Turkey Decoy Strategies When Hunting from Ground Blinds
Few turkey hunters today head to the woods without having one or more decoys with them. Whether you are run and gunning turkeys in big timber country or hopping ground blinds in southern agricultural fields, decoys can help bring that boss gobbler those extra steps needed to make the kill. Hunting turkeys from ground blinds typically means you are on birds. You may have positioned the blind the evening before or have it set up in a season long hotspot. Either way, you are probably fairly confident that turkeys are close by, which is where your decoys come into play. With birds in the area, your calling has to be crisp, your turkey blind placement perfect and your turkey decoy strategies on point.
The Right Way to Use Decoys from Ground Blinds
Some turkey hunters swear by decoys and yet others curse them because they have had a bad past experience of getting busted while using them. In most instances when a turkey hunter has a bad experience using decoys, it is almost always the operator’s fault. Here are six tips for setting up turkey decoys the right way when hunting from ground blinds.
Trophy Pursuit’s Turkey Camp, Part 2
Opening day of turkey season with the Trophy Pursuit Team in southern Iowa.
- Ground blind placement should be between the bird and the decoys. When hunters get busted while using turkey decoys, the first question to ask them is where were their decoys set up at? The answer is always right in front of the blind. Decoys are designed to distract a gobbler and have him focus his attention on something other than yourself so you can get positioned to shoot him. When you are behind the decoy, the approaching turkey is looking right into your portable turkey blind. Instead, determine where a likely gobbler will approach from and position portable hunting blinds between him and the decoys, ideally on your shooting side.
- Know your range. You want your portable turkey blind close to your decoys or at least half the distance you can shoot. For example, if you can effectively pattern your shotgun out at 40 yards, you want your decoys out at 20 yards. The mistake many hunters make is their decoys are set out as far as they can shoot. What happens? A gobbler gets nervous and hangs up at 60 yards and you have blown your hunt. Keep them close when hunting turkeys from ground blinds so you either have a close shot or at worst a shot that is within range.
- Ground blinds should be concealed but not your turkey decoys. Decoys should be placed in open areas such as fields, right-of-ways or open timber, where often bale blinds make the best turkey blind. Putting out a set of hen decoys in thick brush 20 yards from your ground blind that you can barely see is a waste of time. Gobblers react well and are less likely to spook if they can see the decoy from far off. One of the main purposes of using decoys is to give a bird something to draw his attention in with and if your decoys are buried in the brush you will never give him that chance.
- Numbers matter. Fall turkey hunting warrants more decoys because birds are flocked up as opposed to the spring where there is more one on one interaction between birds. Again the purpose of using turkey decoys as part of your ground blind hunting strategies is to create authenticity around your calling. A big flock of 6 hens and a jake set out in front of your pop-up turkey blind is not realistic in the spring.
- Spread your decoys out. Often, several different decoys are deployed outside your ground blinds like a hen and a jake or multiple hens. When you are using more than one decoy, make sure there is plenty of space between all of them. A gobbler approaching from a distance may not be able to recognize what you are trying to emulate if all the decoys are bunched together. Similarly, if your decoys are too close and a gobbler runs in, you may have a hard time getting a shot on him. A mature gobbler may also be unwilling to join in on the action and bypass you altogether if the situation looks too
- Hunting ground blinds and turkey decoys should both be prepared for the weather. You probably have your ground blinds secured enough unless it is severe weather in which case you will not be out hunting anyway more than likely. However, even light breezes and hard rains depending on the style of decoys you are using can cause them to look unnatural. Be prepared with extra stakes to secure decoys or that whirling hen decoy in front of your portable turkey blind will be the only thing you see.
Top 3 Ground Blind Turkey Decoy Strategies
A gobbler’s desires change from week to week in the spring. Early on they are determining dominance in an area so aggressive decoy set ups work well to lure big, mature birds in looking for a fight. Next, comes breeding. Gobblers will move from fighting to breeding a few weeks into the season and be less receptive to aggressive decoy postures. Younger birds can be lured into jake decoys during this time because they feel they can take on a smaller bird for a chance at part of the breeding grounds. But, strutters will scare these younger birds away as they have not forgotten previous losing battles to boss gobblers earlier in the year. Try a jake decoy matched with a hen as breeding moves into full force. Gobblers will look to break up the action if they catch sight of a receptive hen in their area with a young bird. After breeding is over and hens move on to nesting, use a single feeding hen to lure in receptive gobblers to your pop-up turkey blinds later in the season.
Along with turkey hunting from a blind, there are other spring turkey hunting methods. Having decoys with you is beneficial whether you are in a blind or not. However, these top three turkey decoy strategies work the best when hunting turkeys from ground blinds.
Ground Blind Set Up #1 – Jake and Hen
If you had no other decoy set up to use from your ground blinds, the jake and hen would be it. This set up works well early through late season up until hens start to nest. Early on gobblers will come in to fight away a jake while later on as breeding ramps up a big tom will come running in to displace what he thinks is a jake crossing into his territory and moving in on his hens.
The assumption with this turkey decoy strategy is that you are hunting mature gobblers. Sometimes if the area you are hunting is heavily polluted with jakes, you are better off just using a hen decoy. Remember to position the turkey decoys off to your shooting side and not have your portable turkey blind directly in line with how you expect a bird to come in. Otherwise, his full attention may not be on the decoys but rather on you and your blind.
Ground Blind Set Up #2 – Feeding Hen
Why a feeding hen? Because when turkeys are feeding, they are calm and relaxed. If you put out a hen decoy that is upright and alert, a cunning boss gobbler will get the sense that something is not right or that she is alert for a particular reason. A group of feeding hens, 2-4 of them, works well when breeding has picked up and gobblers are looking for hens. You can add a strutter behind the hens if it is further into the breeding season to spark some competition if you are hunting in areas that contain mature birds. Keep the strutter positioned behind the hens like he is trailing them, which is a typical situation in the spring.
Ground Blind Set Up #3 – Strutting Gobbler
Turkey hunters are reluctant to put out a strutting gobbler decoy for fear that the dominant nature of it may make a bird hesitant to come in. There are two times when using a strutter decoy is successful when used as part of your ground blind hunting strategies for turkeys.
First, position a strutter facing away from where you believe a gobbler will approach from. Early season birds looking to dominate will see an away facing gobbler as an advantage to taking him on. Second, use it at the right time and right place. Stay away from this decoy setup, even if it is paired with a few feeding hens when hunting areas with jakes. Jakes will quickly be turned away from a dominate strutter later in the season. Also, this set works more effectively earlier in the season when birds are willing to challenge other gobblers for breeding rights.
Bottom line, turkey decoy strategies work effectively when planned out with ground blind hunting. Although it can happen, it is rare to throw up a decoy and make a few clucks and see a big gobbler running in. The more common scenario is having to plan your turkey hunting blind placement and decoy set up down to the last detail. These six tips should go a long way to improve your turkey hunting, especially if you are unsure of how and when to place decoys when turkey hunting from a blind. The next time you head out to one of your ground blinds for turkey hunting, think about these tips and pick the right decoy set up for tempting in a mature longbeard.