Tom turkey attacking a jake decoy

Turkey Decoy Setups: Timing is Everything

Matt Dye 4.7.2017

The market is flooded with a countless number of turkey decoys, however, it is often hard to choose the right ones. It can be even more difficult to understand how and when to use them. Just like whitetails during the rut, turkeys go through different stages of their breeding season. Every decoy setup communicates a message. Are you sending the right one? If so, is it during the right time of the season?

Early Season Decoy Setup

Early season can be an interesting time to hunt turkeys. Typically, birds are still flocked up and sorting out dominance. It is common to see multiple gobblers with a flock of hens spending a lot of time in a strut zone. You can occasionally pull one of those toms away, but what tends to work well during this time of the season is a strutting decoy. Since birds are frequenting strut zones throughout the day, setup in a known strut zone, even if it is a little further off the roost and wait. A strutting decoy and a hen is a sure-fire way to infuriate the toms using that area. The strutting decoy is not only showing off to other toms, but it’s showing off in front of other ladies as well. Bring in the ladies and the longbeards will follow suit. Timing is the key to this setup. The natural tendency for gobblers to sort out dominance brings them into range.

LEARN MORE: TURKEY DECOY STRATEGIES: FULL STRUT TOM + BREEDING HEN

Full strut turkey decoy over a breeding hen

Mid-Season Decoy Setup

As season progresses, it is generally time to shed some layers and additional weight. Leave the full strut decoy at home and exchange it for a half strut jake decoy. The power of a jake decoy during this time of the season is incredible. Breeding during the middle of the season is in full swing. Whether it be a two or three-year-old gobbler, a jake on display with a hen is easy pickings. An adult bird isn’t going to shy away from stealing a hen from a jake. To cut the weight even more, leave the hen decoy at home. Calling like a hen and the posture of the jake tells the approaching longbeard that a hen is close by, even if they can’t see one. This decoy strategy is perfect for a late-morning or afternoon hunt. Some hens that breed early have begun to nest at this time, so hens are tougher to find. During this time of the day, gobblers are in full on search mode. This decoy set-up is a tough one to resist for a lonesome tom.

LEARN MORE: TURKEY DECOY STRATEGIES: JAKE + HEN

Late Season Decoy Setup

Late season turkey hunting action can be the most exciting! Gobblers are typically extremely vocal and are as lonesome as ever. More hens are committed to nesting during the day, so competing with live hens is the lowest it’s been all season. Time to make it simple! One single hen is all you need during this timeframe. Don’t complicate it, gobblers want the hens, so give them what they want. A hen in the upright posture helps to show her interest in the gobbler as well. If that gobbler responds to the call, set out the decoy quickly and get ready! Talk the talk and let the gobbler walk right in. The single hen decoy is ideal for all day hunting during the late-season.

LEARN MORE: TURKEY DECOY STRATEGIES: THE LONE HEN

Avian X Lone Hen Turkey Decoy

It’s important to know exactly what your decoy setup is telling other turkeys.  Like always, the birds are still wild and every scenario is different.  Learn and adapt to your mistakes, especially if you’re hunting the same group of birds day after day.  Remember, to keep the decoy setups natural. By doing so, you may experience some of the most interesting and successful hunts yet!


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