Thursday, April 9, 2009

A surprising turkey hunting tip from a pro

What do you mean, "Pro?"

Oh, you thought I was talking about myself? Don't be silly.

After my failed turkey hunt last week with my friend Sarah, I asked National Wild Turkey Federation Regional Biologist Ryan Mathis to review my story and tell me what I did wrong. Here's what he told me: Read more...
Ditch the decoys.

Really? But people seem so obsessed with decoys!

Really.

"I gave up on decoys several years ago for many reasons, but I will list a few important ones," he wrote.

1. If you're focused on setting up a decoy, you can lose focus on staying concealed and the birds will bust you. "We want to put the decoys in an area where the turkey will see it, but if the birds are close they end up seeing you putting it up," he said.

2. Mature gobblers like the hen to come to them (oh boy, I can hear the jokes now). Point being, that tom may see your decoy and strut just out of range waiting for that big hunk o' plastic to come to him.

3. Having no decoy out keeps the birds guessing about where that seductive-sounding hen is. If the gobbler thinks he's close to her, he'll start strutting where he thinks she can see him. Only, oops, that sound he hears isn't a hen.

4. Safety. Back when Ryan used decoys, people would stalk them all the time - especially on public lands. Even though they were hen decoys. Doh!

Funny, the first and only time I got a turkey, it was without a decoy. Every time I've used them since, I've wondered if they were worth the irritation of hauling them around.

So I'm kinda glad Ryan think's they're not worth it, because that makes this weekend's hunt a little simpler for me. Now all I have to do is get a turkey.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


8 comments:

Blessed said...

Good luck getting that turkey!

SimplyOutdoors said...

I have heard so many differing opinions on this. Now I'm not sure which way to go. I guess, though, if I stop and think for a minute, I haven't killed a turkey yet and every time I've been out I've used a decoy. Maybe he is onto something.

Phillip said...

Good stuff!

Have to refer back to my "turkey tips from a pro" post of last year... call more, call less,don't call at all. Use decoys, use hens only, use hens and jakes, don't use decoys...

I've seen decoys work like a magnet, and I've seen them repel birds from 100 yards away. I still carry a couple, and I'll use them if I feel like the conditions are right... but one thing for sure, I'll probably never use them again when the birds are already on the move. You'll get busted almost every time.

I am hearing more and more turkey hunters moving away from using dekes,though... could be a trend.

Tammy Sapp said...

I agree with Ryan. Decoys can work, but they're just as likley to spook birds. I'd rather go it alone. If you are going to use a decoy, check out NWTF's safety guidelines for using them. http://www.nwtf.org/tips_adventures/tips.php?id=11555

Matt Ames said...

Hi Holly,

My brother, Steve, (the one who hunted with us at Yolo) has been a very successful turkey "harvester" since he was a young teenager. He has never had a decoy and almost never gets skunked. I've got to say that it makes sense not to use one unless you're setting up before the turkeys wake up, and you're planning on staying stationary until you call one in. Or in my opinion it wouldn't hurt to start out with one, but leave it there. Then if you want to do the "listen, locate, stalk, cut off at the pass, and ambush technique", you're not revealing yourself by fumbling with a decoy that the tom may be keeping an eye on.

sportingdays said...

Hang in there, Cazadora. As the season wears on, all those hens will start disappearing to go be moms, brood their eggs, etc.

You'll have less competition from the real thing and those toms, wondering where all their ladies went, will pay your calling more attention.

Mark said...

Try it without a decoy and see what happens. I think the bigger mistake people make is calling too much. If you have a bird gobbling, there's no need to call more than once every 5-10 mins. People get carried away and then wonder why the bird hangs up or goes silent.

It's also been my school-of-hard-knocks experience that if you see a group of birds and then try to hunt them, the odds are severely against you. Just because the birds don't scatter at high speed doesn't mean they haven't made you. Most of the time they'll just ease off in the other direction and you'll sit there wondering why you couldn't call them in.

I managed to take one this way last weekend, but it took me 40 minutes to work myself into position, crawling on my belly, and I only hit the call once right at the end to move the gobbler into range. But I went to the birds, they didn't come to me.

Live to Hunt.... said...

Sounds like a discussion about duck hunting and deocys. "Use these decoys in this setup, but surely not those. But then there are these when you are here, but don't ever use them when you are there. In some cases use a lot, other times just a few."

Ask 100 hunters for an opinion and you'll get it. My sense is to try different approaches under different scenarios and learn what feels right and what works. I suspect as with most hunting, it won't be the same for every situation. Good luck Holly!