Thankful Outdoors – Spring Turkey Series Part Three: Calls and Decoy Strategies

turkey call decoy setup

Turkey Calls and Decoy Strategies

Before getting into the spring turkey season series, here is how the shed hunting is going. The results so far have been slow. Hearing reports that bucks are still being seen with a complete set of horns.

It’s a sign that they must have good nutrition and low stress over the winter months. I will continue the search for the antler though in the next several weeks.

Let’s review some essential gear to help improve your odds for a harvest this spring. Calls and decoys are the two standard techniques used to fool a longbeard into range.

There are many different types of calls available, with each type having benefits.

Box Call: A benefit of the box call is that this call is very loud. Helpful on windy days or when hunting from an enclosed ground blind. The basics of the call are simple to master for great-sounding yelps, purrs, and cutts. The downside to box call has been that it’s a friction call with chalk used on the paddle; in wet conditions, this call was deemed useless. Over the years, though, manufacturers have addressed that and created calls that are now waterproof.

There are two types of box calls, one with a paddle and another with a pushpin. The pushpin box call is not as loud as the paddle type. You can attach a pushpin box call to the end of your shotgun barrel, and if you need a last purr to draw that bird, it takes minimal movement to maneuver that tactic. I have taken a few birds using that technique.

Slate Call or “Pot” Call: The downside to this call is that it requires two hands to operate, so it’s a call that on solo hunts can’t be used for any needed calling to close the distance for birds in closer range.  This call makes some of the best sounding turkey sounds; they produce high decibels, can be raspy or smooth depending on the type of striker you use and the location of the surface that you are working.

This call received its name because its original design was that the surface was made of slate. Today they are made with all sorts of material including, aluminum, glass, and ceramic.

mouth calls

Mouth/diaphragm call: These calls are latex stretched over a horseshoe-shaped frame with a plastic skirt. These calls offer hands-free operations, allow you to produce many different sounds during a calling sequence. Often considered the most challenging call to master the sounds of a turkey. This type of call does require lots of practice to obtain the correct pitch and sound.

In my personal experience of hunting pressured public land birds, I have found that blending a mixture of call types lets me sound like multiple birds and has helped improve my response to calling techniques.

Now that you have an overview of the various calls available, what kind of decoy to use? There are types of decoys: Tom, Jen, and Jake. You can have the option to purchase them in many different poses that range from feeding to strutting.

There are strategies that one can choose to increase the success of using decoys. First, let’s understand why decoys can be a helpful tool. Turkeys are social birds, so they expect to see a bird associated with it when they hear calling. What does that mean then? It means that decoys have a higher success in fields or wide-open spaces.

In the earlier part of the season, using a strutting tom will drive turkey’s dominance factor. Key in on that dominant period of the early season. As the season progresses, switch over to jake with a few hens. Again this is to play off the dominance factor of toms. Late in the season, switch back to strutting tom to drive the aggression of older longbeards.

Use this guideline to set up your decoy’s for success; the real key is to see how the birds

decoy strategy

respond to your setup. For example, there is no large jake population for some years, so instead of using jake with hen combination, you may want to use just multiple hen decoys.

Use the advantage of the different poses available to create a realistic setup; you will want a strutting tom setup behind a feeding hen, for example. That represents a very natural setup that birds are used to seeing.

When you have jake present in your decoy setup, set that jake decoy up where you can make a good shot on a tom; that is because the tom will go to a jake decoy because they are driven on the aggression factor.

If you are hunting areas that are not wide open or in fields, you probably should shy away from the use of decoys; turkeys tend to shy away from decoys if they come upon them within 50 yards and closer. That type of setup is a surprise to them and spooks them.

So if you are hunting thick hardwoods or swamp edges, you may be better off leaving the decoys stowed away but if you are set up on field edges or snowmobile/ATV trails, get them out there as that visual aid to draw that gobbling tom to your location.

In closing, I hope you find a way to get into the outdoors, create your adventure and memories, but most importantly, find a way to “Celebrate the Experience.” Go check out for more content and share your “Celebrate the Experience” moment with us!

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Scott Hopperdietzel
Author: Scott Hopperdietzel

Scott Hopperdietzel is the creator of an outdoor blog named Thankful Outdoors. He shares his passion for the outdoors with readers. The focus of the blog is to “Celebrate the Experience” in his stories; you feel what the connection to the outdoors means to him. His goal is to inspire others to get into the outdoors and create their own experience. Along with writing, he is a father to three boys who are often part of the adventures along with the family Weimaraner, Boone. You can find his writings on the website or follow his social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.