Crow decoy perched above the author’s electronic caller. For wary coyotes the visible crow decoy adds believability.
I was recently standing in the sporting goods store staring at a wall of turkey hunting equipment. I tried to appear confident, but was silently hoping for divine intervention. I’d never hunted turkeys before and was overwhelmed by the assortment of calls, decoys and gadgets. My 9-year-old son and I were preparing for our first turkey hunt. This was new territory for us and a bit overwhelming to say the least. I must have looked helpless as I tried to determine what I really needed.
This experience caused me to reflect back almost 20 years when I was learning to call coyotes. Back then there were only a few calls to choose from. The most difficult decision was whether I wanted a plastic or a wooden call. It certainly wasn’t the same decision we’re faced with today. Over the past decade hunting products have filled the shelves like never before. The vast array of available equipment can be overwhelming.
For the past two decades, calling predators has been my passion. As a tournament coyote hunter, I’ve tried just about everything on the market at one time or another. I’m constantly looking for new techniques, strategies and equipment that will give me an edge. Decoys are no exception. I have used a variety of them over the years. When used correctly they are extremely effective. If you’re the guy standing in front of the predator wall overwhelmed by all of the options, here are a few pros and cons regarding decoys.
Decoys create the perception of reality for curious coyotes. Time and time again I’ve seen coyotes perch on a ridge and look over an area. They are hearing distress sounds, bird sounds, and perhaps even coyote vocalizations, but they don’t see any of the above. Educated coyotes will often find a vantage point and try to obtain visual confirmation of what they’re hearing. If they don’t see anything they often turn and leave. Sometimes a decoy is all it takes to get these wary predators into range. In some cases, they’re so convinced that they come on the run.
Another advantage of a decoy is it occupies the coyote’s attention. When a coyote is focused on my decoy he is less likely to spot me. I like to put my decoy and my electronic caller close together and away from my position. This allows me to make small amounts of movement and prepare for a shot without the coyote seeing me.
This coyote was taken with 12 gauge Hevi-Shot Dead Coyote load, only feet away from the motion rabbit and crow decoys.
Decoys are very effective, but there are also down-sides to consider. Decoys mean more equipment to carry to every stand. I carry a rifle, a shotgun, a sitting pad, an electronic caller, and shooting sticks to just about every stand. Add decoys and dead coyotes to the list and it’s a lot to pack. I recommend two things. First, use a small daypack to carry your electronic caller, shooting sticks, sitting pad and decoys. Second, select small decoys that are easy to manage.
Another caution when using decoys is keep movement to a minimum. If coyotes spot me setting up my decoys the hunt is over before it begins. I recommend glassing the area for coyotes before you start setting up decoys. In some situations the risk is not worth the reward.
I don’t personally carry decoys to every single stand. However, I use them frequently and under the right conditions, such as in hilly terrain where coyotes can get a vantage point and in wide open country to take the predators eyes off me. Just like other equipment on the never-ending wall at the sporting goods store, decoys have their place. Add them to your bag of tricks and you might have more skinning to do. In the meantime, if you see me looking hopeless on the turkey isle, please stop and offer some help.
Dustin has been calling predators for nearly 20 years. He has competed in coyote calling contests around the Western U.S. for more than a dozen years and has consistently excelled including many wins and top finishes. He enjoys sharing his knowledge of predator hunting with others through calling seminars and magazine articles. To learn more about Dustin or the equipment he uses visit www.predatordown.com.