March 29, 2022
By Jace Bauserman
A top-notch ground blind paired with a few decoys and some sexy hen talk is an excellent recipe for turkey success. I enjoy being decked out in ninja gear, huddled in my blind's back corner, waiting for a tom to put a good flogging on my 3/4-strut jake decoy. However, I have become somewhat of a ground-blind snob in recent years.
Let me explain.
I've had a turkey addiction since the age of 16, and that addiction has taken me across the country each spring hunting birds. I've been blessed to kill a lot of them, and lately, for whatever reason, my springtime butterball missions are more about how I kill them and less about actually punching a tag.
Three years ago, I was hunting birds in Colorado a stone's throw from my home. The stage was set — my blind was 250 yards off the roost — the birds were hammering at dawn's glow. For whatever reason, the flock, which contained multiple toms, never showed. I could hear their gobbles and yelps getting fainter as the mob moved up the canyon.
After throwing everything and the kitchen sink at them, I dug in my pack and pulled out a bow-mounted turkey fake. I'd seen it used effectively on YouTube and even had a few friends tell me how amazing and fun it was, but I chuckled as I wrapped Velcro around my limb pockets and positioned the shoot-through window. Sure, the full-strut tom looked real enough, but I was so set in my ground blind ways my mind wouldn't accept that the tactic could work. Still, I had no other choice, so I went out of the blind and up the canyon.
I shot one of those toms at three yards. When my hinge broke and my arrow splashed through the charging-the-decoy bird, he kicked dirt up on my lap when he turned to run. It was, without question, the most intense moment of my turkey hunting career, and since, I've wanted to experience it again, and again, and again.
Better yet? There was now a story to be told to other turkey diehards who wouldn't dream about hunting gobblers without their trusty shotgun along for the ride!
Go Bow Mounted
There are some things to remember when you go the bow-mounted decoy route — things that stack the odds of success in your favor — that will keep you safe. First, you're going to need a decoy. My go-to is the Stalker Turkey Decoy from Ultimate Predator Gear. The full-sturt tom fake weighs next to nothing, folds and unfolds quickly, and attaches to a bow in seconds. The cloth turkey image is super lifelike, and I love that the decoy doesn't connect to the stabilizer and stick out to the right or left side of the bow. The Stalker Turkey's shoot-through window is a lengthy oval cutout in the decoy's middle that allows your sight, arrow, and stabilizer to be unobstructed. This design gives you maximum concealment, and when wearing an all-black top, which you should, your body blends right into the decoy.
Now that you have your decoy, you need to practice shooting with it on your bow. No, it doesn't add a ton of weight, but it does give the bow a slightly different feel, and wind much over 10 mph can make the decoy act like a sail. Get comfortable shooting with the Stalker Turkey on your bow. While practicing, be sure to check your bow-poundage ego at the door. It doesn't take much penetration to kill a turkey, and when this system works, birds will be under 20 yards. You can pull 70 or 80 pounds if you want to, but know that you'll be on one or both knees or flat or your butt, and you'll need to hold the bow directly out in front of you and bring the string straight back. If you have to point your bow up in the air or down to the ground and can't draw in a single fluid motion, you will look unnatural, and a tom will know something is awry.
When using the decoy in the woods, get it through your mind that you are the decoy, and you're trying to pick a fight with the biggest, badest boy bird in the woods. Typically, more dominant three- and four-year-old gobblers react best to the decoy, especially those with hens. However, when a few two-year-old scrappers are running together, they can be bullies, and more than once, I've had two-year-old birds come on a dead sprint.
The decoy comes with blaze orange straps, which you can use to boost safety. I do not use this tactic when hunting public ground, and shotgun season is open. This is my go-to private land hunt tactic, and I will use it on public dirt when hunting states during archery-only seasons.
When getting ready to show a tom turkey the decoy, my favorite tactic is to use the terrain, a hillside, sage bush, tree trunk, or whatever you can to disguise the decoy partially. When another tom can't see the entire decoy but catches a glimpse of a strutter swaying back and forth (move your riser to create movement) behind an obstacle, it will drive him mad. It's also a good idea to try and get within 150 yards of a bird before showing him the decoy.
Watch the reaction of the bird or birds through your shoot-through window. If a tom sees the decoy, blows up into strut, and starts making his way, let him come, even if his approach is slow. As long as he's moving in your direction, you're good. Typically, his approach will get more aggressive as he gets closer.
Other times, the reaction will be more immediate. I've had toms see the decoy, gobble, and come on a dead sprint from over 150 yards away. Stay patient, and as hard as it is to do, try and remain calm. Once I know the bird or birds are within 20 yards, I draw my bow straight back and settle my pin. My average shot distance when using the Stalker Turkey is 7 yards, and typically, birds are facing me when my release fires my bow. I love a full-frontal shot on a close-to-me bird. Put your pin right where his beard goes into his chest and start the push and pull process.
Another option is to be where the turkeys want to be or where you want to call them to and make yourself part of the decoy spread. This tactic works great. Get your hen decoys out in front of you, slap the Stalker Turkey on your bow, back up into some brush, and plop down in a turkey chair. Whenever using your Stalker, I recommend that you have some way to stand up your bow (bow stand, stabilizer with screw-in rods, or another system) so you don't have to hold it in your hand the entire time.
Remember, this system will not work 100 percent of the time, and it's a tactic that takes the right bird in the right mood. To put it in human terms, when using this approach, you're walking into a bar, trying to find the scariest dude in there, walking up to that dude, and saying, "You and me, outside right now." As bad as the dude looks, he may not want to fight, and other times, he may knock you flat on your butt before you even get out the door.