Hunters typically fall into one of two camps when it comes to using turkey decoys: those who swear by them and those who don’t want the hassle of carrying them into the woods and setting them up.

Most hunters agree that decoys can, at times, make a reluctant gobbler commit and close the distance to within shotgun range, but there are also many stories of turkeys turning and leaving at the sight of a decoy. 

Jeff Young of Pelzer, S.C., swears by his David Smith decoys; he said their realism often makes unwilling gobblers commit, and he will rarely hunt without them.

Conversely, Charles Hudson of Travelers Rest, S.C., doesn’t see the need for decoys. He has used them, but says, “It gives me an unfair advantage over the turkey.” Preferring to hunt the bird on a different level, Hudson refrains from using decoys. 

Both hunters agree, however, that a male decoy far out-performs a hen decoy. If I have to use only one, use a jake decoy; they seem to turn mature gobblers inside out.

When using a decoy, make sure it is visible from a long distance; you want interested turkeys to see it as soon as possible. Most hunters who use decoys will set them up in a field or open woods where visibility is good. The decoy is normally set up in front of the hunter at 15 to 20 yards, so when a gobbler gets to the decoy, he is well inside killing range.

When it comes to decoys, the more realistic, the better. Whether you use a full body or just a fan, make sure it is as realistic as possible. The biggest drawback is their portability or lack, so most hunters who use them regularly plan on sitting and getting birds to come to them. The use of a pop-up blind is a good combination when using decoys. Setting up behind a blind with the decoys in plane sight helps hunters remain hidden while gobblers are strolling closer to shogun range.