You know I could answer that with one simple line. Heck Yes! But it’s not that simple so I’m going to break this article down into different species and include my personal experiences with hunting with decoys! To begin, hunting with decoys is not that new. The plains Indians of the Americas were using decoys centuries ago. Primitive weapons meant that the hunter had to get super close to dispatch them, with a sharp rock!
I have been hunting turkeys since the mid 70’s with a bow and there has been a huge change in our hunting tactics. I started out using a decoy in the early 80’s and it was a mounted hen turkey that I had taken in the fall. I took the hen to a taxidermist and had him mount the bird and man that decoy was deadly! I put the hen on a wooden base with swivel along with some fishing line so I could move that hen around as needed. Any wind and the feathers would move and that was a killer. We have seen decoys of today get really elaborate. You now see turkey decoys that have the actual photo of the hen, gobbler, and jake transposed onto the plastic body. You see decoys that are made out of plastic and have feather images. There are skins that fit over your turkey decoy and when applied to the decoy body look just like the feathers of a hen!
(1) CARRY-LITE: Has The Pretty Boy and the Pretty Girl decoys which are the strutting tom and the squatting hen. Or their Junior Semi Strutting Jake and their Pretty Mama feeding Hen, this is all to represent more than one in the decoy set to attract a Gobbler to come in and see what is going on. Anything to enhance the opportunity of a shot with your bow.
(2) PRIMOS: Has their B-Mobile, She Mobile, Jake-Mobile, Swingin’Hen and the Killer B. All great decoys that mount on a stake and are moved in the wind. Very effective and life like
(3) FLAMBEAU: Has really some of the best looking new turkey decoys I’ve ever seen, they have ‘Flocked’ a process of spraying a fuzzy look on the decoy and giving it a realistic look The Flocked King Strut and Shady Lady Turkey Decoys are really deadly.
(4) FEATHER FLEX: Has also come out with the ‘flocked’ aggressive jake and a three position hen turkey decoy. This is a great set up as you can position the hen decoy in any position you want her from standing, feeding or breeding.
(5) MONTANA DECOYS: Are some of the most amazing decoys on the market. These decoys are actual vivid, high definition photo realistic detail of a teaser hen, feeding hen, punk jake, or the Mr. “T” Strutter and these ultra light weight decoys are easy to transport and set up. When set up just the slightest wind allows movement.
(6) FUSION/CHEROKEE SPORTS: These inflatable turkey decoys come with realistic molded heads. Being inflatable they will move with the wind, plus they are photo printed on an actual inflatable body size decoy. They have the Wobble-head hen, Submissive Sally, Delinquent Jake, and the Bad Act II Tom
That’s just a few of the turkey decoys on the market today.
This past spring I had the great pleasure of hunting in Mexico with Lenny Rezmer of Eastman Outdoors and his lovely wife Connie for Rio Grande Turkeys. I was using the FUSION / CHEROKEE SPORTS decoys and let me tell you the gobblers could not refuse them. We had turkey coming on the run and when they got within 20 yards of the decoy set they were in full strut, trying to run over each other to get to the hens. Connie was able to take a really good tom. Unfortunately Lenny had equipment (arrow rest) problems and missed the shot of a lifetime. (SEE ARTICLE “DOWN ON THE RIO GRANDE” Click Here)
I have been using Deer Decoys since the late 80’s. My first decoy was a Carry Lite that I still have today. I remember one particular hunt in south Iowa where I had the Carry Lite Decoy out and had antlers on the decoy and a buck tail that had been tanned hanging from the rear. I had been using the decoy both ways doe or buck and this particular morning I was using the decoy as a buck decoy. I had this 120 inch class 8 point come across a cut bean field from over 200 yards out that walked right up to the decoy. He walked around behind the decoy (with his antlers on his head) sniffed the deer’s tail and then proceeded to mount it! I was hunting with my wife we were laughing so hard I never even thought about shooting or filming that buck. So yes Gwendolyn, decoys do work on certain days. By the same token, I have also had days when the bucks took one look at the decoy and were on their way to the next county.
(1) CARRY-LITE: These folks have an excellent decoy called the EZ-Buck Deer Decoy. It’s very light (no pun intended) and has a special material that keeps the noise down as you carry it thru the woods, fields, or brush. The legs also fold for easy setup and takedown and includes a carry band and ground stakes.
(2) PRIMOS: Will Primos has been very innovative when it comes to decoys and this decoy is excellent, The Scarface Deer Decoy comes with a head and tail that move in the slightest breeze. The Scarface is a realistic decoy with a soft body. It is also quiet to carry and easy to assemble in the field with a sturdy metal stake to support the decoy. The head, legs, ears and antlers are removable and store in the body cavity.
(3) FLAMBEAU: These folks have a great decoy called the Maters Series of Boss Buck and Boss Babe decoys. Both are realistic looking and feature a twist locking leg system that adds stability, durability and ease of assembly. The legs, head, and antlers all break down and fit inside in the body cavity. Plus the rear legs will accept pads to apply your favorite scent.
(4) MONTANA DECOYS: As always Jerry McPherson’s lightweight, easily packable fold up decoys are absolutely the most realistic on the market! These durable polyester units show a photographic image printed on both sides giving you an almost perfect image of the deer you are hunting. Choices are the Dreamy Doe, Playmate Feed Doe, Whitetail Buck and Whitetail Dream Team Combo. MONTANA DECOYS are some of the best looking decoys on the market but the nice thing is how easy they are to carry and put up.
(5) EASY DOE DECOY: The EASY DOE is a blow up decoy that features a motorized tail that moves via remote control. When you want it to move, you hit the remote control. The decoy comes with a D-battery portable pump so you can quietly blow it up in the field and an adjustable stake that also allows the decoy to move with the wind. I have had does come in many times and be wired to the max and I just flick that EASY DOE tail and it immediately calms them down. One of the great decoys on the market.
This past fall/winter I was the guest at Geronimo Creek Ranch and was using the Easy Doe Decoy and it was the reason I was able to take a really great 9 point Buck. (See my article titled “Geronimo”)
No matter what species I’m hunting the first thing I always do when using a decoy is check the wind! No matter whether I’m using a ground blind or a tree stand I want to be on the down wind side of that decoy so if the game I’m hunting does come in down wind I have a chance of catching that animal on the down wind side and having a better shot. Many times I’ve set up for a buck using a doe decoy and that bugger will come down wind and be very cautious. I think what happens is if a buck has been decoyed before, they become decoy shy and will take all precautions necessary to make sure they are coming into a live deer! Gobblers are especially notorious about being decoy shy if they have had a lot of pressure!
This past spring I had a very unusual occurrence with Rio Grande gobblers in Mexico. I was hunting on a Ranch that I know had not had any hunting pressure for gobblers and yet they were very wary about decoys, calling and even feeders. So I made some major changes. Instead of using one hen decoy I switched to a flock of FUSION / CHEROKEE SPORTS Decoys. I set out a Wobble-Head Hen, a Submissive Sally and a Delinquent Jake and that combination did the trick. The birds came in running just begging for someone to shoot them! Therefore, whenever you start having problems with a single set up change to a flock of turkeys or more than one deer decoy. I’ve used different style of decoys from different manufactures to get the deer to come in. One of my favorite tricks on bucks is to put a buck out in front of me and making sure to turn the decoy broadside to you. This helps ensure you will have a broadside shot as the deer comes into check out that decoy. I’ve heard people say to have the decoy facing away from you. Well I’ve tried that and it’s failed every time. I never seem to be able to get the shot I want.
Back to the hunt, with my buck decoy out in front of me I will use one of the Montana Decoys placed in the brush to my left or right depending on the wind and it looks realistic! This is especially a great set up on old mature bucks as they come to the rattling horns and decoy and will also help calm them down and help you get that shot you want and need.
People often ask me the question, ‘do decoys work’ and I always answer the same. Yes they do. Maybe not all the time but they work enough to make them a part of your hunting gear. They will, if set up correctly, draw in the game and they will calm down the game you’re hunting. The help grab the attention of the deer so you can take your shot. So, my advice, pick up a good decoy, take it to the woods, fields, or brush and put it to work. You may be surprised at how effective a properly placed decoy can be for you.
CAUTION: DO NOT CARRY A DEER DECOY DURING THE GUN SEASON SOME IDIOT WILL SHOOT YOU! BE SURE TO PUT FLORESCENCE ORANGE BAG OVER THE DECOY AND ON YOURSELF.
Jim ‘Killer’ Miller