March 23, 2021
He’d done it! From the comfort of my ground blind, I watched my friend and fellow turkey nut, Danny Farris, pull the bow-mounted dupe on a pair of longbeards. Until that moment, I was a serious skeptic. I was perfectly content to hide in the corner of my blind — cloaked like a ninja — waiting for a tom to give my conventional decoys a look.
Since that day, things have changed in a big way. In fact, I’ve gone crazy for bow-mounted turkey decoys. Why? Well mostly for the heart-pounding intensity this style of turkey hunting offers. Oh, that and the fact that a bow-mounted fake seems to be pure poison on boy birds.
So, have I got your attention? Want to know how you can pull off the same tricks Danny and I have been enjoying in recent years? Well, look no further. Here’s what you need to know:
Take Your Pick
In the bow-mounted turkey decoy world, you basically have two options short of rigging up some kind of custom setup of your own: Ultimate Predator Gear and Heads Up. I’ve used both brands with great success, and you really can’t go wrong with either.
Ultimate Predator Gear’s Stalker Turkey (ultimatepredatorgear.com) tips the scale at a mere 10.3 ounces and folds down to an 11-inch disc, making it easy to store in your pack. Two options are available: the MerRio Turkey Stalker and the Eastern Turkey Stalker. Both feature a photographic image of a full-strut tom printed on micro-suede, UV-free fabric, and both have a large shooting window. Attaching these decoys to your bow, either via Velcro straps that come with the decoy or with the optional UPG Spider Wraps, takes just seconds. What I love about this decoy is the coverage it provides. Mounted to the front of the riser, with the sight and stabilizer protruding through the window, your entire body is covered as you make your stalk and/or draw your bow.
The Heads Up Strutting Turkey (headsupdecoy.com) is lightweight and fitted with a fan slot that accepts any dried turkey fan. The body is ultra-realistic, and the Bow Mount (sold separately) allows the hunter to mount the decoy into the end of a stabilizer or between the stabilizer and the riser. The decoy’s rod slides into the mount and, viola, you’re set to go. This decoy doesn’t provide quite as much overall coverage, but it is lethal. This option also offers a bit of added versatility, as you can take it off your bow and use the included stake to set it in the ground either by itself or alongside conventional, 3-D hens.
A Different Mindset
When I first started using a bow-mounted turkey decoy, I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around the idea that I wanted turkeys to see me. When using this tactic, you’re the decoy, which is what makes it so intense.
My favorite method is to locate birds either through my optics or by getting them to fire at a hen yelp or locator call. Once I know where a tom is, I pull up my online mapping system, mark the bird’s position and plan my approach. For this, I like a hybrid map mode that provides an aerial image with topo lines.
Figure out a good route and creep as close as you dare. When you set up, try and do so around some brush or other cover. I’ve found that if you can show a tom only bits and pieces of the decoy and blend the rest into some cover, it really helps. This past spring, I used the edge of a creek. As the bird approached, I would push the fan just above the bank. When he started coming hard, I brought the entire decoy above the bank. I ended up shooting that bird at three yards!
Once you show the bird or birds the decoy, gauge their reaction. If the bird is a 2-year-old that’s had his butt whipped a time or two, he may walk or run in the opposite direction. Abort the mission and go looking for another bird. A mature tom guarding hens will typically — especially if you can break the 150-yard barrier — come on a string. Boy birds wandering together also make great targets. One bird by itself may be a coward, but two or more toms, or even jakes, are typically bullies and will likely come in hot.
If a bird hangs up, move the decoy a little. Drop the fan behind a bank or crawl on your knees behind some cover and pop out the other side. Remember, you’re the decoy, and movement isn’t a bad thing.
I’ve duped lots of toms with just my bow-mounted fake. With that noted, calling is often required, and if you’re running and gunning, knowing how to make turkey noise on a diaphragm call is important. Take time to master a few mouth calls before hitting the woods with your bow-mounted fake.
Drawing the Bow
Yes, you can snag one of these fakes and hunt with it the next day. Both are light, and while they do give the bow a slightly different feel, it isn’t much.
Obviously, I do recommend you practice with the decoy mounted to your bow before you go. Why? To see if you can draw effectively. You won’t have the luxury of being able to tilt your bow downward or upward to reach full draw. You want to be able to hold the bow out in front of you and pull the bowstring back in one easy, fluid motion. Don’t be afraid to drop your bow poundage for turkey season.
While stalking turkeys can be a blast, not everyone likes the idea of wandering the woods or going cross-country in search of longbeards. If that describes you, no problem. Simply attach your bow-mounted decoy and snuggle into a cedar or pile of brush. Use a stool or small turkey chair for comfort and place your standard hen decoys out in front. It works like a charm.
A Word About Safety
While the method of bowhunting turkeys described in this article is exciting, it can also be extremely dangerous. Personally, I would only recommend using a bow-mounted decoy in archery-only turkey seasons or on private ground where you are certain no other hunters are present.
It’s also important to check turkey-hunting regulations for your area, as some states prohibit stalking turkeys for this exact reason. Hunters being mistaken for turkeys is the No. 1 cause of accidental shootings during the spring season, and the last thing you want to do is end up as a statistic. Exercise good judgement and be careful.