Contributors to this thread:
Considering ditching the decoys
I realize there's no cut and dried answer to this.....most use and swear by decoys, some don't like em. I had some birds skirt my setup this week, I feel strongly after watching their habits over a few weeks that they would have come in if it weren't for my decoys. It got me to thinking about other times this has happened in the past and I'm not sure that decoys haven't actually hurt my success in the long run. I have good looking dekes and usually use a hen and a jake, sometimes just a few hens. I have string on them to give them movement. I like using them as it gives me confidence and the idea of a gobbler expecting to see turkeys when coming to a call makes perfect sense. But I'm gonna try hunting without them for awhile. Anyone have similar experiences? Thanks!
Your experience is not uncommon. Like any other situation where you are using some sort of attractant, decoy or added variable to try to entice a favorable reaction from whatever it is you are hunting, the reaction you get can change from day to day or even hour to hour. When conditions are favorable, so to will the reaction. There are a lot of different variable that go into how they might react. Stick with it because tomorrow could be the day that it works!
Jasper, what kind of decoys are you using? I can honestly say I've never had a tom not come in to my DSD's because they were decoys. I've had them not come in because of the blind flapping, sun shining in the blind, dominant tom calling the hen to him, etc. but these are rarities compared to the dozens of birds that have stormed right into the set-up. I tend to think it is something other than your decoys causing the issue. I'd eliminate all the variables before I ditched decoys.
Yes,I have mirrored your problem. My area has alot of hunting pressure and even more pressure with preseason scouting and calling. Many times I've had a turkey run from the dekes. Yet on Sunday (no hunting) they will come in and flirt with a shot up 3D turkey target 30 yards from the house. Go figure. Mr. Murphy tags along on my turkey hunting endeavors;)
I've killed a few in Nebraska late season without decoys after most shotgunners have tagged out. The terrain is good for soft calling as the toms have to come across deep valleys and ravines to locate the calling.
I think decoys can scare turkeys. Even extremely realistic decoys...
Last year, I was hunting this one tom. He was a bit of a wimp. I saw two jakes chase him from the field. He would come out and hang a ways away from real hens in the field. He would strut and watch the hens but not get too close. I suspect that he had been kicked around a lot.
But I hunted him many times. I learned his natural travel paths. Towards the end of the season, I set up with my shotgun. I hid in some natural cover near his normal travel paths. I actually used a hen decoy as a blocker to prevent him from going the wrong direction.
He came out as expected and hung out in the field. He eventually wandered within 50 yards and I killed him.
My buddy Pete-pec is pretty anti-decoy. I think he kills nearly all of his without decoys. He knows the birds and their travel patterns. He also knows how to call. That combination results in many dead birds for him.
One more example...
I saw a tom strutting with 2 hens. I parked and snuck in with my bow and heads-up decoy. I came over a hill at about 150 yards and showed the fan. The tom immediately folded and walked away. It was clear that he was not the dominant tom and didn't want his butt kicked again.
I kept crawling with the heads-up decoy. I got within about 40 yards of the hens and then they slowly walked away. That told me that the decoy did look realistic enough and confirmed that the tom was just scared of another tom
I use decoys, a jake and hen. I have had only 2 gobblers fold and make a wide circle around my set up.
Usually once a tom sees the set up, they march in.
IMO, I do not care if you are a Grand Champion caller. If you are hunting open woods or field, and a gobbler can not see the hen that is talking to him, a lot of the time they will hang up.
I have had more hang ups is open areas with out the deke than spooked birds with the deke.
sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. I have a DSD and I have had as many positive interactions as negative. When I have a negative response, I will leave the decoy in the car when I visit that spot again. Saxton makes a good point about open woods, if the tom can see a long way and doesn't see a hen, then its very tough to get them to come on in, sometimes that visual confirmation is all they need to get committed.
What Saxton said!
I always have a DSD jake and hen with me and it usually seems to do the trick.
You know, absolutely everything stated above can be countered by the opposite.
Open woods? A tom may see the hen decoy, and just strut back and forth waiting for her to come to him.
Less problems with a good jake decoy than anything.
Personally, I like seeing how they react around the decoy as much as I do hearing them gobble or releasing the string.
I like to call a lot, I like to use decoys...I don't kill as many turkeys as I used to, but the kids and beginners I take sure do.
Its great having the turkey watch the decoy , not me. I use one inflatable hen and a scratch box. not much to carry
On my place in SE Oklahoma, I've always killed them by sitting in the shadows once the vegetation has grown up a little and calling lightly. No decoys and no blind. Just getting in areas I know they want to be or come to. Never have had much success with decoys. They've come in, but would hang up or hens would make them skirt the setup. Now, I have very few turkeys so it doesn't matter.
Ditch the decoys if you feel it will help, sounds like you already know it will. Good luck!
Some really great advice here, thank you! I'm not giving up on decoys totally but am going to try some hunts without them and see. Good luck!
I have had them work like a charm and then times when the birds took off in the opposite direction when they saw them. I don't use them at all unless I am in a set up where I am going to need the birds to be distracted while I draw.
by my house, there are areas, that they just come by, might not be every day, but there are spots they constantly use, all found by scouting.......
so a lot of times, I just set up, in these areas, and wait,,,,, that's all,,,,,,
my birds get a lot of pressure, they get call and deke shy very quickly.....
I use them, but mostly I do not, I just set up, in their favorite areas, and that's it,,,,,
I can't see "Bow" hunting turkeys without a decoy. Never in 40+ years of turkey hunting have I felt the decoys were the cause of a hung up bird. Mostly my fault or they just had other things on there mind.
I don't know that having options makes turkey hunting any more cerebral.....it just means that you have to make decisions, and they in part, will represent your success....or lack thereof.
Either way, it sure is great to have the Spring season, to give us something to chase, while waiting for the Fall.....
I stopped using decoys years ago and have very good success. Got tired of carrying them around.
The first year I hunted turkeys I had did so with my bow and a mouth call and no decoys or blind. I called a lot of birds into range but never could get the bow drawn without getting caught and the times I did get drawn I missed LOL !. It is a fun way to hunt them but is really frustrating too !They are looking for the hen and not keying in on the decoy so you need to be really smooth with your draw set up etc.
The biggest birds I've shot were in a set up w/o a decoy. Those were usually the end of a very long conversation when the tom finally decided I wasn't coming to him and he needed to close the distance. It took patience, and those were taken w/ a shotgun (sorry). I've had toms skirt my decoys like the original poster described and I'd have to say, those were usually older toms as well.
But I like using a deke. Especially bowhunting. It's the best way to get them really close without noticing you. I've never seen a tom skirt a deke setup that I thought did so because of they were decoy-shy or something like that. I think it's generally been because they are expecting the decoy to come to them. Just from observation over the years it seems to me that in turkey society a hen is just as likely to go to a tom as the other way around. The older toms know this whereas the younger ones are a little more desperate.
Quick fun story: Last year I was hunting with a pair of hen decoys in a large clearing. I had a pretty large tom come into the clearing and start strutting around. He was getting closer when a group of 4 jakes arrived. They ganged up on the lone tom and attacked him. They went at him a half dozen times and finally drove him away, then they all 4 turned and strutted right to my decoys. they looked like bunch of frat boys in a bar elbowing each other, trying to look cool, but also get to the girl first, litterally jostling one another while they strutted up. I wish I had a vid of the whole thing. They got close enough and one started trying to mount one of the dekes. By that time I was at full draw - I took a shot, but sadly missed. The show was over.
I've had birds come in because of decoys and turn and run to the next county because of decoys. It's a toss up. I don't use them much anymore.
Sage, I just had two jakes do that same thing about 10 minutes ago. Ran the boss Tom off into the woods and strutted right over. Unfortunately they stopped behind some thin dried weed stems so I didn't shoot. They never walked into the clear spots.
Then I purred all ten angry hens over from across the meadow and they gave my hen decoy a piece of their minds. Pretty entertaining show this morning!
Only two things I like about a decoy and one of them is pretty important to me. Otherwise I would go without. A decoy affords you a lot of time to watch a bird put on a show. The other thing is it can position a bird. But that is less important to me than watching a show.
I enjoy watching them hammer and tear it up at 20 yards. Occasionally that will happen without a decoy but it is not near as frequent or as intense. Hunting without a decoy keeps me more on edge and vigilant. I enjoy the freedom and challenge more without a decoy.
This morning my daughter and I killed a bird without a decoy and it was much less intense than when the bird is locked in, hammering, strutting, drumming...for the decoy.
They are decidedly different types of hunts. I enjoy both for different reasons.
Most of my hunting is in the woods which may be different than foodplot hunting where they seem more prone to strut and hammer with or without a decoy.
I have found on my farm that setting up back in the woods and not using decoys, forces the birds to come looking for me. They are less likely to lock up out of range...
One more time, how many of the "No-decoys" are hunting with a bow?
If you're hunting with a shotgun, you have no place in the conversation on decoy use.
A lot of the toms I've had shy from decoys were two-year-olds afraid of getting their tails kicked.