How to Hunt with a Bow-Mounted Turkey Decoy
I was a bow-mounted turkey decoy holdout. Why? My Double Bull was comfortable. Plus, I liked the element of control ground blind hunting provided. I would set up in a known turkey haunt, deploy my blind, set out decoys and do a bit of calling. Then I would wait.
Don’t get me wrong. I still use the sit-and-wait method a lot, and it’s very effective, but nothing trumps the excitement of turkey reaping. Strapping on a bow-mounted decoy and taking the fight to an aggressive tom that will oftentimes charge the decoy (you) at full tilt is exhilarating!
Now that I have you toying with the idea, let’s look at a pair of bow-mounted options.
The Strutting Turkey Decoy from Heads Up Decoy mounts to either the end of your stabilizer or between your stabilizer and bow via a bow mount (sold separately). Setup is a snap, and detailed instructions are provided. The slotted stake slides into the mount and locks into an aluminum bar that you will install with a pair of small set screws. It’s a breeze.
The fan slot accepts a real fan, which is held in place by a small, circular ring clip. What I love about the Heads Up system is that I can easily take the decoy on and off my bow. It comes with a stake and can be added to any decoy spread. Plus, when conditions are super windy, I can remove the decoy, stake it in the ground and create a quick makeshift hide. This decoy allows for on-the-hunt flexibility. Easy on/off also reduces bulk and makes traversing terrain all the easier. The decoy is ultra-durable, and the cloth body doesn’t fade even after seasons of use.
The Stalker Turkey Decoy from Ultimate Predator Gear boasts a sizable shooting window from which your sight and stabilizer protrude. Weighing less than 11 ounces, this decoy attaches to the riser with multiple Velcro straps. The strap system offers countless adjustment options, and I’ve yet to find a bow it isn’t compatible with.
I like the size and concealment this system provides. Transport is easy. The decoy collapses to an 11-inch diameter in seconds. The Velcro makes taking the decoy on and off a bit noisy, so plan accordingly. I’ve found the fabric to be durable and fade resistant. The Stalker Turkey Decoy is available in Eastern and MerRio options.
Regardless of which bow-mounted option you choose, be sure to familiarize yourself with each. Practice mounting the decoys to your bow and taking them off. Sound stupid? You’ll thank me this spring when an unexpected opportunity arises and quick action is required. Last spring, I watched a hunting partner miss the hole on his Heads Up three times. When he finally got the decoy situated in the slot, it was facing backward.
In addition to practicing getting your decoy on and off your bow, don’t let the first time you shoot with the decoy on your bow be at a live bird. I made this mistake years ago. I missed a jake by a mile at 8 yards. Both decoys will add a different feel to your bow, not to mention the fact that they do grab a fair amount of wind. You will want to practice with both from kneeling and seated shooting positions in various weather conditions. In the days leading up to any turkey hunt, I make sure to shoot at least 10 or 15 arrows with the decoy I plan to use attached to my bow.
The fun thing about this style of hunting is that you’re constantly on the move looking for birds. Remember, you are the decoy and you want to be seen. My favorite method for success is to locate an aggressive tom and move in. This can be a lone bird that’s gobbling his beak off or a bird with hens. Though I’ve decoyed birds from as far away as 500 yards, I’ve found my bow-mounted fakes work best if I can slither within 150 yards of my target bird.
Once I get into position, I make sure the bird is not looking in my direction and then rise up on my knees to show off the intruder. You can either wait for the bird to find you on his own (it usually doesn’t take long) or send a few yelps in his direction. If the bird is below a hill or a rise, I’ve had great success inching the fan up over the rise. Both are realistic situations birds see every day.
Another great tip is to use bushes and other vegetation and only show the live bird bits and pieces of your fake. This method has worked for me more times than I can count. Big sage flats, yucca-lined pastures and other areas that offer ample vegetation make great opportunities to utilize this tactic.
If the bird reacts and starts coming your way, hold your ground. I don’t move unless the bird stops his approach or tries to get around me. If the bird hangs up, just move your bow and create some motion. Oftentimes, this motion will be enough to put him back on course.
If the bird starts to skirt you — moving to one side or another to get a better view — simply turn on your knees or butt to prevent those beady black eyes from picking you off.
Draw when you feel comfortable. Just make sure to do it in one fluid motion. The smoother the draw, the less the bird will notice. When using a bow-mounted decoy, I turn my poundage way down. This ensures a smooth and quick draw from any body position.
I like to wait until the bird is inside 10 yards to draw my bow. The closer the better, and it adds a level of excitement I simply can’t put into words. If the bird hangs up in effective bow range and you feel like he’s losing interest, take your shot. Knowing when to draw and shoot comes with experience.
These decoys are ultra-lifelike. If you’re hunting public land, I recommend using them during archery-only seasons. If you have exclusive access to private ground, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them at any point during the season. Regardless of where and when I’m hunting, I always make sure to wrap a piece of orange flagging around my decoy when it’s on my bow and I’m moving from one place to the next.
Take a chance this spring. Dump the blind, strap on a bow-mounted decoy and get mobile. You can thank me later.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check state regulations before using a bow-mounted decoy.