It is way too cool to see a wily gobbler fooled anytime it happens.

Turkey hunters have become pretty slick over the years dreaming up new ways to trick ol' toms into falling for seductive hunter tactics.

That's the fun of it. Trying new things, new twists to old gambits, and taking risks on using new ideas we would have scoffed at years ago. Now the use of decoys is turning up the heat and action for Mississippi turkey hunters.

Call them whatever you want from decoys to plastic facsimile fabrications to hen turkey plastic death wishes to fool's gold, they are, as we know, fake hens. Now we have the fake jake, and full-bore strutting gobblers sporting realistic, complete spread fans, even some with real turkey fan feathers. Some hunters are even using full gobbler or hen taxidermy mounts for total realism.

The decoy war games have really been kicked up a notch these past few years, and undoubtedly there is more to come, e.g. the Pretty Boy and Pretty Girl created by Knight and Hale for Carry-Lite and the new Wobble-Gobble hen or jake made by Flambeau Decoys. These unique decoys give hunters even more options.

The Carry-Lite strutting gobbler and submissive hen combo is the hottest ticket to fool gobblers to come along in quite a while. The big, puffed-up gobbler also has the option of using the plastic fan supplied, or gives instructions on a CD how to fit a real turkey fan for use on the decoy. Its realism is being proven again and again in the field.

Intro to dekes

The first introduction I ever had to the use of turkey decoys was showcased by one of the best turkey hunters ever in Mississippi, Preston Pittman.

"I have tried nearly every trick in the book and then some to coax a stubborn gobbler close enough for the in-my-face shot," he said. "I've even tried some things I'm embarrassed to admit now, because they were so silly.

"But all in all, some of my best tom-foolery comes with the use of hen decoys deployed out in a field in front of a well-devised ground blind built back in the shadows. Turkey decoys are definitely a super ploy."

I can attest to some of his more silly attempts like the time in Florida when working a gaggle of legal osceola jakes out in an open power line. Pittman donned a turkey decoy on his head and crawled out into full view of the juvenile gobblers standing a hundred yards off. His action would have been inadvisable, to say the least, on public land.

Anyway, this must have been some sight to the birds, but they sure answered his calls and antics nonetheless, finally strolling up to within 10 paces of him. The bad part was we two hunters hiding in the bushes were laughing so hard we forgot to shoot.

Turkey decoy set-ups

"Back in the old days when we first started using decoys, I toted one hen decoy to the woods, and it worked some of the time," said Ronnie Foy, a seasoned turkey guide from Canton. "Now I often carry multiple decoys, and the hunters I guide may carry more. A definite security factor can be established by using more than one decoy at a time.

"Of course now, we can hype up the set up with a jake posed to breed a hen or a subordinate-looking gobbler strutting in front of several hens. That set-up is magic."

Though seemingly obvious, the key to a good turkey decoy set-up is to find a high-traffic area and have the decoys out where they can be seen in plain sight. It seems that using decoying for gobblers works best on the edges of open fields or in wooded areas that have plenty of sunlight filtering onto the forest floor. The decoys have to be seen from all angles and easily spotted from as long a range as possible.

Deploying multiple hen decoys as mentioned before gives the impression of a safe environment for a gobbler to investigate.

Deliberate skillful calling is needed, but be careful not to overcharge the situation, keeping in mind that synthetic decoys, by their very nature, do not react except by wind motion.

A gobbler might not always be fooled by a decoy's stationary stance, so prudent calling has to seal the deal.

Make sure the decoys are put around in a sort of random manner, some pointing away from your blind and some coming to it. If the decoy design allows for it, put some decoys in a head-down feeding stance and others looking upright. If you only have two decoys, have one set each way. Space them to avoid bunching them up too close.

One trick I learned from an old Alabama turkey guide to control a deke's movement in the wind really works. Set the decoy up on its pedestal as usual, then take two stiff sticks, putting one in the ground about 6 to 10 inches on either side of the decoy's tail. The sticks act like blockers as the decoy spins in the wind. The movement range can only be as big as the distance between the sticks. It's quite realistic looking, and keeps the decoy from spinning wildly 360 degrees.

The decoy spread also has to be configured close enough to your blind or hide location for a good, clean shot that is well within range of the gun and load you select. Be sure not to set up decoys in the woods that are obscured by bushes, high grass, low tree limbs or such.

I missed a nice gobbler last year, and after the shot discovered I took the tops out of two saplings I did not see between my seat and the bird.

Beware, too, that anxious gobblers can literally run in to the decoys from any direction, and jakes are famous for this. Be sure to know your bird, and confirm the beard length before pulling the trigger. Wait for the right shot when the gobbler's head is in the clear and not bobbing around. Make sure no other birds are lingering around behind the shot path, especially hens.

Decoys are the coming wave in turkey hunting, despite some resistance by traditionalists against their use. Turkey hunters may not use them all the time or with every hunting set-up, but there is no doubt they have their place in a comprehensive turkey hunting strategy.