On April 11, 2016 by daddyohunts

Growing up I loved sports.  Even now in my 30’s, sports still remain a big part of my life. With Reese finally getting to the age of eligible participation, I’m just starting to enjoy the side of sports that my parents got to experience watching my sisters and me grow up.  I have many great memories from my playing days, but one thing that always sticks out, whether I was on the diamond, gridiron, or ice, is coaches saying to play “heads up.”  In other words, play smart and play aware as if your head is on a swivel.  Even though my sports playing days are now limited to the beer leagues, playing “heads up” mentality still translates.  Only nowadays it translates to the way I hunt.  Hunting “heads up” is being aware of my surroundings and using the resources at hand to my advantage. Though I don’t think my methodologies will ever be perfect, constantly seeking out and discovering new hunting technologies helps to keep me above the curve,  and after years of trials and tribulations, most successful, but some not, I finally discovered a product that may have changed the way I turkey hunt forever.

Last spring, before the turkey season began, I came across an advertisement for the Heads Up Turkey Decoy made by Smokey Hill Hunting Products, LLC.  The Heads Up Decoys promote mobility, which is great because it allows you to take the hunt to the animal instead of playing the waiting game.  I was really interested in the turkey decoy in particular because the spring prior I had learned about a method of turkey hunting called “Reaping.”  This method is quickly becoming one of my favorites because it is a much more aggressive and mobile-based style of turkey hunting that has allowed me to bring the hunt to the birds.  It also offers a nice change of pace from spending long hours in the blind.  Don’t get me wrong, I love blind hunting, but sometimes depending on what the birds are doing, being successful calls for changing things up and going mobile.

Heads Up Turkey Decoy

Until discovering the Heads Up Turkey Decoy, I had been using a big bulky tom decoy that really wasn’t all that fun to lug around.  I would crawl out towards the strutting toms with my bow (nocked arrow and all) in one hand and the decoy in the other.  Once the toms started to react, often times not giving much time, I would stick the decoy in the ground, hook my release to the string and get ready to draw back.  Now that has all changed because the Heads Up Decoy can attach directly to the front of a stabilizer offering concealment without affecting ones ability to draw back and shoot.  Last season, it was using this method that allowed me to take my first Merriam in Nebraska and also punch my tag in North Dakota.

My 2014 trip to Northwest Nebraska started off very promising.  A couple friends and I began the morning in a two blind set with a mixed spread consisting of a jake, a breeding hen, and a couple of feeders and lookouts.  Within minutes we were covered up in birds and had it not been for an obstructed shooting lane, one of the four strutters may have been sporting a sleek new sticker on its leg.  The other three toms strutted just out of range amongst the other twenty some odd birds in the flock before finally strolling back towards their roost tree.  Which, by the way, was one of the coolest roost trees I have ever seen.  I think it had to be one of the largest maple trees I have ever seen with branches spreading out to form an absolutely massive canopy.  It was so big the entire flock roosted in it at dusk completely blacking out the horizon.  The first morning was as good as it could have been without actually killing a bird, but the afternoon had proven so much different as it was cold, windy, and the birds just didn’t want to move.

NE Creek Bottom

The Nebraska creek bottom at sunset.

The following morning we crept in even closer to the roost, but this time after fly down they showed no interest to calling and didn’t even give the decoys a chance to work their magic.  With only three days left to fill three tags, we decided to get more aggressive.  I had my Heads Up Turkey Decoy so I was excited to put it into action.  I split off from the other two guys in my group and employed more of a still-hunting type method.  I began walking through a creek bottom that was bordered by a steep bank on both sides, stopping every 50 yards or so to glass the area ahead and call in hopes of exciting a nearby tom.  I had only walked a couple hundred yards before I heard a hen reply in displeasure to my calling, from what seemed to be in the field at the top of the north bank of the creek.  I desperately climbed the steep bank and was just peering over the edge when I caught a glimpse of the entire flock heading through the field in my direction.  I quickly nocked an arrow and began to crawl towards them, bow in hand, equipped with the Heads Up Decoy in plain sight.  Instantly, the four strutting puff balls began towards me as if they were dandelion seeds floating through the prairie.  Right when I thought my shot was going to be measured in feet rather than yards, the hens, who didn’t stop to wait for their suspecting suitors, had circled around to my exposed rear only to let the boys know I was a fraud.  Lucky for me they were too late!  I was already at full draw and as the lead tom turned in retreat he opened himself up for a perfect straight away shot.  My arrow was on its way and after disappearing through him in a cloud of feathers, I was on my way to get my hands on my first Merriam.  Easily one of my coolest experiences hunting turkeys, and my first success story from “reaping.”  The Heads Up Turkey Decoy made me a believer, and I couldn’t wait to get back to North Dakota to give it another try.

First Merriam

After a couple of frustrating weeks chasing the same bird using a blind and decoy setup in North Dakota, it was time to try and relive the same magic that filled my tag in Nebraska. One of my favorite tried and true spots had been a bust all season, but with the season winding down I felt I needed to get back to my bread and butter.  Although not a huge piece of land, it is well known for holding a very good flock of turkeys.  I went out for an evening hunt with the Heads Up Turkey Decoy once again employed on the front of my stabilizer.  I knelt down alongside a big pile of logs cut from the demise of a couple of ancient trees.  My first calling sequence was quickly cut short by the sound of a thundering gobble and each one of my sounds thereafter were followed up with louder and more sustained gobbling. The excitement sent my adrenaline into overdrive as I thought for sure this gobbling beast among men was on its way!  Within a couple of minutes I was within feet of an unsuspecting hen roused up from all of the chatter.  As I sat in wonderment waiting for the source of the gobbling, my adrenaline was slowly beginning to fade realizing that “this beast” was on the other side of the river.  Not a huge deal as I knew almost exactly where he was located.  I was just dreading the half mile walk through a plowed field to get there.  Although, giving up really isn’t in my nature.

After driving around the section and plowing my way through the field, I was finally at the edge of the tree row that lined the river heading towards the start of the oxbow.  I knelt down and began to call in hopes of bringing the beast into the open field allowing for a plain view of the Heads Up Decoy.  To my surprise, nothing.  I split the distance and began another sequence.  Still, nothing.  I was in disbelief that the noisy beast could now be so melancholy to not even give me some indication that he could still be swooned.  I started into the woods, again stopping periodically to let out soft nuances, but not a single reply. At that point, I was only fifty yards or so from the river at the back of the oxbow, and I was feeling a little frustrated in the fact that he may have flown the river in search of a receptive hen.  That is right when I noticed a hen walking on the bank just across the river, and it gave me some hope that the beast was close.  I let out one last attempt in song and it was quickly met with an explosion of gobbling!  He was really close!  Seconds later, he appeared from behind the deadfall only forty yards away and instantly broke into strut after noticing the Heads Up Turkey Decoy.  He paced back and forth in a twenty-yard line for what seemed like an eternity, never quite fully committing to the scene that laid before him.  Unlucky for him, he was close enough, for my eyes never left him, and the concealment of my masterful decoy allowed me to come to full draw and truly understand the mystical flight of the arrow.  It zipped through him cracking the narrow tree behind him and within feet from impact was left only the chaos of flapping wings and earthly dust.  My North Dakota season was over, but that sadness was quickly overcome by the joy of another successful adventure hunting turkeys with the Heads Up Decoy.  A true adrenaline pumping experience, one of which completely blinded me from noticing that “the beast” was actually a jake!  It didn’t matter.  The Heads Up Turkey Decoy showed me for a second time what a rush turkey hunting has the potential to truly be.  I was able to use my resources, stay mentally tough, and put a whole new meaning to playing “heads up.”

2015 ND Jake


  • Aunt Julie

    Great post, Sean. I listened to a whole segment on NPR about turkeys, hunting, eating,etc. They were saying one of the biggest mistakes hunters make is not using all parts of the turkey–just the breast. They referred to “canning” all parts of the turkey, which supposedly softens/mellows the meat as well as using the crockpot to have the same outcome. I am hungry just thinking of it.