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Decoy Tricks

Copyright © 1998 - 2021  Roger W. Raisch * Nadine Adele, all rights reserved

Spring gobblers either love or hate decoys depending on their mood and how the decoys are used. There are three key questions about decoy use:


  • Do they work?
  • What type to use?
  • How to hunt with them safely?


The following SECRETS will teach you how and when to use them safely while bow hunting.


The reason to use decoys is to draw a gobbler's attention away from you and your Blind and to entice him into close bow range (6-15 yards). Use decoys that look realistic and ones that will stand up to hard use. Collapsible decoys, both a Hen and Jake are preferred by Master Turkey Hunters because they're quick and easy to set up, lightweight, and are noiseless when carried.  I'm convinced they are the reason I bagged many gobblers with bow that I would not have gotten otherwise.


Despite the most realistic looking and acting decoys, your experience with decoys will vary and there are a lot of tricks to keep in mind when using any decoy, especially for bow hunters. I've watched gobblers carry collapsible decoys away in their beaks! On the other hand, I've watched plenty of gobblers retreat from both hen and male decoys, watched others fight hen decoys, watched gobblers totally ignore a male decoy that was very close to a real hen or hen decoy, and watched gobblers breed jake decoys. No decoy type or tactic will work every time.


You can and will have mixed results with decoys. I've watched gobblers run the other direction when they first spotted a decoy. Younger gobblers (jakes and two-year old adults) are often quite wary of a full strut decoy, jake decoy, or a group of decoys because they have been dominated, spurred, chased and generally made to feel not-wanted by older gobblers during the spring season.


Positioning a decoy is critical. If it's too far away, say 25 yards, and a gobbler comes in on the far side, spies it at 25 yards, he may hang up. He'd then be way out of range at 50 yards and probably won't come closer. For maximum effectiveness, place your decoy(s) no more than 6-10 yards away to draw the gobbler into 10-20 yard range.


Being near a decoy can be dangerous because other hunters may mistake your calling and the sight of a decoy for what they think is a real turkey, causing them to take a shot in your direction. This is particularly true when using a male decoy, or a movement decoy awhile staying in one location for a considerable period of time in a blind. To protect yourself, set your blind in an area with flat terrain where you can see in all directions. Place your decoy(s) in one area in front of you, not on every side of your blind. Then, the danger zone has been significantly reduced to the area in front of you which you can watch. To further reduce danger, tie a small piece of blaze orange material to a decoy. If another hunter approaches, signal him/her with a human voice, not with a turkey call or by making a motion. To provide the most personal protection while using decoys, use a Ballistic Turkey Hunter Vest, which will repel a shotgun blast.


Some people claim that decoys with a portion of their body painted blaze orange may provide a bit more protection. But turkeys see color very well. Too much out-of-place color will usually cause a gobbler to retreat, especially too much blaze orange when he's very close. Setting up properly with realistic-looking and acting decoys will provide the best odds for success, keeping in mind the safety issues.


I suggest using more than one decoy. During a recent spring, I was able to bag two gobblers with bow and arrow while using more than one decoy.  I feel that several decoys are best when bow hunting.


DON'T USE DECOYS WHEN OTHERS MAY BE NEAR OR IN HEAVILY-HUNTED PUBLIC AREAS!! The risk may be too high regardless of the precautions you take. PLAY IT SAFE! Practice Defensive Turkey Hunting to protect yourself.
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Subjects in the Secrets Library
About Turkeys
Spring Hunting Tactics
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Camouflage & Concealment
Turkey Calls & Calling
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