Thursday, September 3, 2009


Every now and then I get asked why I started building turkey decoys. If this sort of thing interests you, keep reading...............

"Real", or full-mount decoys aren't new to turkey hunting. My brother and a taxidermist friend were building prototypes back in the mid 1990's, and it's not like they came up with the idea all by themselves. Today it's turned into a fairly big business for some, with world champion taxidermist Cally Morris (Hazel Creek Decoys) leading the world in full-mount decoy sales.

My start in decoy building came about from a mistake I made following a short nap on a morning Tennessee turkey hunt in 2004. I was dealing with a sore back, brought on by too many hours sitting against trees in the spring woods. So late in the morning I decided to stretch out on the ground to save my back a little wear-and-tear. Next thing I knew, I was dreaming of turkeys, lots of turkeys, making lots of turkey noises. When my conscious mind reconciled that the noises weren't coming from deep in my sleep-addled memory banks, but from the decoys 20 yards away, I snapped to.

What I saw, through squinted eyes, was a gobbler and about a dozen hens causing a ruckus. I did my best to right myself without spooking turkeys, and when the birds separated enough for me to shoot the one sporting the beard, I pulled the trigger. But when the tom flew away I began to worry that I'd accidentally killed a hen. Well, I had actually, but one with an 8-inch beard!  Tennessee law allows the taking of bearded hens, but it wasn't something I'd have done had I been fully aware - uh, awake.  (Note to self - Don't shoot guns when you're half asleep.)

So during the stern talking to I had with myself on the way back to the truck (it was a 1-sided conversation), I reconciled that this hen was going to become a decoy if I had to mount her myself. Turns out, that's exactly what happened. As soon as I got back to Indiana, and with guidance from local taxidermist Craig Browning, I made a respectable facsimile of a real hen turkey. In 2 weeks I was back in Tennessee, and proceeded to kill my biggest longbeard in years using "Susie".

And it all got rolling from there. Susie only lasted that season and the next, because we revelled in watching hens attack her and jakes and toms attempt to breed her. Admittedly, she wasn't the most durable decoy. But when, in the winter of '05 I tried to find a commercial replacement, I quickly realized that I was either going to have to spend $400 (or more), or do without. Unless...........

Having made 1 effective decoy already, I decided I could make lightning strike twice. So I invested my $400 in taxidermy equipment and domestic hen turkeys. By the time the spring season rolled around in 2006, I had 4 new decoys to field test. And boy did they ever produce!

Now, 4 years later, with the help of family and friends willing to test and comment, we've made some refinements and arrived at a product that can be reproduced consistently, and that works like a charm. I started this venture just to make decoys for me and my brother, but enough friends wanted their own that I had to do something!

So that's where Thrill Kill Decoys got its start. And the name came to me at the end of a successful hunt, when I told myself just how thrilled that particular gobbler was right before he got himself killed. As I now like to say, "Anyone can kill turkeys, but can you Thrill Kill them?".

In an upcoming blog I'll show the decoys in more detail. I won't reveal trade secrets, but I will show you a little about how we build and use them.

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