Tom FooleryMay 01, 2022 09:00AM ● By Roger Kingsley
Spring gobbler hunting is the sport of a hunter conversing with a turkey, in a turkey’s vocabulary, in such a way as to lure the bird into shotgun range. One would assume that you’d have to master the art of turkey calling to have any degree of arousing a gobbler’s interest. Nonsense. I’ve been alongside some hunters who absolutely amazed me when they belted out some turkey talk that put my renditions to shame. That said, I bring home turkeys every spring despite my lack of producing the perfect vocals. Do I lay eyes on every bird that I strike a call to? Nope, but it’s silly to believe that the pros do. The mood of a gobbler in a mating frame of mind often dictates the final outcome regardless of your calling experience. However, there’s an accessory that you’ll need beyond that call to put the odds in your favor.
In my years of hunting the spring season all alone, I’ve learned that even the most elementary notes from a call is all it takes sometimes to charm gobblers into searching for the source. And when they come seeking, that’s where decoys come in. Because of the success I’ve had using decoys, I must confess that I’ve spent very little pre-season time practicing with a call to scratch out the full gamut of sounds turkeys are known for. Today’s turkey decoys are remarkably realistic, hence, they elicit an extraordinary drawing power that can oftentimes trick even the most cunning birds.
One of the most popular turkey decoy brands is Avian-X—the official decoy of the National Wild Turkey Federation found at avian-x.com. I have three of their Lifelike Collapsible Decoy (LCD) hen decoys that I’ve used as a group setup for several seasons now, and every year they’ve fooled gobblers. One of those three, the laydown decoy, sits on the ground without a stake and is the star attraction to the setup because it depicts a hen’s natural relaxed breeding position. Due to its incredible likeness, I’ve filmed both gobblers and jakes mounting this decoy. The feeder and breeder posture decoys complete the three bird flock by adding more realism and movements to the intentional trickery. These two hen replicas balance on stakes which allow them to stir around in a breeze creating a more distinct attraction to a wary gobbler.
From my observations, if you are planning on being in a blind, it doesn’t matter which way those decoys face, because gobblers are routinely oblivious to blinds. But if you are using the base of a tree or other existing cover for your blend in strategy, make sure the decoys face away from you. I’ve noticed gobblers are most likely destined to approach decoys from their backside. Doing so, maintains the gobbler’s focus on the decoys, moreover, the woods opposite the hunter. Also, if you have concerns over the postures of the hen decoys in relation to the season, don’t worry. I’ve used them to tag birds on opening day, mid-season, and the very tail end too.
Some hunters like to enhance a setup like mine by adding a jake decoy to the mix of hens. But I’ve seen no reason to change since this arrangement of three hen decoys has been responsible for my tag–filling success. I understand the theory behind the addition of the fake jake with hen decoys, but I’ve also seen mature gobblers intimidated and even run off by real jakes. Several times over the years, I’ve witnessed a party of jakes behaving aggressively toward a lone gobbler, which is why I’m reluctant to use jake decoys. Looking at it from the gobbler’s perspective, if I was him, I’d feel far more comfortable approaching some unfamiliar hens, if I know I’m not going to run the risk of a sour confrontation with some bully jakes.
With every hunt, there’s a certain percentage that you have control of, the rest is up to nature, which—as we all know—can have a mind of its own. Hunting seasons that coincide with mating periods create enhanced opportunities for hunters to be more successful. Mimicking wildlife during those stages when they are most vulnerable are strategies that many hunters conduct to their advantage. Decoying—an age-old hunting tradition—adds another element of thrill to the chase.