Turkey hunting decoy setups can make or break a turkey hunt. Learn how to set up, position, and combine decoys to maximize hunting success.
Positioning turkey decoys is an art, not a science. It’s not difficult once you learn the concepts behind the placement. This post explains the strategy of how to maximize your chances of bringing turkeys into your decoys.
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Table of Contents
How Many Decoys Should You Use?
The number of decoys you should use depends on how many turkeys are in a group. I usually don’t hunt groups of turkeys that exceed 10 birds at a time. For this reason, I use a max of 3 decoys.
Make Your Decoys Approachable
I like my decoys to feel approachable by larger groups of turkeys as well as single birds. Fewer decoys will allow for a larger group of turkeys to want to merge with your decoys or at least feel comfortable enough to check your decoys out. If you have too many decoys then groups of birds, as well as individual birds, will feel intimidated and stay outside of gun range.
If you’re seeing groups of turkeys regularly that exceed 10 birds in a group then you can add another decoy, but 3 seems to be a pretty good number regardless. Single toms will still decoy with 3 decoys because they don’t feel overwhelmed but you still have the ability to pull in those larger groups.
If I know I am hunting a single tom, I will use less than 3 decoys because I want that tom to feel as comfortable as possible coming into the decoys. In this case, I will use two decoys.
How To Position Turkey Decoys
There are strategies for positioning turkey decoys to improve your chances of success. When you’re placing decoys there are a few things to think about:
Direction Turkeys Are Coming From
A lot of hunters, including myself when I first started turkey hunting, place turkey decoys right in front of them and don’t take into considerations where turkeys are coming from.
One trick I use almost every time is by placing my decoys 20 yards in the opposite direction of where I think the turkeys will be coming from. For example, if turkeys are roosting or frequent off to your left, then your decoys should be placed 20 yards or so to your right.
This will make birds cross directly in front of you in order to get to your decoys.
This is mostly a tactic I use with hen decoys. This is explained further below:
Toms vs Jake vs Hen Decoy Positioning
Hen Decoy Positioning
I will almost always place hen decoys off to the side about 20 yards. I do this for the hens because toms and jakes rarely run straight into hen decoys and will often hang up just out of range.
Jake Decoy Positioning
However, toms and jakes will often come right into a jake decoy. This is usually because they are more comfortable and/or territorial with other male turkeys. For this reason, I place jake decoys closer to me. I still position the jake decoy off to the side, just closer.
Tom Decoy Positioning
I don’t use tom decoys very often because they are too intimidating. I’d rather use a jake decoy. However, I’ve had success with tom decoys and would use them in the same way as a jake decoy.
Facing Your Decoys Realistically
If you know which way the turkeys are coming from, then you probably can guess which way they want to go. Don’t face your decoys towards where you think turkeys are coming from because they will subconsciously make turkeys think they don’t have to come to you – because your decoys are already going to them.
Instead, face your decoys in the direction turkeys will naturally be traveling. This will also help pull those birds a little more in front of you.
Placing Decoys For The “Hang Up”
Additionally, a lot of times birds are hesitant when coming into decoys and will “hang up” just outside of gun range (like around 20 yards). Placing your decoys 20- yards in the opposite direction of where you think the birds are coming from it will help you bag those pesky toms that hang up like this.
Effective Turkey Decoy Setup Combinations
The Single Hen Decoy Setup
Unless you plan to be highly mobile (running and gunning), you’ll almost always want at least one decoy with you. Even then, I will often still bring one decoy. This should always be a hen decoy because when you call you’re mimicking a hen. So to not have a hen decoy in your decoy setup will look unrealistic to turkeys. Also, gobblers are looking for hens at this time of year, so there is almost no reason for not having a hen decoy.
I like this setup when hunting pressure is high, I feel like a single decoy seems more legit to real turkeys because other hunters are often using more than one decoy.
1 Tom + 1 Hen Decoy Setup
A hen is used as an attractor for toms and jakes. They can be used alone or with other male decoys. When placed with male decoys, a jealously and territorial trigger button will be pushed within male birds making them want to come into the decoys.
A tom turkey in strut when placed next to a hen decoy is used to get another dominant tom fired up and aggressive so that he will want to attack the decoy, thus bringing the bird into shooting range. Jakes will often be scared of a tom decoy so keep that in mind. Less aggressive toms may also shy away. For this reason, I rarely use this setup.
1 Jake + 1 Hen Decoy Setup
A jake turkey decoy that is semi-puffed up or even better – in full-strut – with hen decoys nearby will make a tom want to put the jake in its place by letting him know who’s boss. This will make the tom angry want to come in and take the jake out of the picture so he can have the hen (your decoy) to himself. Additionally, other jakes will feel comfortable coming to join. This jake decoy can bring in any age male turkey. I use this setup a lot.
The 2 Hen Setup
Two hen decoys are good for larger groups of gobblers because a bigger group of male turkeys will feel more comfortable coming to a party of two. Two hen decoys are very non-threatening so you can attract any male turkey. However, although not threatening, a single male turkey may be intimidated and feel outnumbered, especially jake.
2 Hens + 1 Jake
A jake turkey that is semi-puffed up with two hen decoys is very similar to the 1 hen + 1 jake decoy setup. This setup will make a tom want to put the jake in its place by letting him know who’s boss. This will make the tom angry want to come in and take the jake out of the picture so he can have the hens (your decoys) to himself. Additionally, other jakes will feel comfortable coming to join. This jake decoy can bring in any age male turkey. This is another one of my favorite turkey hunting decoy setups.
I hope you’ve found this article on turkey hunting decoy setups helpful. Reach out if you have questions, the best place to reach me is on Facebook. If you’re looking for more turkey hunting information, check out my other Turkey Hunting Posts.
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