Turkey hunting is challenging to put it kindly, but more addictive than any other drug nature has ever produced. One of the most important factors to successfully hunting a turkey is to get the turkey in range for a shot of course. Nothing does that better than the right decoy set up.
Logistics, money or preference can result in your decision to run a lone decoy. If that is your choice, make sure it has the right body language. A lone turkey should have a relaxed pose. This will put approaching toms more at ease.
However, when there are two or three turkeys in your flock you need a mix of body language. This is a good time to take a play from the goose hunter’s playbook. You want to mix up the body language and have one decoy in an alert stance while the others feed.
Opinions can vary but generally speaking, turkey hunters don’t usually use too many decoys. Some prefer a lone hen or may opt for a tom and a hen. Others don’t want to intimidate a tom and opt for a couple of hens with a jake (one-year old male). If you decide to go for the threesome, be sure to place the jake behind one of the hens so its looks like he is about to mate her.
When setting up, you want to make sure your decoys can be seen from a distance. Prime spots may include the edge of the woods or a logging road. I have been told it is a good idea to place the decoys at an angle and not directly in front of you, but have never really found that to be an advantage.
The sun can be important. You don’t want to set up with the sun directly in your eyes, but depending on the material, you don’t want the sun to reflect off the decoys either. Realism will be key to success and turkeys have incredible eyesight. If using a gobbler decoy, however, the opposite may be true. I have heard more than once from veteran turkey hunters about how gobbler decoys need sun to reflect off them like a mature tom would want to impress the ladies when strutting.
Your distance will be determined by your equipment and ability. Bowhunters will obviously need to be a bit closer than shotgunners. Shotgunners need to pattern their gun ahead of time and determine the effectiveness of the pattern to determine distance.
For bowhunting, I like to have my decoys between 10 and 20 yards. For shotguns, that range can be stretched an extra 10 to 15 yards depending on my load and the terrain.
Turkeys are anything but dumb. Ensure your decoys have a quality appearance that will fool a turkey’s sharp eyesight. Several different calls can be effective on a turkey, but remember not to get pinpointed. Once the turkeys have spotted your decoys, lay off the calls and let the decoys do the work. Inflatable decoys that shift slightly with the wind or from flexible motion stakes will help considerably.
Turkeys can get spooked or hang up at the slightest barrier. Try to set up in an area clear of fallen trees, steep hills or where the gobbler may have to cross a fence line. While I have seen turkeys go over or through all of these, they are more likely to hang up and wait for the hens to come to them.
Hopefully you will have roosted your birds the night before and the turkeys will fly down to you or you can locate you birds while in the roost and accomplish the same thing. If not, give your setup a couple of hours and then abandon the fields. The turkeys will be off feeding in wooded areas or small clearings.
If you locate the birds midday you may have to bust up the flock, drop a lone hen decoy and call your gobbler to her.
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