Have You Tried These "Plan B" Turkey Hunting Strategies?
I learned something about turkey decoys in each of the three following situations. You can too.
Time of Year: Opening Day.
Challenge: Heavy hunting pressure.
Decoy Trick: I’d been working these hung-up Maine gobblers all morning. They just wouldn’t budge. For hours, we both made a lot of racket — a calling clinic. Another hunter inevitably appeared on the field’s far side, and set up his decoys, teaching me this tactic in the process. Not one fake. Not two, but around a dozen turkey decoys. Hens. Jakes. A full-fan strutter. No doubt his entire collection.
It was right around then, after my silent treatment as I watched the guy set up, that the gobblers — four of them: two longbeards, two jakes — came in. Good, right? Wrong. Just out of my range, they turned, saw the dekes, and sprinted toward the guy’s position. Stopped. Three left after his shot and ran to the far woods.
Bird details: No idea, but those longbeards looked pretty good running past me.
Challenge: After calling in a hen, which flushed when it saw me, I raised an upstate New York longbeard, which gobbled on posted land while I sat on state property.
Decoy Trick: Had the gobbler been with the hen? Maybe. I staked a hen decoy on ridgetop public property not far from where she flushed, and set up. I called. The tom halved the distance, coming up the hill. I made ready, my shotgun pointed toward the deke. Crunching leaves to my left materialized into a turkey, beard swinging. He stepped into range, stopped right at the fake, and eyed it suspiciously. That was the last thing that bird saw.
Bird details: Spurs: 1¼ inches. Beard: 10.5 inches. Weight: Nearly 22 pounds. He’d seen a decoy or two.
Challenge: “I missed a big gobbler this morning,” my buddy said. “It was with another one. What should I do?” My response: “Let’s get right back out there tomorrow.”
Decoy Trick: Same spot, private land where he had permission to hunt. Same turkeys. Yep, they gobbled, but hesitated to come to the calls, hanging up in the near woods where I saw a red-daub in the edge cover. Cement feet. Almost all morning, with shooting hours closing at midday.
“Give me that deke,” I said, crouching down, belly crawling forward. “And what do we expect to prove by this?” he hissed, frustrated. I ignored him.
I slowly lifted the hen fake over the field grass so that it could be seen 100 yards away. I bobbed her foam head, made like she was feeding. Once. Twice. It was Academy Award stuff — until the red-daub gobbler broke out of cover, sprinting toward us!
I crab-crawled back through the tall grass, a push-pin call in my right hand, working it as I made like a guy in boot camp going through a drill.
I waited. “Boom.” I stood, looked, and saw a gobbler running away. My buddy did nothing. “Shoot! Shoot!” I yelled, my math skills diminished by the excitement. He just grinned. The longbeard lay at his feet. Two birds had run in. One left.
Steve Hickoff is Realtree.com's editorial director and turkey hunting editor. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country.