While calling and concealment are fundamental to turkey hunting success, think of decoys as your tipping point. Unlike waterfowling, you don’t need many to do the trick.
Turkey decoys come in three basics: toms, jakes (sub-adult males) and hens. They can be full-body foam, plastic or collapsible rubber—all easy to carry into the field. You can even add authentic turkey feathers, tail fans and beards for added realism.
Bottom line? All can work, but it pays to purchase the most realistic you can afford.
Use full strut tom decoys only when you know there is a dominant, mature tom in the vicinity. Otherwise, you risk frightening away passive toms and jakes that might otherwise come into range.
Dominant toms have little patience for young males around their hens, making jake decoys an excellent choice in many scenarios. Jake decoys are less intimidating than toms, so they are effective in attracting all toms (including less dominant birds and other jakes).
While toms may or may not challenge another tom or a jake, they’ll nearly always come in to a hen decoy during spring breeding season. Hen decoys are, by far, the best choice for spring hunting. They are available in many postures: feeding, standing and submissive breeding position. Go with the standing posture if you use a single hen decoy—it can be seen from farthest away. If using two or more, add a breeding position hen.
For simple and reliable spring turkey decoying, it’s tough to beat a jake and hen combination. Set the hen facing your blind, with the jake behind it, also facing your blind. Toms most often approach other turkeys head-on, meaning it will be looking away from your blind.
If you know there’s an exceptionally aggressive tom in the vicinity, try a submissive hen with a jake right behind, imitating a potential breeding situation. A tom will often rush in to assert his dominance.
We’d love to hear what decoy strategies work for you. Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.