Deer Hunting with Turkey Decoys?

By author of Turkey Blog with Steve Hickoff

Another Tactic for Putting Venison in the Freezer?

Looking to fill an early season doe tag? Do you have a fall turkey archery tag in your pocket too?

Assuming it's legal where you live, should you hunt deer with turkey decoys? 

Hunter numbers show whitetails are the top hunted species in the country and an easy favorite for many. Turkey hunting places a consistent second. You may love whitetails, sure . . . but a lot of you deer hunters also chase spring turkeys. I bet you don’t care for deer then.

Here's Why

Whatever it is about turkey decoys, a lot of deer seem to love them. Maybe they associate the presence of turkeys – fake or not – with a food source. Maybe they’re just curious by nature. I’ve often thought turkey decoys would be a great way to decoy deer in the fall. It seems to pull deer in close wherever I hunt spring gobblers. Here’s just one of many stories.

The pre-dawn Texas live oaks shook with thunderous rolling gobbles from one end to another – sort of like when fans start “the wave” at a baseball game; only the audio version. I pretty much mentally tagged my morning’s bird right then and there, but should’ve known better. For some insane reason I pulled a turkey decoy from my vest and plunked it out there – the way many of you might.

Insane? Yep. While I’ve killed some turkeys with the hyper-realistic options available to us, other times I’m reluctant to put one out there. Subdominant gobblers sometimes skirt setups on seeing full-fan options (a bad thing); others run in to thrash them (a good deal). Jake gangs seem particularly interested in fakes (good or bad, depending). Real hens sometimes challenge fake ones (awesome if she pulls a strutter in with her), and  gobbler, jake and girl turkey decoy combinations can mean lights out – and that’s a good thing, too.

Sometimes.

And then we have the deer. Those Lone Star State birds responsible for the thunderous rolling gobbles flew down, looked my way to the calling and decoy – an innocent little hen – and started in. Just then crashing and carrying on came from my immediate right. First a half-dozen (then at least six more deer) ran past, studied my fake, and either stood, stood and ran around in circles, or simply did laps around my setup.

Eventually one bumped into the turkey decoy and it flipped into the air and landed with a skittering crash. Periscope redheads up. Adios turkeys. The deer? They just hung around feeding in my general vicinity. My morning was finished.

Deer and Turkeys

But would it work to pull whitetails into range in the fall? Maybe not old wily bucks, but what about culls? What about for filling doe tags? It's even better if the fall turkey season is open at the same time (as is common with archery opportunities).

True too, sometimes deer approach a setup and calling, study the turkey fakes and start stomping. They may be unable to identify me and show it with their displeasure. They may smell a rat (me), and snort-wheeze-sneeze and blow my cover.

Either way wild turkeys seem to notice this behavior, and it keeps them alive another day longer. Is it just spring deer behavior? Would you, or have you, ever used hen and gobbler fakes in the fall to fill the freezer with venison? Comment below.

(YouTube video/M Grimshaw)

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Steve Hickoff writes on wild turkey hunting for Realtree.com.

[Editor's note: This Realtree.com turkey blog was first published May 26, 2015.]