaf blower, but it was completely unaffected by the lower air speeds of the oscillating fan.
The decoy’s durability was outstanding, showing no ill effects from testing abuse.
Purposely built to be 15 percent smaller than a live gobbler, the LCD Strutter earned solid marks for portability, particularly when deflated. Inflation time did impact ease-of-deployment scores, but if you’ve toted around full-strut decoys before, you’ll likely agree that it’s better to sacrifice a few seconds of setup time for improved portability.
Realism is excellent, particularly when pairing the decoy body with a real tail fan—something that’s easy to do. The decoy proved durable and wind-resistant.
The included bag adds to the value of this excellent decoy, but it represents a significant investment.
There is enough room in the bag to include a single hen decoy as well.
This strutter is a good choice for reaping, too, if you prefer a full-body decoy for that tactic. Its slightly reduced size makes it easier to maneuver than other full-body options.
Use orange. Before we even begin to dive into the merits of this new full-strut option from Dave Smith Decoys, we need to deliver those words of warning. From a distance of 75 or 25 yards, our test team deemed this strutter to be incredibly realistic. Using your own real tail fan, real wings, and real beard, the decoy is halfway to a full taxidermist mount. Deploying this decoy where others hunt should be done with extreme caution.
The details and sculpting on this strutter are top-notch. The back is flocked for a soft, real-feather appearance. The head posture and coloration are absolutely spot-on.
It is heavy, weighing about 10 pounds, and it’s big and bulky. But when you set it up in a field and the sun starts to rise…that’s as real as it gets.
The heavy-duty stake system is outstanding. Wind resistance was above average compared to others tested, and overall durability of the molded body was very good.
The Purr-Fect Jake uses the same spring-action 3-D body as the Purr-Fect hen. Overall realism is good, though it’s not on the level of a rigid, full-body decoy. But it does offer a huge advantage for mobile hunters: It’s crazy light and takes up almost no space in your vest.
The fabric body is printed with a photo-realistic image of a live jake, and the feather cuts enhance the long-range appearance. From a distance of 75 yards, it looks pretty darned good. But, yes, realism does suffer a bit up close.
Durability is somewhat of an issue. It’s made from fabric, thus it’s more likely to be damaged by briars, sticks, and other pokey objects. But unlike collapsible or inflatable decoys, a small puncture or tear won’t greatly impact the decoy’s use.
Not surprisingly, the decoy was not highly resistant to wind. But the stake system does use a strap to keep the decoy from lifting or spinning in circles in high winds.
Created from molds carved by wildlife artist Dave Constantine, the decoy looks like a live bird. It proved nearly bulletproof in durability testing. Slip the stake into the decoy body for easy, secure transport, and all but eliminate the possibility of loss. Pull it out, insert it into the hole on the deke’s body, and secure the built-in bungee cord. The system prevents stake loss and greatly reduces unwanted movement in the wind.
If there is a main point of focus on a turkey decoy, it’s the head. Every member of our test team had the same comment regarding this option from Bass Pro Shops: The head seems a bit off. Looking past the noggin, however, you find a decoy that’s acceptably realistic, sized right, and durable. Portability, however, was on the lower end of the spectrum. The decoy does have what appears to be an inflation valve, but deflating the decoy was difficult, and most testers said they’d simply keep the deke inflated and carry it in a separate bag. That’s not an altogether bad solution, as most of the full-body decoys in this test will require similar treatment, but it is a consideration if you are a run-and-gun type of hunter. The decoy’s durability was good, though it did suffer some finish damage while testing.
This decoy is one of the better buys in the test field and is a solid option if you’re looking for acceptable levels of realism without jumping to the premium-decoy price range.
A basic, no-frills hen decoy, the Thunder Chick offers solid realism, a handy stake system, and a welcome price tag.
The rotomolded decoy slips into a turkey vest and does collapse a bit for additional portability. It also proved to be quite durable in testing, showing only a few minor instances of finish damage from sharp briars.
The carbon stake system, a staple on the full line of Flextone decoys, is easy to use and should minimize lost stakes by keeping them tucked inside the decoy.
We were impressed by the decoy’s appearance.
Dave Smith Decoys makes some of the coolest, most realistic dekes available. Its new Mating Motion Jake continues that tradition and adds a new dimension: motion.
The decoy, while it can be used on its own, is designed to be paired with a breeding hen. A simple but effective system uses a pull cord attached to a flexible stake to simulate breeding. While motion decoys aren’t legal in all states, the lack of any motor or electronics should minimize issues of legality, and, frankly, the simplicity of the system is welcome.
Realism, as expected, is outstanding. The decoy is the right size, the coloration is spot-on, and the level of detail is admirable. The decoys proved durable as well, with no finish damage after being dragged through briars and no ill effects from blunt force trauma.
The decoy isn’t small. You could stuff it in a turkey vest, but it would create a bulky hump. The included carry bag is a better option.
Looking for a value-priced jake that offers decent realism? This one is worth a once-over. The Thunder Jake isn’t the most realistic decoy in the test, but it’s not that far off the top either. Our testers did notice an unnatural sheen to the finish in direct sunlight, but it does have an impressive level of detail and its 25-yard realism was very good given the decoy’s low price tag.
This is clearly a price-point decoy designed to appeal to hunters looking for a basic jake design, and it fits that mold very nicely.
There’s nothing wrong with the deke—it simply doesn’t have the ultra-realism of others in the test. But it also doesn’t have the high price tag of those decoys.
The carbon stake system is definitely cool. It can be quickly inserted into the decoy’s body for storage and deploys fast for quick setups. This eliminates the common, and highly annoying, issue of lost stakes.
Old school. That was the consensus when we were evaluating the Gobbstopper Jake. It’s not as phony looking as the old collapsible foam decoys of yore, but it’s not in the same class of realism as most decoys in our test. The upside? It’s not in the same price category, either. This jake decoy is the least expensive here. The realism at 25 yards leaves plenty to be desired, but it does improve at 75 yards. Unless you’re hunting in areas with ultra-wary birds, this should fool excited gobblers just fine.
The decoy is lightweight, but its hard plastic shell and hollow half-body design proved noisy and slightly awkward when we tried to stash it in a turkey vest. That design also hampered its wind resistance, but the stake system includes a wing nut that can tighten the decoy to the stake, which did greatly reduce wind movement but slows down deployment.
This is a solid bargain and should prove to be a serviceable option in the woods.
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The B-Mobile was one of the first full-strut decoys to hit the market, and it remains a favorite. The B-Mobile can’t stand beak-to-beak with the likes of the Avian-X and Dave Smith models when it comes to artisan-level realism. But at 75 yards, it looks plenty good and was serviceably realistic at closer ranges as well. And, not insignificantly, it’s half the price of those premium models.
The decoy’s hollow-body construction cuts weight but does make the decoy a bit noisy during transport and while setting up. The deke was susceptible to movement in the wind, but a wing nut on the top of the stake can be tightened to greatly reduce that annoyance.
When paired with a real tail fan, the B-Mobile represents a great value decoy that looks good enough to fool all but the wariest of longbeards.
The B-Mobile is also versatile. Its light weight (about 4 pounds), quick setup, and hollow design lends well to reaping and fanning situations.
Its innovative collapsible design and extreme light weight earned Montana Decoy’s Miss Purr-Fect high marks for portability and ease of deployment. Pull these decoys out of your vest and they spring into shape in a flash. That extreme portability, however, comes at the expense of overall durability. The decoys didn’t fare well in our puncture and briar-patch tests, but they crushed it in the weight category, as they were easily the lightest decoys tested, weighing just over a pound with the stake.
The photo-realistic printing on the fabric body, and the “feather cuts” that provide subtle movement in the wind, give the decoy a soft, accurate look from any distance. At 75 yards, the Miss Purr-Fect competed with the prettiest models in the test. At 25 yards, the decoy was a bit less realistic looking.
In wind-resistance, the Miss Purr-Fect was less than ideal. The fan moved the decoy a fair bit, while the leaf blower impacts were significant.
This Bass Pro Shops jake decoy is sold as part of a set with the hen. Like its companion hen, the jake features an inflatable design with good realism, save for a peculiarly shaped head. The upside is that the head does have the right coloration. Those vivid blues, reds, and whites are key to inciting a feathered riot. The decoy uses a standard, two-piece stake that’s certainly functional, if not as innovative as others in the test.
These aren’t the easiest decoys to transport; they don’t readily deflate, so it’s easier to keep them inflated, which makes them a bit bulky.
The material used is thick and the deke performed admirably in the area of durability, with no measurable damage. In wind tests, the decoys displayed only minimal movement in high winds.
The J-Bird (and Brood Hen, for that matter) sits right in that spot between high-grade fakes and a good-enough bargain.