Gil Cutchin of Occoneechee Hunting Lodge in Northhampton County, near Jackson N.C., has seen changes in turkey hunting tactics over the years, especially when it comes to using decoys.
“In the beginning we used hen decoys to attract gobblers,” Cutchin said. “However, through stocking projects and good management practices, the number of turkeys in the woods grew, and more hunters began pursuing them. With this extra effort in the woods, new methods of using decoys have developed, and some of them are deadly effective.
“My current favorite decoy setup is to use hen and strutting jake decoys together,” said Cutchin (252-583-1799). “I use a real turkey fan on the jake, and if it isn’t perfect, it’s OK, maybe even better. A beat-up fan makes it appear the jake has been fighting, and one that is chasing hens most likely has. This combination tends to trigger a jealousy or territorial response that causes even wary gobblers to let their guard down and come within shooting range.
“Sometimes the older gobblers get so fired up they charge the jake. Not only is this very effective, it’s fun to watch. Sometimes the way the gobblers react is hilarious. What’s more important though is it gets them to let their guard down and come within shooting range.”
When using decoys, even jakes, Cutchin only uses hen calls. His initial calling will vary in volume and intensity depending on the weather, especially the wind. How the gobbler responds determines the calling from there. A gobbler that appears to be fired up will usually respond well to soft and seductive calls. Gobblers that are across fields or swamps and don’t readily commit might need louder, raucous or more frequent calling. Calling is just to get the gobbler to search for the hen and see the decoys.
Cutchin said gobblers are looking for hens, and when an older gobbler spots a hen with a jake, it can’t stand it. The decoy combo does the work once the hunter lures the gobbler close enough to see them. Not every hunt goes as planned, but Cutchin’s success rate with this decoy setup results in many hunters getting an easy shot at a blown-up gobbler that dropped its guard to swoop in and steal a lady from a youngster.
Cutchin enjoys the show as much as or more than taking the shot, and this decoy setup often produces a show. Sometimes, he said, gobblers run right in between the hen and the jake, and sometimes bump chests or attack the jake first.