By Justin Davis
When people think of turkey hunting, decoy placement seems to get over shadowed by calling, scouting and roosting. All of these are very important parts of turkey hunting success. The methods and understanding of the placement of your decoys contribute just as much to a successful hunt as every other part of the equation.
Picking A Spot
Place decoys in an open area, like an agricultural field, power line corridor, or clearing in the woods. Decoys need to be visible to approaching turkeys. The decoys are visual tools used to give wary birds something to focus on as they approach. Sometimes the appearance of other birds in the field will give old toms just enough confidence to close the distance to your set up.
Distance To The Decoys
When it comes to placing decoys, distance is the most important part of your setup. Placing decoys too far away or too close can have adverse effects on the success of your hunt. Place decoys no further than 25 yards from your hiding spot. If the decoys are too far, the tom you pursue could hang up out of range. By sticking with the 25 yard rule, if the bird stops 15 yards from the decoys, he will still be within ethical kill range. Remember this rule changes for bow hunters and younger hunters. Decoys should be moved closer to reflect the shooting ability of the hunter and the equipment they use.
Decoy arrangement may be seen as just random placement of decoys in the field, but there is some method to the madness. There are three basic arrangements for decoys and understanding them may give you an upper hand in the spring woods.
Walking: This arrangement involves positioning decoys in a row, like they are walking or filing off a field. When using this method place turkeys in a row facing all in the same direction, hens in the front and male decoys trailing behind. When placing decoys in this arrangement make sure that decoys appear to be leaving a field, this gives toms a sense of urgency to catch up before the hens disappear. This arrangement works well in areas that turkeys migrate through from roosting to feeding areas.
Feeding: This setup is a random pattern that most hunters use. The feeding pattern usually has birds in the feeding position, with their heads down as if they are picking seeds off the ground. When placing birds in a feeding arrangement, remember if you are using a male decoy, have it facing you and place it behind the hens in your set up. You want that bird to come in and face your male decoy giving you opportunity to get ready for your shot.
Mating: This arrangement is exactly what it sounds like. Position your decoys to simulate birds getting ready to mate. This arrangement is set up with a hen placed directly on the ground, with a tom or jake standing behind her. This decoy setup shows that the hen has become submissive and ready to breed. It will often elicit a fight or flight reaction, either birds will run in looking for a fight or will run away. Young birds will often steer clear of dominant toms, where a dominate bird will run in to fight for the submissive hen.
When hunting remember there is no magical setup that will produce birds every time in the woods, a hunter needs to adapt and learn from their days in the field. If a setup doesn’t seem to work for you the first day, change things up a little and try a different arrangement or decoy grouping. Your ability to adapt to the situation will help to ensure your success and knowledge of the game you pursue.
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