When I started chasing gobblers in the spring very few people used them. Now many feel naked if they walk into the field without a turkey decoy or three. I hunted several years before getting my first fake which was made of foam and looked more looney tunes than lonely hen. But I put her to use with some great results.
In the (over) two decades that have passed since then turkey decoys have changed – a lot. As manufacturing processes improved and hunters demanded more realistic fakes along with multiple poses the newest generations of decoys have been refined into works of art. Seriously – some are better looking than the birds we hunt with them.
However, the increase in realism has also included an increase on the price tag. There are still relatively cheap ones that kinda look like turkeys for around $20-25, but the uber-realistic ones usually start just shy of $100 and move up from there…quickly. Both can and do work. So a turkey hunter has to ask, do these upper-end dekes mean spring-time toms are 4x more likely to come within range of your shotgun or bow?
I’ll tell you what I know. Guys do dumb things in the interest of love. This transcends species and spring gobblers are susceptible to just about anything they are convinced is an interested hen. They can also be vulnerable when confronted with a potential rival which could interfere with them successfully rendezvousing with that interested hen…specifically another male.
The trick is in the convincing, and many of us rely on the decoys to help sell what our calls are telling the birds already. Now some gobblers don’t need much convincing while others require a whole bunch and there are some that you will just never persuade. The easy ones are likely to come to just about any price-point of decoy and the non-persuadable ones will ignore them all. But, its those birds in the middle of the spectrum that the ultra-realistic decoys might be the difference-maker.
Several years before uber-decoys were available I epoxied the wings and tail feathers of a harvested bird onto an old, hard plastic hen decoy as I figured it looked more like the real thing. I have taken several spring gobblers over it, as have many of my friends and family members. It even worked in areas where other hunters claimed no luck with their decoys. I would like to think the added realism of my feathered fake was the reason, but its impossible to say for sure.
Hunting a bird that has such tremendous eyesight as a wild turkey, I am sure it rarely (if ever) hurts to have as much realism in your decoy as you can. However each hunter has to decide just how much they are willing to pay for it in the form of their decoys.