Fifteen years ago, the average turkey hunter headed to the woods with a hen and/or jake decoy. Since then, strutting toms, half strut jakes, and breeding position hens have influenced how we hunt.
Most believed strutting decoys only worked on mature gobblers. Through years of field testing, I’ve found decoy effectiveness depends on the situation, rather than the tom’s age.
Determining Dominance: Long Spurs=Boss Gobbler?
Dominance of a gobbler will change year to year. A tom that ruled the roost one year may get challenged by groups of younger birds during the next. For example, widespread hatching success in 2011 produced an abundance of birds in the Midwest. This led to large groups of jakes running off mature toms in the spring of 2012. These toms proved difficult to hunt with strutting decoys, unless they roosted far away from the aggressive flock of jakes.
In Illinois during the 2007 season, I placed a strutting decoy along a field edge. Shortly after daylight, an enormous, long-spurred gobbler entered the field and strutted for hours. Even though within sight, he never came toward the full strut decoy. Thirty minutes later, a pair of two-year-old birds ran the giant tom off the field. They came charging in to the full strut decoy immediately after, only to meet several ounces of lead shot. In conclusion, gobblers that group up are the most aggressive and dominant.
Lovesick Birds: Gobblers that are Alone.
Lone, subordinate gobblers that place themselves away from the flock are great candidates for the strutting decoy. Because they are alone, these birds can be easiest to bring in with hen calls. I use a full strut decoy with the breeding position hen in these situations. Try to position the hen directly in front of the gobbler decoy, approximately 3-4 feet away. Dominant or not, when he sees that gobbler about to breed his hen, be ready- it can trigger an aggressive response.
Note: When using this combination, let the strutting decoy do the work. Once the gobbler spots the decoy, put down the call. Even if the tom works in slowly, be patient. He will likely see the breeding position hen and pick up the pace.
Strutting decoys are great tools to have in the turkey woods if the situation is right. It just depends on timing and temperament of the gobbler. Hopefully these tips help you become successful using gobbler decoys.
Strutting Decoys was last modified: January 29th, 2018 by Bill Winke