Deadly turkey decoy setups this spring

It’s dark, but won’t be for long, and you’re cursing yourself for running a bit late on this spring morning. You’re worried about busting that gobbler as you slip down the field edge, and you hastily plant a couple of decoys 20-30 yards into the field before retreating to set up your blind.

It probably sounds familiar; we’ve all rushed our spring gobbler setups and paid little attention to how our decoys were set beyond making sure they were upright and would remain that way.

But a solid, detailed game plan for setting up your decoys can often mean the difference between having a longbeard flare at the sight of the dekes and putting a tag on a long-spurred gobbler.
Here are a few specific setups designed to bring a gobbler into shooting range.

Feeding Hen(s)

Early hen decoys were almost always in an erect, upright position. But think about it: an upright turkey is an alert turkey. That can make a gobbler alert and nervous, as well. Use two or three hen decoys in a feeding position, walking away from a gobbler, with a strutting longbeard decoy trailing. That creates a typical spring scenario and often triggers a response from a longbeard who wants to join in the action.

Strutting Gobbler

There’s a theory among the turkey hunting fraternity that a full-strut gobbler decoy can make a longbeard hesitant to come into shotgun range. Sometimes, maybe, but even subordinate gobblers can be lured into range if the strutter is positioned properly – away from his approach. That tends to give the approaching tom a thought that he may have the upper hand. You can use the strutter with or without hen decoys; I prefer a couple in a feeding mode.

Bowhunting Setup

Bowhunting spring gobblers has been elevated to a major part of tom chasing, thanks largely to the many quality blinds available that can conceal your movement when you draw on a longbeard. But you still have to bring them into range. Here’s how: place a hen decoy in a “breeding” position (tight to the ground) no more than 10 yards from your blind, with a gobbler decoy on top of the hen. Face the decoys in the direction away from where you expect the longbeard to approach. Odds are, he’ll storm in close. And if he doesn’t, you’ll likely still have a quality shot within your range because the decoy setup is so close to your blind.

Jake Decoys

Careful here; in areas where jakes are running around like bantam roosters, you’re better off using a different setup. But if there aren’t many jakes in your hunting area, using a jake decoy can bring a longbeard storming in. A “Love Triangle” setup – a feeding hen, passive jake and half-strut jake – can be deadly. Don’t face any of the decoys toward your position; that can turn the approaching gobbler’s attention in your direction. If there are plenty of yearling gobblers running around, leave the jake decoys at home and go with a couple of hens (you can add a longbeard decoy if you’d like).


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