Decoys can be a beneficial way to increase your success in the turkey woods. It’s impossible to call in weary gobblers without decoys, especially in large agricultural areas. But knowing when and how to use turkey decoys will make or break your success with them. Differing circumstances make for different decoy placement strategies. We use turkey decoys to help bring more gobblers into gun ranges, but they don’t always work as we think they should. Sometimes, turkey decoys can do the opposite of what we expect. It all depends on the time of year and what kinds of turkeys you are dealing with. Some longbeards are very territorial, while others are much more humble. Strutter decoys and dominant Jake decoys will work better for territorial birds, while a posturing Jake decoy may work much better on more mellow birds.
The time of year can also affect how turkeys act. Typically, birds are still somewhat flocked up earlier in the season and not as territorial. As the season progresses and the “rut” for turkeys amps, birds become more dominant and territorial. Towards the end of the season, a simple hen decoy can be your best bet because turkeys are done with fighting but are still ready to breed.
I have used many different turkey decoy brands and tried many strategies for decoy setups. My choice for decoys goes to Avian-X. Their HDR series is the most realistic and durable turkey decoys for the price tag. The best universal setup I have found is a posturing Jake decoy placed behind a breeder hen decoy. It’s like the punk teenager trying to hook up with the sexy blonde, and it drives all sorts of longbeards crazy. Just this last season, I had seven birds die to that setup.
However, using a strutter decoy can be a handier option, especially when hunting large ag fields where birds may be afar or if you know you’re hunting very dominant turkeys. The strutter decoy is great for grasping attention and is the crop’s cream in portraying dominance. Using a breeder hen will be the best option for a hen decoy, regardless of your choice of a male turkey decoy. Positioning the Jake decoy closer to the hen, almost like he is right on top of her, will be very effective. I have found that positioning the strutter decoy slightly farther away is more effective. The gobbler favours more room between decoys due to their larger stature. On a side note, using a feeder hen decoy can be a great addition if you’re hunting more weary or pressured birds. It portrays a sense of safety and that everything is alright in the surrounding area.
Reaping Turkey Decoys
Over the last few years, reaping turkey decoys have grown in popularity. Reaping a bird involves using a strutter decoy or a fan to get as close as possible to other turkeys. This is generally used on dominant, territorial gobblers that are hung up or with hens. I prefer this method to be a last resort if all else fails. While it can be very effective, it can also be very dangerous. I would not recommend doing this on state public land. Reaping turkeys can be a sensitive subject in the turkey hunting world; however, I do not see the wrong in it as long as it’s conducted with common sense. I have reaped two turkeys, and it is extremely exciting. But I firmly believe it should be used as a last resort when the gobblers do not cooperate.