Skip to main content

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.

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Canyon Ranch Roundup Part 1

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.

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

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

Tree Saddle Hunting: Tree Climbing with an Aider

Tree Saddle Hunting: Tree Climbing with an Aider

Go farther, hunt deeper, and trek lighter while enjoying all-day comfort with the newest tree saddle hunting gear and tactics.

Spot-and-Stalk Texas Hog Bowhunt

Spot-and-Stalk Texas Hog Bowhunt

Bowhunter Equipment Editor Tony J. Peterson spot-and-stalks hogs and whitetails in Texas.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

A simple, classic steak and French fries duo gets a wild makeover with this Elk Venison Steak-Frites Recipe.Elk Venison Steak-Frites Recipe Recipes

Elk Venison Steak-Frites Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

A simple, classic steak and French fries duo gets a wild makeover with this Elk Venison...

This venison kebabs recipe marinates for a full day to take the already flavorful Asian bulgogi sauce to the next level.Grilled Korean Bulgogi Venison Kebabs Recipe Recipes

Grilled Korean Bulgogi Venison Kebabs Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

This venison kebabs recipe marinates for a full day to take the already flavorful Asian...

Inspired by “Buzzwinkle,” a lit up moose in Anchorage, this Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger Recipe is sure to be a delicious party on your taste buds with every bite.Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger Recipe Recipes

Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Inspired by “Buzzwinkle,” a lit up moose in Anchorage, this Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger...

 Cooking venison in camp is the best way to celebrate success.Fresh Meat: Cooking Venison in Camp Recipes

Fresh Meat: Cooking Venison in Camp

David Draper

Cooking venison in camp is the best way to celebrate success.

See More Trending Articles

More How-To

New year, new look at your whitetail groundSummer Scouting from Scratch How-To

Summer Scouting from Scratch

Tony J. Peterson

New year, new look at your whitetail ground

It's important for bowhunters to adapt to the ever-changing scenarios & shot angles on the fly. Treestand Shot Selection for Bowhunters How-To

Treestand Shot Selection for Bowhunters

Tony J. Peterson

It's important for bowhunters to adapt to the ever-changing scenarios & shot angles on the...

Don't let the wind ruin your next shot. Follow these steps for improved shooting performance. Bowhunting Accuracy in High Winds How-To

Bowhunting Accuracy in High Winds

Joe Bell

Don't let the wind ruin your next shot. Follow these steps for improved shooting performance.

Understanding environmental factors will tell you where to put the pin when the moment of truth arrives.Learning the Body Language of Animals How-To

Learning the Body Language of Animals

Jace Bauserman

Understanding environmental factors will tell you where to put the pin when the moment of...

See More How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now