A Beginner’s Guide to Turkey Decoys

July 19, 2021 4 min read

a hunter using a compound bow behind a blind

Whether you hunt with a compound bow or a shotgun, a decoy is a highly useful accessory for luring turkeys out in the open. However, not all decoys are created alike. To gain the most advantage from using a decoy, you need to select the right one and use it appropriately.

Hunting Blinds

When you’re hunting turkeys, don’t neglect the importance of a suitable blind. The most common type of hunting blind is a deer blind; however, you can also use hunting blinds for turkeys. A well-camouflaged hunting blind used in conjunction with decoys and game calls significantly increases your chances of bagging a bird. A hunting blind can provide you with a full 360° field of view, increasing your visibility while keeping you concealed.

The Shadow Hunter GhostBlind Phantom is the ideal camouflage hunting blind for turkey hunting. Using the company’s patented mirror technology, the Phantom allows you to blend seamlessly with any environment, regardless of flora or season. At 10 lb., the Phantom is highly portable and consists of six reflective, shatterproof panels that unfold. The Phantom is the perfect height for a turkey chair and provides you with several aiming ports for either your shotgun or crossbow.

Types of Turkey Decoy

You can use three types of turkey decoys to lure a mature male turkey — called a tom or gobbler — into view. 

  • 2D Silhouette 
  • The most inexpensive type of decoy, 2D silhouettes are flat and relatively lightweight. However, 2D decoys are also the least realistic. If they’re made from cardboard or plastic, they’re also more susceptible to deterioration from rainfall, so you’ll need to keep them dry. 

  • 3D Stuffed Decoys
  • Turkeys have surprisingly good eyesight. A turkey can tell a low-quality decoy from a high-quality product. This means that relatively inexpensive decoys are also less effective. 

    The most realistic turkey decoys are the work of a skilled taxidermist — these are called “stuffers.” Although realistic, they’re more expensive than 2D-silhouette and 3D-collapsible alternatives, and they can be heavy. The weight can affect your ability to conveniently transport multiple decoys unless you take a sled or another conveyance with you. 

  • 3D Collapsible 
  • More realistic than 2D decoys but less expensive than taxidermist decoys, the collapsible decoy is a suitable compromise. Collapsible decoys are also easier to transport as they’re lighter in weight and less bulky. You simply inflate the collapsible decoy when you need it. 

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    a couple of turkeys looking for food on the ground

    Source: Paul Tessier/ Shutterstock.com

    Decoy Positions

    Turkey decoys are available in several configurations, representing a turkey in a different position or performing a different action. These lure toms to the decoy under a specific set of circumstances. Among the decoy positions you can find are the following:

  • Walking Decoys
  • Walking decoys can appear as though multiple turkeys are leaving an area. If you place the tom and jake decoys in the rear, it can appear that the hens are leaving, attracting toms.

  • Mating Decoys
  • If you arrange male and female decoys in a mating position, you may be able to lure a tom interested in challenging the male for access to the hen.

  • Feeding Decoys
  • A common type of decoy simulates turkeys feeding with their heads in a downward-facing position. The use of hens is important to attract males. 

    UV Light

    Depending on the type of decoy you choose, it can reflect ultraviolet (UV) light, spooking the turkeys and alerting them to the fake. One way to avoid your decoy producing a telltale glow is to use a UV eliminator spray. If you’re not sure whether a particular decoy is likely to reflect UV light, spray all of them.

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    Turkey Calls

    Aside from decoys, one of the most useful tools a hunter can have is a game call. There are a variety of different calls, each serving a specific purpose. These include the following:

  • Locator Calls
  • Rather than imitating a turkey, as many calls do, a locator call is designed to provoke a tom  into gobbling to reveal his presence. It does this by imitating a different species of bird. A common type of locator call mimics the hoot of an owl, as owls often occupy the same habitats as turkeys. 

    When you blow into the call, use a powerful exhale to apply as much pressure as possible. It’s worth either listening for barred owls in the woods or finding audio files online of how owls hoot to gain a better understanding of what you’re aiming for.  

  • Hen Calls
  • A hen call imitates the sound a female turkey makes to attract a tom. Hens produce different sounds, but one of the most common is the yelp — a high-pitched mating call. A hen uses the yelp to attract male turkeys and communicate with its clutch and other females. During the springtime, the yelp is an excellent way of luring males toward your location. 

  • Hen Clucks
  • Other than the yelp mating call, hens also produce other sounds, such as clucks and purrs, during feeding and when calm to express a feeling of safety or contentment. Every turkey hunter who uses a call should learn how to perform these types of sounds.

    More Than Decoys

    A decoy is a valuable tool in your turkey hunting arsenal. However, it’s important you understand how and when to use decoys, when not to use them and when to use other accessories to enhance your ability to bag a turkey in the field or the woods. A hunting blind is an accessory critical to the success of your hunt. Browse the full selection of ground blinds and elevated blinds at Shadow Hunter Blinds.