Turkey hunters are always looking for an edge, and under certain circumstances decoys can be exactly that — an advantage that helps close the deal on a spring gobbler.
But, sometimes they can close a door on a promising opportunity.
Public-land hunter Mark Boyd always carries decoys on a hunt, but rarely uses them.
“Decoys for me depend on the set up location,” he said. “Most of the time I don’t even pull mine out of the vest. Every now and again, I will, if I feel it could be helpful to seal the deal.”
“However, most of my experience is that everyone has a decoy or two and most turkey hunters use them almost all the time. Forestland birds get smart at an early age and much of the time gobblers or hens will come in to see your decoy then tuck their wing and head out the other direction.”
The overuse of decoys, he said, educates birds and the older they get the smarter they become.
“Seasoned gobblers are rarely fooled by a decoy but a young 2-year old might be fooled once in a while before they are fully educated,” Boyd said. “Occasionally you can fool the old bird. One secret for sure is to not set up a decoy right in your lap. Look around for avenues where a gobbler might approach your set up. You want to steer the tom away from where you are by having him come straight into the decoy or across your line of vision.”
His idea is to keep the gobbler focused on the decoy.
“I had this to happen once on a gobbler I came to call Stephen Segal from the movie Hard to Kill, because this tom certainly was,” Boyd said. “I had been hunting him for four years. Long story short, I had a tom gobbling out about 100 yards and I figured it was Ol’ Stephen. After he cut off my call, the woods went silent. I had my gun up and ready.
“Thirty minutes went by and nothing. Then a gobbler emerged from the thickest brush around me, from where I never thought a bird would come. He marched directly to my decoy, took one look and started to retreat. I got one good clear shot. At the bang another turkey flew off and I thought I had missed.”
That wasn’t the case, at all.
“I nailed that one but the one that flew out was Ol’ Stephen,” Boyd said. “He had sent in his buddy to check out that stiff hen. I guess we both won that one.”
“I guarantee you that if I had been calling too much or too loud that these birds would never have come in. Even if they had, I probably would not have ever seen them.”