Now more than ever, having realistic turkey decoys is critical.

“There’s been an education curve out there for these birds today,” veteran turkey hunter and MeatEater contributor Tony Peterson said. “We’ve killed off a lot of the dumb ones.”

With most of those “dumb” birds gone, we’re left hunting their smarter (or at least more discerning) brethren. This means decoy realism is of critical importance in many common scenarios.

“If you’re run-and-gunning in the woods, it doesn’t matter as much,” Peterson explained. “When I’m bow hunting, I want those birds at 5 to 7 yards and in a decoy trance.”

For this reason, Peterson believes that dropping extra cash on ultra-realistic decoys will pay off in the long run. What if a top-tier decoy isn’t in the budget? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to add realism to your deke setups without dipping too deep into your checking account.

One way to add some life to your fakes is to attach real turkey feathers to different parts of your decoy.

“You can glue the down feathers from a turkey on the head or the legs of a decoy to add a little movement,” Peterson said.

Another common practice is to attach a real turkey fan to the backside of a full strut decoy, providing a shimmer and shake in the wind that’s irresistible to aggressive toms. Some turkey hunters add more movement by flipping a handheld turkey fan up and down from their tree-side setup.

“Another trick is to paint your jake decoy’s head white,” Peterson said. “The theory is that when a turkey knows it’s about to breed, its head turns white.”

When a gobbler sees a jake that’s about to score, they can’t resist the urge to run in and kick some butt. Peterson believes decoy makers don’t commonly manufacture dekes like this because hunters have the preconceived notion that males should be sporting red heads. That’s just wrong.

“If you want to tick off a gobbler fast, try that,” Peterson said.

With just a bit of arts and crafts, you can take your decoy realism to a new level this spring. For those that value a hearty gobble and delicious meat, it’s time and money well spent.

Feature image via Captured Creative.