Are decoys turkey killers or rescuers? Veteran hunter is careful with decoy use

Certain situations call for imitation hens and jakes, but they can turn away gobblers if the set-up isn’t right

Some turkey hunters swear by decoys, and some swear at them. The truth is, neither situation is correct; if used properly, at the right time, decoys can help you wrap a tag around a tom’s leg. If used incorrectly, at the wrong time, it will put wind in the bird’s wings.

Marshall Collette of Greensboro, N.C., is a long-time member of the Quaker Boy and Mossy Oak pro staffs who will take four turkey decoys with him on almost every trip, but some of the time they stay in his ATV and sometimes they go with him to set up on a gobbler. He will use them in certain situations.

“I don’t carry them in my vest, but if I’m going to be hunting a big, open area with very little cover, especially in the afternoon, I’ll carry them,” he said. “Or, if I’ve got a bowhunter I’m calling for, if I’ve got to hunt from a blind or if I’m taking a kid hunting, I’ll use them.

“But if I’m by myself, running and gunning, very rarely will I take them with me, because most of the time, there’s no time to get them set up, especially in big hardwoods. That’s when they stay in my buggy.”

When he does use decoys, Collette will put out up to three hen decoys: Avian-X decoys in feeding, lookout and breeding poses. Completing the package is the most-important decoy, a Spin-N-Strut gobbler that carries the tail feathers of a jake and can be manipulated to spin in place by braided fishing line attached to its standf. Set up together, the jake will attract the attention of most any gobbler that wanders within sight.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time, gobblers will come in looking for a fight, running in,” Collette said. “The one percent will be a 2-year-old bird that I probably don’t want to take anyway, but a 3-year-old bird won’t shy away from one, and that’s the one I’m looking for. If he won’t come to a jake decoy, he’s not the dominant gobbler I’m want to kill.

“Decoys are a 50-50 deal,” he said. “A gobbler may come in strutting or running all the way to the decoy. Or he may come out and see the decoy and leave.”

Collette won’t use a big, full-fan gobbler decoy because he thinks they spook too many gobblers.

“Some of these gobbler decoys are huge, and that spooks a lot of birds. Shoot, you can take a Clorox bottle and paint it black and stick a white tennis ball in the neck of the bottle and put a a jake’s tail feathers in the back, and they’ll come to it. It doesn’t have to be a big decoy.”

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