If you’ve watched any turkey hunting videos in the last couple years, you’ve probably seen a hunter crawling behind a full-strut turkey decoy in an effort to kill a longbeard. The tactic goes against everything we were taught in hunter education and safety classes, but it works. And it works really well. In fact, it’s one of the deadliest tactics to come along in years for killing those old and educated boss gobblers. I recently had a chance to catch up with Terry Denmon, President and CEO of Mojo Decoys, to get the skinny on why decoy fanning for turkeys works so well.
Fanning, Crawling, Reaping, or Scoot-n-Shoot: What Are They?
Strutter decoys revolutionized the turkey hunting industry in the last 15 years. But this new tactic allows the hunter to take the fight to the bird as opposed to waiting on the bird to come to you. Super-smart “field turkeys” have been the nemesis of turkey hunters for decades. Those birds fly down out in the middle of a wide open field where they can see anything and everything that can possibly approach to inflict harm on them. They are call shy and decoy shy. They just won’t budge. Hunters often write them off as unkillable. That is, unless they want to try one of the slickest tactics in the turkey woods.
“MOJO started playing around with this specialized style of hunting where one can slip up on turkeys in the open, or cause them to come to you, by use of certain turkey decoys in 2011,” says Denmon. “This style has since become known by many as the Scoot & Shoot method. At that time a friend brought a product to us where he had clamped a turkey fan onto his shotgun barrel, and also on his bow. He, along with some friends, were filming some of the hunting and had footage of turkeys coming to them with just their face covered with the fan. We adopted their product idea and produced a commercial version which we styled the ‘Tail Chaser.’ However, we did not recognize the full potential of this style of hunting until 2012 when a group of guys brought us a decoy they had modified to specifically facilitate this type of hunting. The concept these guys were putting to work allowed them to crawl up on turkeys in wide open fields. The aggressive tactic caused gobbler(s) to charge the decoy.”
Denmon and his crew took this half-bodied strutting turkey decoy idea that was brought to them and produced the first commercial decoy designed for this tactic. They call it the Scoot & Shoot.
Denmon admits that his company did not come up with this tactic. Knowledgeable hunters have used nothing but a turkey fan for years to sneak up and ambush a bird. Some call it, “fanning.” The tactic most likely goes back long before sport hunting for turkeys ever existed.
“I have seen it written that the early eastern American Indians used this tactic,” says Denmon. “We have no proof of that, but it fits logic as they were sustenance hunting, not sport hunting. So it stands to reason they would use the most effective means.”
When Does It Work?
This style of hunting is very aggressive and best done later in the day when the gobbling has stopped. It is based on the protection of hens, or territory, by the males leading up to – and during – the breeding periods. Hunters will often encounter several gobblers together in the field, even with hens during the spring breeding phase.
But these birds will not tolerate a “strange” gobbler invading their territory. This decoy concept works when territorial birds encounter an intruder in their field. They will not allow this stranger to feed and chase hens on their stompin’ ground.
“Instead of trying to hide from the turkeys, it is important that they see the decoy from a distance,” says Denmon. “If the hunter keeps his face hidden, and as much of the upper body as possible, he will typically go undetected. The turkey’s focus and attention will be on the fan at a distance and then the decoy’s eyes once they get in close. Once the “strange” gobbler gets to a certain point, the turkey will come to the imposter gobbler to run him off. He does not want him anywhere near his hens. At that point the hunter can stop, prepare the gun or bow, and wait on the gobbler. Shots will usually come at a very close range.”
If you’re a call guy like me, and enjoy calling your bird to the bow or gun, then play the game off the roost. Work the bird with calls until you can’t work him anymore. But when he gets into the field and holds his ground, it’s time to put the call away and pull out a crawl-behind decoy. Get in his face, and make the action happen.
How to Keep It Safe
Some will quickly call this an unsafe hunting tactic. And if used improperly, it could be. The same could be said of driving a car, shooting a gun, or using a knife.
“This decoy is not intended for use in thick cover, public lands, or any place where the hunter does not have reason to know who is hunting in close proximity,” says Denmon. “It’s intended to be used in open fields where visibility is not in question.”
Only use it when you are confident that you are the only one in pursuit of the target bird. And don’t get so caught up in the hunt that you get careless crawling with your bow and broadheads or gun.
So if you’re looking for a fresh adrenaline rush this spring, you owe it to yourself to take the fight to the flock while crawling behind a strutting decoy this turkey season.
Top Decoys for Fanning Turkeys
Mojo Scoot-N-Shoot – www.mojooutdoors.com
Avery Jekyll and Hyde – www.averyoutdoors.com
Flextone Thunder Creeper – www.flextonegamecalls.com
Primos Chicken on a Stick – www.primos.com
Montana Decoys Fanatic XL – www.montanadecoy.com
Turkey Fan – killergear.com/turkeyfan/