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Turkey Decoy Review + Field Test
by Sammo_3888
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Getting into Wild Turkey hunting can be a daunting task if you're new to it. Some people live and breathe it and are a wealth of information which can be overwhelming to the novice. We at ArcherAndAngler.com decided to field test some of the most commonly available decoys that can be purchased for an entry level price and see how they stack up.

After writing this article, Out of Doors magazine, a magazine produced by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) reported that turkey harvests for spring 2014 in Ontario were way down according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). This confirms much of theories and suspicions this author had regarding strange bird behavior this year over previous years. Please take that into consideration while reading this product review.

The article can be found here: http://www.oodmag.com/news/turkey-season-bust/


Getting into Wild Turkey hunting can be a daunting task if you're new to it. Some people live and breathe it and are a wealth of information which can be overwhelming to the novice. We at www.ArcherAndAngler.com decided to field test some of the most commonly available decoys that can be purchased for an entry level price and see how they stack up.
To be a successful turkey hunter you need 3 things: a weapon, camouflage, the right location, calls, and decoys... ok, make that 5 things. In this field test, I am going to investigate only decoys. Turkeys have pretty keen eyesight so a good decoy is worth its weight in gold. Even if you don't have the calling skills, if you have the right location, good camo (or a blind) the right weapon .. then a good decoy is sometimes all you need to get old Tom running into range.

I'm using a combination of friction calls, mouth calls and box calls to bring in the birds to visual range, then letting the decoys do the trick. The testing grounds is a 400yx400y cut farmer's field. Birds use the field as a north/south highway between feeding areas. It is bordered to the west by a marsh, to the east by a road so they funnel through here pecking at bugs and strutting.

We've chosen 3 manufacturers decoys to test; Flambeau, RedHead by Bass Pro and Montana decoys. Each are available at most retailers for a price south of $70. Although decoys can be priced over $200-300 a piece and up to $1000 if you use a real stuffed bird, we are sticking with the entry level.

BRAND: Flambeau

MSRP: $27 each ($18 if found on sale)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: To call these decoys ugly is an understatement. I don't care how ugly they are if the Turkeys respond though. They are a thick foam shell that can be collapsed, rolled and stuffed into a Turkey vest. The stake is a 2 piece plastic spike. The deke itself does not look real. The seam down the middle is really noticeable, the colour is a bit light compared to real birds in my area and the painted wing tips look pretty poor. On the plus side, they are fairly big birds and the extra foam adds a bit of heft to the decoy in a breeze so movement seems pretty realistic.

FIELD PERFORMANCE: The birds didn't like these decoys much at all. The upright stance of the bird was a bit upsetting to them and since the birds had a good field of view of these decoys, I think they took the 'round about route to keep a distance as they obviously weren't fellow turkeys. I was successful when I used these birds at 100-150y in conjunction with the other decoys. Far enough away so the birds would keep to the edge of the field, but they weren't totally scaring away the birds.

FINAL IMPRESSIONS: I'd avoid these decoys if you can. Yes they're cheap, but I think bagging a Tom with these would be more luck than anything. You'd need a pretty hot 'n' heavy Jake to be fooled by these decoys... although the chance of him challenging the male decoy would be s

BRAND: RedHead by BassPro

MSRP: $29 each, $39 as a bundle of 3

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Surprisingly decent looking dekes. The first thing you notice is that the colour is very good. The skin of the decoys have a slight shiny sheen to them and mild iridescence. They are also a foam shell, although of a thinner gauge. This makes for a tighter roll if you're stuffing them in to a vest. The stake is a 2 piece metal stake, half of which can stay connected to the deke with the supplied wing nut. This also helps keep the deke from spinning too much in a breeze although the lighter weight can make them shake a bit more in the wind or even collapse if the gusts are heavy enough. The shape is very good. It appears that they moulded the deke out of a single piece, so no seams are visible.

FIELD PERFORMANCE: These dekes performed well. They looked great in the sun and when wet, often they surprised me when I hadn't looked up in a while and I thought I had a bird in range. The only hiccup was that their body position was a bit too upright at times. Swapping the stakes with the Flambeau ones, I was able to point the breast of the female decoys into the ground in a mating position which seemed to make them more approachable. Birds were still wary of the decoys, so they're not perfect. Keeping them out at 45-50y made the birds take a 15y wide birth around them, and well into my gun range. I never got a Tom to challenge and fight them, but they came in for a closer look, which is all I need

FINAL IMPRESSIONS: For the money and in the 3 pack they were a good deal. If you take to turkey hunting, these would make a good support setup to better decoys if you decide to invest in something like an Avian-X at $99-$150 a pop.

BRAND: Montana Decoys

MSRP: $34.99 (dinner belle) $69.99 (papa strut)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: These guys are the avant-garde of the group. Similar to a pop up blind, they have a metal band that springs in to shape when removed from the strap that holds them. They are a fabric sleeve that is sewn over the spring with an actual photo of a turkey printed on them, so they look EXACTLY like a turkey. When folded properly, they are about the size of an appetizer plate and just as flat. You can stack a whole bunch in the vest if thats the plan. The stake is a 2 piece metal stake held together with a shock cord.. so you won't lose them as I did with the above brands. Replacement stakes are $10 if you do, however.

Papa-Strut: a 2 piece decoy. The tail is separate from the body, but snaps together with strong magnets. Even though the body is an odd squarish shape when you hold him, he looks great in the field and you can't tell. The colours are great and the fan is a nice shape. His size is about 3/4 of a full Tom, so he is good to instigate dominant toms into range.

Dinner Belle: an odd girl. She was surprisingly 2d, although MD is developing a 3d version which may be interesting. I thought her colour was a bit faded when compared to birds in my area, almost like she was a bit sun bleached. It made me wonder how well they may stand up to the sun over time.

FIELD PERFORMANCE: Location, location, location. These dekes are very light and as such, are very affected by wind. The field I hunt in is very influenced by prevailing winds that come across through this region. Blustery days had the dinner belle flipping around like a car wash sign and the big Papa-Strut was shaking like he was on soul-train or otherwise he was getting hammered into the ground. When the wind was still, they worked quite well, especially in combo. Dinner Belle's natural downward facing posture and Papa-Strut's ready to mate position did make some males very angry. I was very limited by wind however and had to move them into some wooded areas near the field to try them in cover. As this was not a common practice for me in this area, and I didn't do it consistently with all decoys, I can't comment on its success/failure long term.. but it seemed to work well. These dekes look great and work very well if you know where your birds are coming from.. but if they can come from any direction, you may need a few Belles positioned to face different directions to capture the attention of a gang of Toms.

FINAL IMPRESSIONS: Good looking dekes, perfect for the run and gun game. Some obvious limitations in the wind and weather in an open field due to their weight. In all honesty I couldn't recommend them as much for those who hunt wide open private farm land consistently and can setup a more permanent and heavier set. But, if you are just getting into turkey hunting, you are making turkey noises and need a quick setup to intersect birds on the move, these are the ones. Nothing sets up quicker, or packs away smaller. When I hunt the turkey woods, these guys will be in my vest when I feel like pursuing Tom. I am very interested in the 3d female MD is coming up with, I'd gladly pick up a few.

Turkey hunting can be a challenging learning curve. But with a few tips n tricks from more experienced hunters and a humble "observe and learn what works" attitude, it can be very rewarding. Depending on where you hunt, the RedHead and Montana Decoys birds will work well for the beginner. As you get more experience, they will grow with you as you learn to improve your set each day. Both will give you many fun hunts and give you an idea if you want to invest in more expensive decoys or add to this group and work the set to the situation. Using these decoys I was successful at filling a tag, so I know they work. As we enter the fall hunting sales, keep an eye out and grab some decoys.. spring Turkey is just around the corner!

Happy hunting
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Sammo_3888 09-19-2014, 08:29 PM

Thanks HBW. Personally I couldn't post a review of any product unless they've been properly field tested. As I mentioned in the review, don't care what a decoy looks like as long as Turkey's respond well!

We at Archer&Angler are working on several product review and field tests to be posted here. I am fortunate with my job that I can have lots of time in the field to test products as well as multiple properties in which I can replicate consistent conditions over an entire season. By doing this I feel we can provide our members with good information that comes from weeks and months of proper field testing.

If you have suggestions on products or a group of products you'd like reviewed, feel free to PM me and we will do our best to design a fair and reasonable test, while acquiring the products and comparables for the test.

Thank you for taking the time to read the entire review. Glad you enjoyed it.

HillBillyWilly 09-19-2014, 06:32 PM

What a terrific review. I think this one is great.
Will you be doing more reviews of decoys or any other products for that matter? It was fantastic that you actually field tested them as well.

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