Should you always use a turkey decoy?
Simple answer is no, you don’t always need to use a turkey decoy. Pressured birds, patterned birds, and fall birds are 3 scenarios that come to mind when it can best to leave the turkey decoy in the truck.
Pressured birds and a turkey decoy
Hunting pressure will make your birds very cautious when approaching your turkey decoy set. If there is a lot of hunting pressure on the turkeys you are chasing, odds are they have been either been spooked near a turkey decoy set, or they may even have heard the shotgun go off and and watched one of their buddies bite the dust. Turkeys that have had recent experience with a turkey decoy spread will become cautious almost immediately. The reckless attitude they have when looking for hens disappears in a hurry when they have a negative experience with a fake.
Many of these extremely pressured birds very rarely even gobble. They sneak in to the sound of the hen, and watch patiently from a distance to learn if it’s the real deal or another trap. You will never even know they were close by, because as you shift positions to stay comfortable, they catch that movement and silently turn and leave. I have watched mature birds stand motionless for over 45 minutes surveying my turkey decoy spread. Rarely do these birds ever come close enough to kill. It is almost impossible to make your spread of fakes look real to a wary tom when he studies it for that long. You simply can not impart enough natural movement in a turkey decoy.
Patterned birds and a turkey decoy
Patterned birds can be killed easily without a turkey decoy. If you know exactly what the birds are doing each day, you can leave the turkey decoy at home. It becomes a lot like hunting whitetails, and placing a camera at a fence gap or some other natural funnel may give away the weak spot in that old birds armour and allow you to punch your tag.
If you pattern a group of birds and set out a turkey decoy, it may very well change their course. When those toms get henned up, they follow wherever the girls take them. If those hens don’t like your turkey decoys, they won’t come by. Where I live in Minnesota, a hunter killed a banded hen that was 17 years old one fall. Odds are that old girl had an experience or 2 with a turkey decoy she did not like, and being a survival machine, did not get within 100 yards of any decoys the last 10 or 15 years she was alive. They can remember.
Fall birds and a turkey decoy
Groups of hens can be ‘broken up’ and called back in the fall with or with out a turkey decoy. The strategy is to rush them or send in turkey dogs to scare them every direction, and then you set up and call them back together. You act like the lead hen with an assembly yelp to get the group back together. The assembly yelp is simply a series of yelps 15 to 20 in a row. A much longer series than you hear in the spring.
I like to hunt groups a fall toms with a jake turkey decoy. The pecking order is established and they will fight newcomers to show them their place. Set up in a field they are using daily, or near roost areas they are using every night. The best turkey decoy sports an arrogant posture that drives mature toms nut in spring and fall. Check him out at bestturkeydecoy.com