By Erick Lassiter
Every spring we hunters try everything imaginable to outsmart one of the keenest and most stubborn creatures that inhabit the woods. They might have a small brain but wild turkeys have been hard-wired for one thing and one thing only and that is to avoid being eaten. Their nervous behavior is what keeps them alive and keeps many frustrated hunters from filling his or her tag each season. It is not so much their cognitive skills but their supreme eye sight that keeps them safe by locking onto anything suspicious and out of the ordinary. A turkey’s eyes are placed far apart so they cannot focus both eyes on one image like humans can. Instead they tilt their heads to compensate in order to get a better view, especially if something doesn’t seem quite right to them. I have watched turkeys freeze and stand completely still for several minutes before taking another step to process their surroundings. Their vision is the main reason why calling a turkey within range is one of the most difficult things a hunter can do.
We often try to hunt the skittish and elusive birds in the same manner that we pursue deer, elk and pretty much every other animal. That of course is a big mistake because turkeys don’t pattern like most other species and exist in a moment to moment impromptu-like dance. They are by nature social and feel more at ease when there are other turkeys nearby. Therefore to outwit them requires tricking them at their own game. This is where using realistic decoys comes into play and can be highly effective in bringing in a clever Tom. It seems like turkey decoys have been around forever. I remember as a kid watching my father meticulously re-paint the heads of decoys that were starting to look worn right before the season began. Technology has advanced everything hunting related to the extreme and decoys are no different. They now come in a variety of styles and are made by numerous outdoor companies. One of the oldest and most reliable businesses is Flambeau an American based company established in 1947, renowned for their decoys, calls and blinds.
This past season I was fortunate enough to have Flambeau provide me with two collapsible decoys to try out and review. My hunting buddy Patrick O’Hara and I used the Flambeau MAD Walking Tom decoy and the MAD Shady Baby Feeding Hen decoy. Both decoys are incredibly life-like with exceptionally painted details all over, more so than any other decoys I have ever used. They are extremely well-made out of strong vinyl resin and have universal stakes which allow the birds to be set in a running, walking or upright position. Additionally, the Tom decoy has an expandable beard that can be shortened or lengthened depending on whether you want to set up a Jake or a long beard. I can’t stress enough how realistic both of these decoys look. Patrick and I were really excited to see how they would perform in the field. Within a couple weeks we would have the experience we were hoping for.
Unfortunately the weather was horrible almost the entire month of May where we hunt in upstate New York. There was heavy rain and wind literally every time we went out and the birds weren’t talking. Finally on a foggy Saturday morning the woods were calm and quiet. Hunting our favorite location we set the decoys out from our blind about 15 to 20 yards away. After about an hour of complete silence sitting in the murky woods an explosion of gobbles erupted from the other side of the ridge. Patrick is an exceptional caller and using the Flambeau MAD Double Standard box call he slowly lured in the Tom through the damp fog. Within ten minutes from the first sound we had heard the bird came up over the ridge and immediately moved in towards the decoys. In mere seconds the gobbler was in range. We allowed Patrick’s youngest son Matthew the opportunity to take the twenty five yard shot. Without hesitation he knocked down the Tom with his three inch magnum twelve gauge. We were all surprised how quickly the bird came in considering the dense fog that surrounded us. I honestly believe that other than Patrick’s calling it was the realistic appearance of the decoys that set the Tom at ease. His relaxed and casual manner ultimately led to his own demise as Matthew took a perfect shot. The twenty four pound bird with a ten inch beard went down with hardly a flop. This was Matthew’s second turkey he had ever taken and to say he was thrilled was an understatement.
Turkey hunting can be very difficult and frustrating, however as Matthew proved it can be very simple when everything works out as planned. Successful hunting is all in the details and these Flambeau decoys were definitely made with that in mind. The realism of these Flambeau decoys is amazing and every feature is as authentic as any decoys I have ever seen. The only negative aspects I found were the decoys are a little bulky and stiff which made them a bit hard to collapse and pack. They were somewhat awkward carrying through the woods with all of our gear. It would be nice if they came with their own bag. The decoys are made out of strong resilient material which is a huge benefit in terms of the decoy’s longevity. But it does create a dilemma if you want them to fold up tight if you are running and gunning on a bird. Overall they are sturdy, highly realistic, well-made decoys that ultimately got the job done and will last for many seasons ahead. They helped to fill a turkey tag from our group and that is all that really matters in the end. I highly recommend both the Flambeau MAD Walking Tom and MAD Shady Baby Feeding Hen decoys. The advantages of these decoys far outweigh the bad and I definitely will try out their other decoys and calls next season.
Pros: Very realistic, painted details are superb, strong & durable, fairly lightweight, great features such as the pullout beard and universal stakes.
Cons: Somewhat bulky & awkward to carry, not as collapsible as I would like, doesn’t come with a bag.