by Naomi K. Shapiro
As wild-turkey hunting becomes more and more popular (wild turkey populations are exploding), the turkeys are becoming smarter and smarter. Savvy hunters need to employ all attractants to get a big gobbler within shooting range—be it gun or bow. One critical component is the use of turkey decoys. What kind? How many? Here are some things that have worked for many successful hunters.
Many hunters opt for the simplest and lightest decoys available. That way they don't have to carry loads of weight through brush, timber, and big areas—and that's a real consideration. With all of the equipment a hunter has to carry, every extra pound becomes a burden—literally. We'll mention some specific brands, but that isn't an endorsement of any of them—just something that you can look-at while shopping for decoys. There are wide choices of manufacturers and brands within a particular style. So do some comparison shopping, and pick up the decoy that you like best. Experienced turkey hunters and the staff at the stores carrying these decoys will be able to help.
There's what is called Carry Lite decoys. They're made of real thin Styrofoam, which you can roll up and put in your pocket. Once in the woods you unroll them and set them up. This type of decoy is particularly useful when heading into deep timber, with limited carrying capacity. And they work.
There are many varieties of hard plastic decoys that closely resemble a turkey and imitate their look and expression very well. A personal favorite of guide Phil Schweik is called a B-Mobile. It's very realistic, looking like a classic strutting gobbler. It has a fully erected fan in the back. What some real serious and savvy turkey hunters do, however, is to replace the fan that comes with the decoy, and put on a REAL turkey fan which makes the B-Mobile look ever more realistic. Using this particular type of decoy has proven extremely successful. It seems that the Toms—be it a younger bird or an old wily gobbler—can't resist approaching the decoy. The presence of another big Tom in their breeding area and territory is of course unacceptable. These wild turkeys will peck, fight, attack the decoy—challenging it—and often jumping right on it. It's that "real" to them.
A relatively new type of decoy is called a Turkey Skin. They are actual turkey feathers that are made into a type of "wig" that fits over hard plastic turkey decoys, and make them look so realistic that even some hunters find it difficult to differentiate the decoy from the real thing. These particular decoys can be relatively expensive, but they work real well.
As for "numbers" of decoys to set out, Phil Schweik suggests to usually put out a Tom and two hens—maybe a couple of Jakes (younger birds); a Tom and a hen—the combination possibilities are endless. But you don't need a lot of them. You can also use decoys that have different types of mounting apparatuses. Some decoys are mounted on solid stakes, some have mobile bases that spin around or have head movement, or "feather flutters." Others decoys have adaptive strings that run back to your blind, whose movement and stance can be controlled by you as an even greater attractant, and bring a bird in. Turkey hunters have many different scenarios to work with, and try—some will work better than others depending on the variables present on the day you're hunting, and after a few hunts you'll be able to know which decoy and set up will work best for a particular situation.
Now—while not meaning to "rain on your parade," don't think that because you've got some truly "neat" decoys with all the bells and whistles, that that, in and of itself, is going insure that you'll get that 25-pounder you've been wanting to brag about at your neighborhood bar for the past ten years. "Ain't gonna happen!" What determines a successful hunt is the use of a proper combination of concealment, set up, weather considerations, hunting area, decoy use, weaponry, camo, and proper calling! They all work together. So, do your homework, make "friends" with, and listen to experienced hunters, go to a seminar, watch some videos, read our own and other previously-written articles which are on this excellent website on proper calling, blind set up, weaponry, weather, equipment, concealment and camo etc. In the end using all of the information available to you, and, with practice, and yes, some "failures," you're going to end up with that "big bird."