In the past, hunters would place a fake in an open spot, set up and call as their simple decoy strategy. Recently, many hunters have added a strutter to that approach. But some folks never take time to consider the situation before settling on a decoy spread.
Hunters can communicate to turkeys better by setting decoys to mimic specific scenarios and provoke reactions. Here’s how the pros use fakes.
“I feel that in certain periods of the cycle, particular setups are the key to success,” said Chris Parrish, multiple major calling contest champion. “I prefer to use a strutting gobbler early, when most birds are trying to establish their dominance. It seems at this time, even the birds that might shy away at mid-season tend to be aggressive enough to come to this setup. However, those same birds, as the season progresses, might not come to a gobbler, and if the hatch doesn’t yield a large jake crop, I will incorporate a jake with a couple of hens to play off the dominance factor. When a large jake crop is present, I will go to strictly hen decoys as the season progresses.”
Late in the season, after hunters have killed many subordinate gobblers, Parrish said he might reinstitute the gobbler decoy.
“I will go back to a stutter to play off that old 3- to 5-year-old gobbler’s aggression,” he said. “Along with that, many times in the late season, gobblers tend to want to regroup and these decoys play right into that situation.”
Ernie Calandrelli, public relations director for Quaker Boy, follows a consistent philosophy, typically using a jake with a feeding hen and an upright hen.
“I normally only use decoys if the woods are wide open early in the year or in a field,” he said. “The first gobbler that sees the decoys and spooks, I remove the jake and upright hen for a few days. [This means] they are not ready for the decoys, or there is an overabundance of jakes where you are hunting. The overabundance of jakes to an adult gobbler means trouble and he will avoid the jakes like the plague.”
Shane Simpson, who films dozens of hunts a year for his www.callingallturkeys.com website and YouTube channel, takes a different approach by using a jake and two hens early in the season but shifting to just one jake later.
“I always use it as kind of a two-decoy set,” he said. “My jake decoy is the one that’s visible and my hen calling is another turkey that’s not visible to the gobbler, but he can hear it. If he comes out and sees the jake and then hears the hen, he figures there are two birds there. He just can’t see one of them.”
No matter what setup you choose, place your spread to allow a good shot. Calandrelli said he sets his jake decoy where he wants to shoot a gobbler because a longbeard will typically go to the jake.
Parrish also advises hunters to think about visibility.
“The one key factor to decoys is to use them where turkeys can see them at longer ranges,” he said. “They tend to shy away when they come in contact with a decoy from 50 yards and closer.”