Decoy ducks and geese have been around almost as long as birds. All waterfowl lovers know the value of a good block layout. But in addition to waterfowl, other wildlife species are also highly susceptible to lures.
We have only recently begun to see the true value of using decoys for deer hunting. Predators can also be coaxed into approaching with lures, while pigeons and crows will also respond favorably to man-made look-alikes.
For me, the most overwhelming lure reaction I have ever seen comes from wild turkeys in the spring. Since using decoys, my tag-to-bird ratio has dropped to almost 1 to 1. I just haven’t filled out a spring turkey permit since 2017, and I think the decoys made a difference.
When it comes to turkey lures, many of the same questions seem to come up over and over again. I would like to address those queries today. Before we start, let me clarify something. The advice I give to answer these questions comes from my own personal experience and therefore the only scientific approach I use is the many hours I have spent observing how wild turkeys react to lures.
Using a variety of lures can help lure wary gobblers into range.
1) How many lures should I use?
The easiest way to answer this question is to observe what the birds do during the spring. Do Wild Turkeys Gather or Keep Alone? These are flock-oriented birds. Except when the hen is sitting on the nest, turkeys are very uncomfortable if they don’t have more of their own kind.
In large wood settings I usually only use two lures. Most of the time I will use a chicken and a standing jake. In open country, however, I like to show off the herd. I’ll use a full strut jake and surround it with two or three chickens, and maybe even a standing jake. If the eater sees male and female turkeys, he has twice the reason to enter.
2) Is it safe to use male lures?
An example of safety coloring: the Mojo Scoot-N-Shoot Max.
Jake, jake semi-strut and jake full-strut lures are available. When and where it is safe to use them is an important issue. In a situation where the safety of other hunters is a concern, particularly on public land, stack your chicken lures using a pair of “safety” chickens and a pair of natural chickens. This will attract your devourer and keep you safe.
On the other hand, if you’re on private land and have a pretty good idea of who’s around, there’s no better tool for attracting turkeys than a tom. Toms also come in “safety” colors, and I can’t imagine anyone shooting a gobbler with bright orange wingtips.
Any time you use lures, be aware of where you set up in relation to them. If you don’t create a potentially dangerous situation, the use of decoys will be safe.
3) Should my lures move?
There is no doubt that adding movement to any lure will make it appear more lifelike. Life is movement; therefore, your lures must move to be most effective. However, adding motion to an otherwise stiff stationary lure can sometimes backfire. Strings and threads attached to lures to make them move will likely backfire and scare off your devourer.
My best suggestion is to just use light lures. Ultralight lures are designed to move in even the slightest breeze. And trust me, the circles a tom lure makes on its peg are as natural a gobbler motion as there is.
4) Can turkeys have Decoy Shy?
The author has greatly increased his success rate by using lures for spring eaters. (Photo by Kevin Brunstein)
Absolutely. This is why I never recommend that you play pre-season lure games with toms you intend to hunt. These birds survive by instinct. They react quickly to negative stimuli. Don’t tip your hand by showing him your best moves ahead of time.
If in hunting situations you feel that the gobbler has become too accustomed to your setting, change it. If you see Jake strutting around and several chickens and then walk out of the field, crawl over and grab the cat and a chicken and put them away. Then, when he returns to inspect the pasture, he will see that the other Tom has gone to serve a chicken, leaving the rest of the flock helpless. This could be the break you have been waiting for and you will enter.
Get creative with your lures. Move them around and don’t use the same combination or the same settings over and over again. This year, I plan to try something different.