Turkeys are notoriously wary birds and difficult to hunt. There are numerous opinions on the best way to set decoys, depending on the hunter that you ask. However, there are some tips upon which most experts seem to agree.
Preparing for the Hunt
The best bet is to spend the few days before turkey season begins to see where the turkeys roost. Also see if any gobblers have moved into or out of the area. Look for places where they strut, areas where they feed, and spots where they like to dust themselves. Good scouting will help you determine the best places to set your decoys.
Best Time to Hunt
Experienced and savvy hunters agree that the best time to hunt turkeys is in the morning. It's helpful to see turkeys fly to the roost the night before the hunt. Use a gobble call or locator call to find them on the roost.
If you aren't able to find them the night before the hunt, try a locator call in the morning. If you can't find them that way, you'll just have to trust your instinct. Where do you think they'll be? Go with that. Some experts claim that turkeys fly away from the sun when they're leaving the roost in the morning. You might keep that in mind in selecting a spot to set your dekes.
Number of Decoys
While it depends on which hunter you ask, most say it isn't good to use too many decoys. Many say using one tom and one hen is best. In that case, place the tom near the hen. Others say two hens and a jake (a one-year-old turkey) is ideal. If you go with the latter, put the jake behind the hens so it looks like they're getting ready to mate. Remember that turkeys mate in the spring. The toms will be strutting about charming the hens.
Find a spot where turkeys can see your decoys from a distance. The edge of a field is a good place. So are the open woods or maybe a logging road. The consensus seems to be that you should put your decoys to one side of you, not directly in front of you. Some hunters say decoys shouldn't have the sun glaring on them. Others say gobblers like the sun because it helps them show off their fancy feathers to the hens.
Hunters' Distance From Decoys
No two hunters seem to agree on the right distance. Some say you should set up a hundred yards from your blind. Others say your decoys should be within range, maybe 20 yards from your location. Still others set their decoys as close as 10 to 15 yards away.
Gobblers have sharp eyesight. Make sure your decoys look like real turkeys. They should be the correct color and not beaten-up. Inflatable decoys that will shift slightly with a wind are good. It's also smart to use flexible stakes -- they help give the decoys movement in a light breeze.
Use your call to get the turkeys' attention. If you see turkeys zero in on your decoys, lay off the call and keep quiet.
There are barriers that some hunters believe make turkeys balk. Fallen trees, fences, steep hills, water and large fields can stall a gobbler, making them wait for the hens to come to them. On the other hand, sometimes they'll just move on in.
If you don't get any action after a couple of hours following sunup, chances are you should move your decoys from a field. Turkeys will begin moving to higher ground, and that's where you'll want to set them up again. Unless you've located turkeys somewhere else, a slope or ridge is good.