© By Othmar Vohringer
While there is no doubt in my mind that turkey decoys can enhance your hunting success, there are undeniably situations when decoys have been a detriment to success.
I have heard many stories of hunters whose success has been spoiled by using turkey decoys. I even could share some personal experiences I had over the years when decoys have worked against me. The stories reach from hunters that have had their decoys mistaken by others for the real thing to the incidents of turkeys that were scared by decoys. Other stories I heard, and personally experienced, were of toms that hang up well out of shotgun reach the moment they can see a turkey decoy.
Lets look at a few scenarios I addressed above and see how we can avoid a negative response to decoys. Lets start with hunters stalking decoys because this is the most serious and dangerous aspect of decoy usage.
As I have often said, using turkey decoys on public land isn’t a very safe thing to do. If at all possible avoid using decoys on public or private lands were chances are that other hunters could be preset. The most common turkey hunting accidents are the ones were hunters getting shot at because they have been mistaken as turkeys or the hunter shot at the decoys.
If you feel strongly that you cannot do without decoys on public land then at least go the extra length and mark the decoys clearly visible with blaze orange tape or flags to make it plainly visible to approaching hunters. I have yet to see that blaze orange ribbons or flags spooks a turkey away from the decoys. And if it did, so what. I rather return home without a tom in the bag then not at all or after a stopover at the hospital.
There are times when turkeys get scared by decoys and this is often the case in strong wind. I had ones a tom spooking so badly that he fell over himself as he run away. Just in that moment when the tom came into shooting range the wind picked up and the decoy started to spin on its stand. This unexpected erratic behavior in turn scared the pants off the tom.
Most decoys come with mounting devises that prevent them from spinning in the wind but if you still own decoys that are mounted with a single rod you will have to anchor them. Anchoring a decoy is not difficult. Usually sticking a twig of some sort or and old arrow to either side of the decoy will be sufficient to pervert the decoy from spinning.
What can we do about the tom that hangs up out of shooting range when he sees our decoys? A very common problem is that hunters stake out decoys where they can be seen for a long way in the hope that a tom seeing the decoys from far away will come running. But that is not so. A tom seldom will come to a hen. Gobblers are male chauvinists. A tom will only go as far until he can see the hen and then stop. He expects the hen to come to him.
It is a much better strategy to set up the decoys in such a way that the gobbler can’t see the decoys until he is in shooting range. By using the features of the terrain this is seldom difficult to achieve. A gobbler that comes to calling fully expects to see a hen as I described in Show him what he want to see – or hide. The same tactics can be applied to decoys. As I said, a tom expects to see something when he comes to calling, preferably a turkey hen. Placing a decoy will give him that confidence to stick around for a minute or two before he gets suspicious.
Turkey decoys can be a great asset to your hunting success, but they have to be used wisely and with caution otherwise the decoys will be a detriment to your success. As with everything else in hunting, using decoys is not a strategy in itself, it is only a small part of a well planed and thought out strategy that will lead to success provided everything is done right.
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