As the starlit sky began to retreat, smiles covered our faces. The woods came alive with gobbles from seemingly every tree around us. Those gobbles were answered by more from the other side of the ridge. My hunting partner put these birds to bed the night before and was sure of their roosting location. Sunlight began to peek over the horizon and suddenly turkeys began to fall from the treetops. We were sitting in mature hardwoods along the edge of a young corn field. As birds continued to dump out of the hickories we began to realize just how many turkeys we were hearing. Toms, jakes, and hens from the other side of the ridge hustled into the field as well. It wasn’t long and over 50 turkeys congregated before us. This was an impressive show indeed.
We watched the dominant gobblers do their best to impress the girls but they had no interest in visiting the foam hen standing innocently within 20 yards of our location. A handful of whitetail deer passed by and had a sniff of our faux hen but we were waiting for long beards and despite our calling, the gobblers wandered off as soon as the real hens headed for their nests. Our lady didn’t have a clutch of eggs to take care of, but her morally casual attitude couldn’t entice these fellas.
Moments like these leave most hunters scratching their heads. We scouted well. Our bodies, hands, and faces were concealed. Our decoys were in an open, viewable area. We even had the sun at our backs. What went wrong? Trying to figure out what was wrong and how to correct mistakes is what separates the guy who says he hunts from the true hunter. After repeating the morning’s events in our heads a few minor errors became evident. These tips illustrate our decoy mistakes and everyone can learn from them.
Know The Land You Are Hunting
Always study aerial maps of the area you plan to hunt. Sites like Google Earth make obtaining satellite photos of your hunting area easy and free. You can literally scout hunting sites from your desk. On this morning, we were set up on the edge of a slight crease in the field. It was probably dredged out for soil drainage and was so slight it couldn’t be seen in the dark. Our turkeys had no interest in crossing the crease in the field to visit our decoys. Looking back at the satellite photos this obstacle was still tough to see but after we knew it was there it became obvious.
Stagger Your Set Up
We set our decoys in what appeared to be a superb location. Fifteen yards into the field from the edge of the trees. Every turkey in the township could see them. The problem was they were probably looking at us as well. As gobblers eyeballed our decoys we were right in the sight lines. No matter how still you are if they are looking right at you, it’s going to be tough to fool a big gobbler. He didn‘t get big by falling for this kind of tomfoolery. Try to set up to the right or left of the expected approach path. Using a blind or constructing one of natural brush will help too. If hunting in hill country, set the decoys at the bottom of the ridge and wait from an elevated perch. Sometimes turkeys come from unexpected places so this concept is never fail-safe.
Focus On Placement
Placing turkey decoys isn’t rocket science but subtle adjustments can pay off. Often times unsuccessful turkey hunters will say things like, “they were all henned up.” Getting gobblers to walk away from their favorite girl is tricky business but it can be done. By late morning hens are nesting and toms start looking for love. In my opinion, this is truly prime time turkey hunting. Place a hen decoy close to the ground with a jake decoy right behind her as if he’s about to let nature control his actions. This sight triggers the competitive spirit in dominant gobblers.
We see situations play out like this at local taverns every weekend. Boy meets girl. Boy talks to girl. Girl’s boyfriend sees boy talking to his girl. Boyfriend starts fight with boy to prove to everyone girl belongs to him. Well, as the hunter you get to play bouncer. Have fun out there.
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