Many of the greatest turkey decoy confrontations in the last decade have resulted from the use of full-strut turkey decoys. Gobblers can’t stand them. Tom turkeys want to beat the snot out of what they think is another gobbler strutting on their turf. They simply won’t stand for it. So, needless to say, countless turkey hunters have added the full strut turkey decoy to their repertoire. But all the outdoor TV show and YouTube videos can also lead you to believe that full strut turkey decoys are fool-proof, working every time you set them up. The truth is, there is a time and place for using full strut turkey decoys. Here’s a look at when and where to use them.
My friend and brother-by-another-mother, Troy Ruiz, is one guy that I know good and well loves to chase spring turkeys as much as anybody. He’s eat up with it. Troy has spent much of his career behind – and often in front of – the cameras for Primos and Mossy Oak. I met Troy some 15 years ago when he was running cameras for Mossy Oak and was immediately impressed with his passion for killing turkeys. I picked Troy’s brain a bit on how, when, and where he and the Primos crew likes to use full strut turkey decoys. Here’s what he had to say…
Full Strut Turkey Decoys in the Early Season
“I like using multiple decoys in the early season,” says Ruiz. “I’ll even use 2 strutter decoys along with a couple hens. This time of the season, turkeys are still bunched up in groups. Especially gobblers. They are still working on the pecking order trying to figure out who’s the boss of the area and having a small flock of turkeys sets off any approaching gobbler or gobblers in the early season.”
Why does it work?
“Turkeys are a lot like people,” says Ruiz. “When we see a crowd, we want to know what’s going on. We want to know who’s involved. And we just gotta go check it out.”
Full Strut Decoy: The Go-To Decoy
I hear the question all the time, “If you could pick just one turkey decoy, what would it be?” And understandably so.
Hunters get tired of lugging around multiple decoys as the season wears on. The tactics will indeed change as we move through the spring season. I presented Troy with this same question.
“If I knew I had to use only one decoy this spring it would be a strutting gobbler with a moveable fan, like the Primos Killer B.”
“Well, in the spring, the rule is the gobbler gobbles to let the hen know where he is so that she can come to him for mating purposes. Many times I’ve had gobblers come over a ridge or come around the bend in a road and see a lone hen decoy and lock up at 60-100 yards expecting her to come to him. That’s just the way God designed them to work. I feel that with a gobbler decoy, especially one with a fan that will give you motion to add realism, you can keep him from hanging up and draw him on in for a confrontation. Most gobblers can’t stand seeing another gobbler in his neck of the woods.”
Where To Use Full Strut Decoys
A strutter decoy is the most visible turkey decoy you’ll ever find, making it the perfect decoy for maximizing visibility of your decoy setup in open country. “I like using a strutter on field edges, logging roads, food plots and open terrain,” says Ruiz.
A turkey’s strut zone, his go-to spot to be seen while he struts, is another excellent place to employ full strut decoys. “If you can find an old boss gobbler’s strut zone, you can just about get your tag ready”, says Ruiz. “If you’re patient and wait that big boy out, he’s gonna be there.”
Using a Full Strut Decoy in Mid to Late Season
I’ve heard of hunters swearing off the use of full-strut turkey decoys as the season progresses. One too many encounters with gobblers that walked away instead of coming in can often lead you to think these decoys are useless in the late season. But that’s not necessarily the case.
You have to keep in mind that as the season wears on, the flock has typically figured out who’s the boss. Subordinate birds have been whipped so many times that they’ll now tend to shy away from another fight. They know who the boss is by now. The key is for the hunter to decipher who the boss is as well. Once the boss bird is targeted, you can achieve incredible results with full strut turkey decoys at any point of the season.
“Realism is the key, both early and late in the season,” says Ruiz. “Movement of the tail, and/or the decoy itself are crucial in making gobblers angry at the intruder in his area. That’s why the Killer B decoy works so well. It has the moveable tail fan so you can come across as a more passive gobbler rather than presenting an aggressive bird.”
“Young, loner gobblers, like 2 year olds, will oftentimes skirt the full strut decoy or just turn and walk away. But if you can find a gang of young gobblers, they will often be ready and willing for a scuffle when they encounter a lone strutter decoy.”
The key here is to determine just what type and age of turkey you’re after. If you are a beginning turkey hunter happy with any legal bird that gets within range, a full strut turkey decoy may not be the best option during mid to late season. However if you’re looking for the boss gobbler, the full strut decoy may just be the key to luring him in.
Where to Place Your Full Strut Turkey Decoy
When bowhunting for turkeys, especially from a ground blind, you really can’t have your turkeys too close to the blind. I shot a bird in Nebraska several years ago at 4 steps from the blind as he strutted up to my decoy. They just don’t get bothered by the blind. For that reason, I’ll place my decoys at 6-10 yards from the blind. I like my shots close. By placing your decoys close to the blind you leave yourself a little wiggle room just in case the bird hangs up 10, 15 or 20 yards out from the decoys. In this case he’ll still be within effective bow range.
Bottom line, when it comes to full strut decoys, put the decoy where you want to kill the bird, because in many cases, they will be all over that decoy.
If you’ve never hunted with a full strut turkey decoy, you’re honestly missing out. Put one in the mix this season and you’ll likely be on the edge of your seat as the action unfolds right before your eyes. It’s a show like no other critter in the woods can provide.