Using a Turkey Reaping Decoy
Organized turkey hunting began as a fall sport. Hunters found flocks, mastered tactics to bust them up and then would call the birds back together. Somewhere along the way biologists intervened, realizing the importance of the wild turkey as a game animal by studying its breeding habits. And in turn, it became the spring pursuit that keeps some of the most experienced hunters awake at night.
Birds of a Feather
Turkeys are fickle birds. They do things that don’t make sense; hardly to the advantage of the hunter. Why is it that a hot gobbler, seeing your beautiful hen decoy standing alone and talking all pretty, would refuse to come for a little afternoon delight when it’s obvious that is what he’s after?
During the first several decades of what is a considerably new sport (as far as spring hunting goes), hunters thought within the box, only using a call and sometimes a hen decoy. In fact, the use of a decoy only became legal in some states in the last few years. Today, however, it’s gobbler-decoy madness everywhere we look.
Reaping is the stalking and killing of a tom turkey using a decoy of a strutting gobbler as cover. Most of the time, this takes places in a field where a tom is “hung up” with hens and not responding to calling or hen decoys. The reasoning behind using another gobbler is two fold: 1) it gives you the best chance of staying concealed and 2) most mature toms won’t stand for another male turkey so boldly invading his party.
Where to Reap
Gobblers pick a few sunny spots called strut zones where they like to while away the hours throughout the spring. Some have just one preferred area if there is no pressure and plenty of hens while others might get pushed around by other gobblers and hunters. Either way, they pick their playing fields and reserve the sole right to play on them. Watching a tom in his strut zone can cause your endorphins to soar at incredible heights as you make a plan to hunt him.
When to Reap
When is the right time to reap a turkey? How should you know that putting the hen decoy in your vest and slipping out the reaping decoy is the only chance you stand to kill a gobbler?
In the spring, turkeys have but two things on their minds - loving and fighting. Their courtships, if you think about it, are somewhat similar to those of humans whereas a man might bow up and strut around to try and impress a woman. Some other guy might hang back, subtly drawing her over with winning looks. Same goes for turkeys, and it’s usually the older, wiser birds, that prop an elbow on the bar, sip bourbon, and look cool doing it.
It’s this second kind of tom that usually requires reaping. He doesn’t even respond to your calls as he hangs out in a sunny field, likely with the company of a few hens. However, even though he may be reserved in picking up hens, he’s quite the opposite when it comes to other gobblers. Throw an adversary into the mix and this fella might feel the need to kick some ass on the sheer principle of encroachment.
Another situation you’ll use reaping techniques is on the gobbler that “hangs up.” He’s the tom that seconds earlier was coming in on a rope, but stops about 80 yards away and refuses to budge another inch. It’s inevitable. And frustrating.
How to Reap
Over the years, we’ve tried a range of methods to reap turkeys. From life-size mounts to simply using the terrain as our shield, we’ve had some success and fallen on our faces more times than we can count. That’s just turkey hunting.
Then came along the FANATIC XL reaping decoy. It’s a 2D decoy with with a back-and-front photograph of a strutting tom printed on each side. The life-like size and photographic realism creates an appearance that riles up even the coolest, most laid back gobbler.
One of the great aspects of turkey hunting is the capability to travel light in order to move quietly. If you haven’t tried using a tom decoy, we guarantee that, if employed correctly, it’ll increase the number of exciting encounters you’ll get with feisty gobblers this spring.
An IMPORTANT NOTE: While reaping is fun and exciting, there can be an element of danger if not employed correctly. Only reap on private land when you know exactly who is hunting and where they are hunting. Never reap near a public road. Hunt smart, hunt safe.