Marti Davis Afield: Marti shares turkey decoy set-ups and tips to call in a longbeard.
This month, I’m going to share tips on several different turkey decoy set-ups for spring hunting. And, just to make it fun, I’m doing a spin-off of Paul Simon’s 1975 hit song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
This set-up is great for the early part of the season, before the peak-breeding time has occurred. I take an alert hen decoy, and using a shorter stake, place her directly on the ground. Then, I place a jake decoy right on top of her, in the breeding position. I also place 1 or 2 feeding-hen decoys in this set-up. This will usually draw a jealous boss gobbler right in to defend his harem of hens.
2. No need to be coy, Roy
Another set-up for the early season involves using a full-strut decoy along with 2 or 3 feeding-hen decoys. Place the strutting decoy facing the direction of where you will be sitting, and more than likely, the gobbler will come in to the set-up and go head-on with the decoy, or approach it from the side. Thus, taking his attention away from your location. Generally, if there are multiple toms and you can get 1 of them to break away and head into your set-up, the others will follow. Then you can take your pick.
3. Seek out that floozy, Suzy
As it reaches mid-season and peak breeding, I recommend using a single, feeding-hen decoy. She’s lonely and isn’t shy about letting any and every tom nearby know that she is looking for love. Start by calling loudly, and as the gobbler closes the distance to your set-up, adjust the volume down.
4. Just drop off the key, Lee
During late season, I recommend setting up a few feeding-hen decoys to draw a gobbler in. The girls are all just hanging out and have left the door unlocked and open for any potential suitor to come in for a visit. When a tom comes into view, use soft clucks and purrs to seal the deal. He will see that there are numerous girls available, and his odds have just increased dramatically.
5. Come to the boys club, Chub
Once it gets to the end of the season, breeding will not be on his mind. However, getting back into bachelor groups is. Use a mix of 3 or 4 jake and tom decoys. Call using gobbler yelps and be watchful and ready all around your location. They will probably come in silently on this set-up.
6. Slip out the back, Jack
This set-up doesn’t involve using any decoys. When I am hunting in a timbered or wooded area, I don’t use decoys because it is harder to see a turkey coming in to my calls. I make him come in looking for the hen that is calling. If I had a decoy out, he might see the decoy and expect the “hen” to come to him, therefore hanging up just out of range, or even out of sight.
7. Make a new plan, Stan
Turkey hunting is hard! Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Turkeys can be frustrating beyond belief. One morning they do 1 thing, then you adjust your set-up the next day and they’ll do just the opposite. You have to be versatile and willing to change it up.
A prime example of this is a hunt I experienced in Illinois a few years ago. I had been chasing those frustrating birds for 4 days. The 3rd and 4th mornings the flock flew down and got in a big group and fed off, away from my strutting-jake and feeding-hen decoys. The turkeys just weren’t following my playbook. So, I made a new plan. I decided if they want to get in a big group, I’d give them a big group to join. The next morning, I slipped into the woods well before dawn. I put out every decoy I had and some I borrowed from a friend. I placed a mix of 6 hen and jake decoys in front of me, at roughly 20 yards. I hunkered down in some logs and patiently waited for the sun to start illuminating my set-up. The toms started gobbling from the roost, roughly 150 yards from my set-up. As soon as the turkeys started pitching down from the trees and into the field, they marched right into the decoys. I picked out the largest longbeard and let the hammer drop.
Bottom line, these set-ups are just tips or guidelines, if you will. Versatility is 1 of the keys to chasing these wary longbeards. Remember, “the answer is easy, if you take it logically!”
This retro-WON column first ran on April 21, 2014.