Why Quality Turkey Decoys Matter

Why Quality Turkey Decoys Matter

There are some places where hunting pressure is low and the turkeys are, well, dumb. Those places are a lot of fun to hunt. In many areas, where turkey hunting has been popular for three or four decades now, the gobblers don't seem nearly as suicidal.

They may still be dumb as far as turkeys are concerned, but they aren't risk takers.

A good turkey bowhunt boils down to birds willing to work the decoys. This means that in most places you need quality decoys that offer up a convincing look and body posture.

This becomes evident when you spend a day in a blind watching birds skirt your ambush site at 60 or 70 yards. They'll gobble in your direction, show of their strutting style, but simply won't commit. Some of this has to do with blind-shy birds. I know hunters who say that's not a thing and that turkeys don't care about blinds, but you couldn't prove that by some of the birds I hunt.

Ditto for Decoys 

I can remember my first years as a turkey hunter when I was a teenager. I carried a foam hen decoy around that looked like the Gumby version of a female wild turkey. The birds didn't care, however, even though at that time I was content to shoot them in the faces with a shotgun.

When I started to really get into bowhunting turkeys, I realized that Mrs. Gumby wouldn't cut it. A good turkey bowhunt really boils down to the birds working the decoys like you want them to. If they are cagey or lock up outside of bow range, then the whole deal goes down the drain. This isn't a big deal when you're toting a 12-gauge, but when you're looking to lop off a head or run a big mechanical through the small vitals of a longbeard, it's important.

What Really Matters In A Fake

Nearly every jake decoy on the market is a half-strutter right now, which is no accident. The first company to settle on this pose was Dave Smith Decoys, so I went straight to the man himself to ask why and he said, "The idea is to portray a jake who is feeling slightly brazen when it comes to breeding hens or his position in the hierarchy. This elicits a response in toms that are both dominant and submissive. It took a lot of experimenting to learn the exact pose that was not too aggressive, but aggressive enough."

The half-strut posture of good jake decoys is meant to signal a brazen youngster to all approaching toms - both dominant and submissive.

Smith then went on to say that the jake went through 11 iterations before being finished, half of which focused solely on the head position alone.

The half-strut posture of good jake decoy combined with a few good-looking ladies, is often the ticket to drawing in longbeards to easy bow range.

If you take a look at all of the DSD turkey decoys. you'll see that they come in various poses, all of which are meant to say something to live turkeys. Smith gave me a rundown on this by saying, "Our Feeding Hen gets criticized a lot by people until they look at real birds and see how closely our decoy looks to the real thing. Our Submissive Hen often gets called a breeding hen, but she's not - she is submissive. There is a subtle difference in the wing position, which we found to be the most effective at drawing in toms."

If you're frustrated with your turkey bowhunts, you might be dealing with birds that are becoming blind-shy, or you might be dealing with gobblers that simply aren't buying your decoy spread.

"Our Leading Hen depicts a bird in full stride, with the idea that it will create a sense of urgency for a tom to hurry up and get in front of her. This decoy also draws in hens better than any of our other decoys, so she pulls double-duty." Body posture is certainly important, but most hunters walk into their local Cabela's store and decide to buy a decoy that simply looks good.

The higher-quality decoys on the market not only look really convincing, they are built with subtleties in body posture that turkeys fall prey to.

Smith explained how they ensure his decoys catch your eye as well by breaking down the look of his Strutter. "We made this decoy to replace a full-body mount tom. We used a spectrophotometer to match live birds, so it looks perfect in the field."

A Question Of Dollars

The real question for many of us on buying decoys is whether the high-dollar fakes are worth it. I didn't think so, until I got frustrated after a Nebraska hunt where the public-land birds I was hunting simply wouldn't commit. With a shotgun I'd have cleaned house, but I wasn't toting a shotgun. I needed the birds to work the decoys, and they wouldn't.

Good decoys don't just dupe lovestruck toms, they pull in hens as well. If your spread draws in the ladies and they feed contentedly through your setup, you are on to something and the longbeards are sure to come.

I ordered a flock of DSDs after that hunt and have never looked back. There are quite a few options on the market that will produce quality hunts for you, but make sure they are designed to last, sport perfect posture, and look like the real thing.

It might be tough to stomach the cost at first, but it doesn't take long to forget that and realize you're hunting has gotten a lot more enjoyable.

Recommended for You

ATA Show

Best New Broadheads for 2019

Brian Strickland - January 10, 2019

From fixed to hybrid to mechanical, we've rounded up the best new broadheads from the 2019 ATA...


Late-Summer Scouting Mistakes to Avoid

Tony J. Peterson

Don't ruin your chances of tagging a big buck this fall.

ATA Show

Best New Binoculars for Bowhunters in 2019

Brian Strickland - January 11, 2019

Check out our list of the best new-for-2019 optics from the ATA Show!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Bowhunter TV Episode 7: Canyon Ranch Roundup, Part 1

Bowhunter TV's Derek Mleynek and Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson head to Texas for a late-season mixed bag hunt that promises plenty of action.

Mountain Caribou Hunt

Curt Wells can't pass up this opportunity to hunt mountain caribou in the Northwest Territories.

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Bowhunter TV Editor Derek Mleynek has a chance to fill his buck tag on a mixed bag hunt in Texas.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Tree Saddle Demo Climb With Aider Use

Mike Carney - June 07, 2019

Go farther, hunt deeper, and trek lighter while enjoying all-day comfort.

Big Game

Beginner's Guide to Bowhunting Mule Deer

Ron Niziolek

Follow this advice before embarking on your first hunt!

Arrows & Broadheads

What Are the Best Vanes For Hunting?

Joe Bell

Here's how to choose vanes that will yield the best accuracy, forgiveness, and trajectory.

See More Stories

More How-To


Late-Summer Scouting Mistakes to Avoid

Tony J. Peterson

Don't ruin your chances of tagging a big buck this fall.


Tree Saddle Demo Climb With Aider Use

Mike Carney - June 07, 2019

Go farther, hunt deeper, and trek lighter while enjoying all-day comfort.


Deer from Above: Aerial Photography for Bowhunting

Tony J. Peterson

Learn more about aerial photography and its importance to the whitetail bowhunter!

See More How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.