Hunting with high-quality, convincing decoys will help you fill more tags. Today’s realistic decoys are much more effective than the drab-colored, oversized, foam monstrosities of the past. And every year, decoy manufacturers are getting increasingly better at producing dekes that are ultra accurate.
In late may of 2011, I found out—at 12 yards—just how powerful a realistic decoy can be.
Ontario Tom Vs. Prototype Jake
Josh Grossenbacher and C.J. White of Zink Calls invited me to tag along on a southern Ontario turkey hunt with Steve Todtz at Grey Bruce Outfitters. The plan was to give their prototype Avian-X Quarter Strut Jake decoy one last test for the season before starting mass production.
In my opinion, there was no better place than Ontario to conduct the test. Grey Bruce Outfitters is a turkey-hunting paradise with massive fields and chunks of hardwoods, easy access to a ton of land and good guides who know the land. They've got all that, plus plenty of beautiful Eastern wild turkeys that strut, fan and gobble.
Todtz paired us up with his youngest guide, Matt Rogers. Rogers is a hometown kid who grew up among Ontario turkeys. He knows his home turf, and had permission on more than 20 different properties.
On the first day, Josh and the Avian-X Quarter Strut Jake gave us a full demonstration of its power to draw-in a big gobbler. If I read a script that detailed what happened during this hunt, I wouldn’t believe it––but the following story did happen! I saw it with my own eyes and my camera captured the proof.
A Picture-Perfect Hunt
Rogers, White, Grossenbacher and I headed to a small plot of Ontario hardwoods near a large crop field. Rogers had scouted this spot the night before. While we were passing by the field, we saw a strutting gobbler out in the open, trying to impress two hens. His back was facing a small section of woods behind him. This meant we could circle around, park the truck and scoot up the adjacent edge of the woodlot.
Grossenbacher had the shotgun, but I planned to shoot the gobbler, too––with my camera. I knew that if the gobbler came in and he was completely focused on the decoy, I could get away with taking some photos.
We stalked the edge of the field, getting as close to the group of turkeys as we could, without getting busted. Grossenbacher put out Zink’s Avian-X Quarter Strut Jake next to an Avian-X feeder hen about 10 yards from the edge of the woods. We hoped that the turkeys would hear our calls, peek around the corner to see our decoys, and run in to join the party.
We set up just a few yards inside the edge cover. We quickly settled in. Grossenbacher made a few subtle, sexy hen yelps aimed at the faraway birds. We heard the tom softly gobble back. He was a lot farther away than we thought he'd be. Then Grossenbacher changed his tune. He cranked up some nasty, loud and excited yelps. That did the trick, because a few minutes later the three turkeys came rushing in.
The hens stopped 12 yards in front of Grossenbacher's shotgun barrel, and they started to putt. The hens slowly backed away and slipped into the cover in a semi-spooked fashion. The stud gobbler didn't care. He was completely focused on those beautiful Avian-X decoys. He spit and drummed up to the hen, he flirted as he rubbed his chest on her. Then he focused his full attention on kicking the butt of that Quarter Strut Jake.
When the gobbler stepped and turned the back of his tail fan to us, completely blinding himself from our movements, I raised my camera and Grossenbacher raised his muzzle. Click, Click, Click, Click went my camera. Seeing a gobbler fight a decoy is amazing, especially when you’re seated only 12 yards away! The gobbler was oblivious to the loud sounds of my camera. I took close to 30 photos of the heavyweight bout.
As soon as Josh had enough entertainment, he concentrated on his aim and pulled the trigger. A fist full of lead No. 5s smacked the side of that tom’s head, and this Ontario gobbler was down for the count. You can see the amazing photo sequence in the video below.
It's simple: You'll have better success when tangoing with turkeys if you employ decoys that feature an accurate color scheme, correct body positions and lifelike body parts. After witnessing firsthand how this Ontario gobbler reacted to the Avian-X Quarter Strut Jake on the last hunt of my 2011 season, it's more clear than ever that realism matters. My photos prove it.