How you set your decoys can make or break a hunt. Too grouped up, too many, too ugly, too goofy and too unexpected won’t work. Instead, ensure your decoys look natural and normal.
I’ve used the setup explained here during almost every hunt for four years, and my success rate has increased dramatically.
In Spring 2016, I filmed 17 turkey hunts with me or another hunter for my online hunting show, “Calling All Turkeys.” We killed 15 turkeys on those hunts, and many of the hunts featured this decoy setup. I don’t use decoys for some hunts because timing, conditions, terrain or the situation doesn’t work. But when it comes together, this setup proves effective and deadly.
To complete this setup, you will need:
• Realistic hen and jake decoys, such as Avian-X branded fakes
• Ensure good body postures, such as upright heads or feeding, and a jake with a realistic red, white and blue head that is visible for 360 degrees
The Traveling Line
When making my setup, I first determine where I’ll sit. Then, I place the jake decoy about 20 yards in front of me and facing away.
I then position my upright hen in front of the jake decoy, also facing the same direction. I call this the traveling-line setup. I want it to look like both turkeys are traveling together in the same direction, and I put this setup in line with my shot to avoid damaging my decoys.
The traveling-line setup is most noticeable to gobblers when hunting along field edges. I set up the decoys as if they were just leaving the woods.
Avian-X decoys are favored because they have all the features I want. They’re realistic, the painting looks like real feathers, and they have a three-dimensional mold that provides the appearance of real feathers.
Stick to It
If you try the traveling-line setup, stick with it for an entire season. If it doesn’t seem to work, change it. But don’t change your setup every hunt, because you gain no knowledge about what works and what doesn’t.
When Do You Not Use Decoys?
The No. 1 reason is time. If you’re running and gunning, you might strike a bird fairly close. You don’t have time to place a decoy because the turkey might come in quickly.
I’ll also forgo decoys in other circumstances, such as thick cover.
How Do You Deal With Decoy-Shy Gobblers?
Decoy-shy birds can be difficult to figure out because you won’t know if turkeys are decoy shy until they come in, see your decoys and run the other way. In some situations, such as heavily pressured areas late in the season, you might suspect turkeys are decoy shy.
I avoid hunting fields in such spots. I get into the woods, where birds feel safe. Then, I stick to soft calling and make turkeys look for me.