Posted by Mark Kayser on Apr 20, 2023
Solving the Turkey Decoy Conundrum of How Many?
With the amount of hunting gear available today, do you ever wonder what exactly you should bring with you to the field? Take turkey decoys for instance. Most avid turkey hunters have a complete lineage of the turkey family starting with a full-strut tom decoy, half-strut toms, mature hens, breeding hens and of course an array of every colorful jake decoys in various positions. With this family tree, how do you ever come up with the right combination to put in front of you?
The short answer is that there is really no wrong answer. The dynamics of turkey flocks changes throughout the season and daily. Nearly any combination of your decoys will work throughout the hunting season. Nevertheless, changing aspects associated with the spring breeding season do warrant some consideration in choosing decoy pals. I will go out on a limb here and say that any day turkeys may run to your decoys or run away. Despite that cop out, understanding turkey lifestyle and what is occurring during the particular window of your hunt could help you decide on a decoy recipe for your outing.
Consider the spring seasonal changes of a turkey flock to help you decide on which decoy to use.
By opening day, large winter flocks either begin breaking up or at the very least, have been joined by the bachelor gobblers who are not looking for love. Some flocks may be sizable and contain several dominant toms, but that will change in the days ahead as flocks break into smaller sizes with fewer males in the party.
One thing is for sure. Hens are not ready for breeding yet, despite urging from toms. In many animal breeding situations, Mother Nature prompts males to increase their testosterone levels before females are ready to breed. Turkeys follow a similar pattern with lengthening hours of daylight triggering tom testosterone production well before hens are receptive.
This male anxiety in the flock creates dominance, pecking order and sometimes a turkey fight. You cannot go wrong with a single hen in a landing zone below a morning roost at this time, but another option is to set up where turkeys may gather for morning strutting.
A lone hen always works, but it could work better with a jake companion.
This male anxiety in the flock creates dominance, pecking order and sometimes a turkey fight. You cannot go wrong with a single hen in a landing zone below a morning roost at this time, but another option is to set up where turkeys may gather for morning strutting. This could be near the landing zone or on a nearby field edge. A strutting tom decoy, such as the Wiley Tom 3D, with a hen or two has power to pull any bully tom into shooting range as it defends its flock, and masculinity. The Jake Purrfect XD decoy and a hen can also create tension as any dominant tom will see the jake as an invader.
Moving into the midseason equals more action in a turkey flock. Hens have let their guard down, a few are being bred and toms no longer have to beg for attention. In this period a lone Miss Purrfect XD decoy will attract. The great aspect of both this decoy and its jake counterpart is the ability each has to bend and be used as a sitting, or nesting hen turkey.
As you contemplate your strategy, remember that as breeding commences, some of the early hens begin to leave the flock. Female turkeys discreetly begin searching for a secretive nesting site. An interesting wild turkey fact is that a hen can be bred a single time and store the semen to efficiently fertilize an entire clutch of eggs. Talk about a downer for the males!
Once hens have determined the secret location of their nest, they begin laying one egg daily. Breeding may continue throughout the two-week period it takes her to accumulate approximately a dozen eggs. As hens deposit eggs, the slow increase of missing hens begins to create anxiety in toms looking to continue the breeding pastime.
Mark Kayser was hunting paranoid turkeys in Kansas and reverted to a single hen for success.
A safe bet now would be to stick with the single hen. Why? You just never know what tom will show up to your setup site. It could be a dominant tom with a few hens in tow or it could be a satellite tom that has been beat down and does not want confrontation. A feeding or sitting hen has appeal to a tom that does not seek out confrontation.
Midday field edges or known turkey loafing areas are ideal locations to set up halfway through the season. A tom losing his flock day by day to nesting may return to these areas where previous action occurred as he searches for a lonely hen. Be waiting for him.
The closing days of any turkey season equals tired toms, missing hens and paranoid birds at every corner in the trail. Despite the odds, toms still pine for a last fling. This can work in your favor. Hens have become increasingly absent from the social circles of a flock. Hens start tending the nest 24/7 when the last egg is deposited. They leave for brief feeding trips and occasionally rotate eggs for uniform incubation. Large flocks are a thing of the past and small groups of turkeys, or lone birds are the norm now.
Toms locating a wandering hen immediately take notice, albeit with a suspicious gaze as a possibility. To foster trust, a lone hen or a pair of hens has merit now. Any tom seeing this along with the sounds of hen chatter will likely take a peek. Keep your calling simple and only ramp it up if the tom increases his volume. Hopefully your simple setup creates confidence and lures in any seasoned veterans of the hunt.
Throughout turkey season your particular situation may vary and call for customization of your decoy setup. For instance, your area may have intense hunting pressure calling for you to hunt in dense cover as flocks may not wish to expose themselves on field edges. Less may be best in this scenario. Or your area may not experience any hunting pressure so you can coordinate an entire theatrical performance of decoys.
And if all of this decoy adaptation creates anxiety for you, here is an all-around duo that works throughout the season. Purchase the Purrfect Pair XD Combo. It includes a hen and a jake that work together at any time of the spring turkey hunting season. Good luck!