Spring gobbler hunting tactics: the effective jake-hen decoy combination

Is there any better decoy choice than a breeding jake/hen combination? Peterson thinks not, and it’s his go-to setup for angering big longbeards and drawing them into easy shooting range.

During the past week, I’ve sat in a turkey blind three times. The first time, I had a monster gobbler sprint in and attack my jake decoy. I arrowed that bird at five yards to end my Minnesota season a mere 10 minutes into it.

The second time, I sat was while assisting a father/daughter team as a caller. The hens cooperated but the toms didn’t, and since we only had a little bit of time, we left the field with two unpunched tags.

Yesterday, I met up with the father well before first light and we hiked into a blind and stuck out four decoys. One was a feeding hen, one an upright hen, and then the quarter-strut jake and breeding hen combination. I placed the jake and breeding hen on a two-track road so that they’d be visible in both directions for a long ways.

From the sounds of it, we only had one bird to work, but he was hot. Unfortunately, he seemed to have some girlfriends with him, so after he hit the ground he shut up. The overcast sky and impending rain didn’t help our chances, but Kevin and I decided we would hunt until nearly lunchtime.

At 8:30, I spotted a flock of jakes cruising the far side of a pond. Then a loner bird crossed the same spot. Shortly after that I was calling when a bird gobbled. It was nearly 9 a.m. when I saw a fan moving up the road and told Kevin to grab his bow. The longbeard crested the rise and saw the jake hovering over that hen, and his head went totally white. He charged. The angry tom was chest bumping and pecking junior when Kevin’s arrow passed through his chest cavity.

Of all of the decoys (and decoy combinations) I’ve hunted with over the years, I know for a fact that nothing draws birds in as well as a good breeding pair. It just seems to anger birds of all ages, and the way they commit is unreal. If you’re wondering why the toms you’re working don’t seem willing to strut into range, it might be your decoy choice.

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