Steve Hickoff is the Realtree Turkey Hunting Editor and Blogger. He’s been beaten by more birds than he can remember. Still he kills enough to eat well, and fool with beards, spurs and fans until the next season. Pennsylvania born and raised, Maine is his home base now. A full-time outdoor communicator with a couple university writing degrees, he chases spring gobblers and fall flocks around the country. It's "all turkeys, all the time" on the Realtree Turkey Blog.
Are Turkey Decoys An Unfair Hunting Advantage?
We got to size up a number of turkey decoys at the recent National Wild Turkey Federation Convention. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve used turkey decoys or are interested in carrying them during a hunt. You’re likely a “beards in the spring and antlers in the fall” type of hunter or even a hardcore two-season turkey chaser. You’re serious about your hunting traditions.
So I wonder what you think: Are modern hyperrealistic turkey decoys unfair? Should states impose legal use limits on turkey decoys? Do you ever think a time will come when wildlife agencies prohibit them? Should decoy use just remain a hunter's choice?
Let’s back up a bit. As recently as 20 years ago, turkey hunters began to take serious interest in using fakes to lure in spring gobblers. Sure examples of turkey decoys existed before then, but the early '90s saw a rise of turkey products, coinciding with the trap-and-transfer success of the wild turkey by state management agencies. Since then, especially in the last handful of years, the hunting market has been dominated by turkey decoys. Unfair advantage? Early turkey decoys (and some these days) might just scare off gobblers as often as they lured them in. This can still happen, depending on the situation and decoy used, even if the latter fake looks real.
Some birds probably die of curiosity and breeding desire as much as anything. That’s true these days as well. Plunk anything out there resembling a hen (or dominance challenging jake or tom) and you might pull a gobbler in. Clearly some of the decoys on the market today look so real it’s difficult to tell a fake from a feathered bird.
Some hate this trend. A hardcore turkey hunting buddy of mine with decades of experience recently told me we’ve entered the age of blinds and decoys and that some hunters have forgotten our tradition’s roots. Hidden in blinds, some modern hunters let the fakes do the work and lure real gobblers to the gun or bow. But he’s old-school about the whole thing and will never carry turkey decoys in his vest. How about you? Let us know how you feel in the comments section below and we'll get some online turkey camp talk started.