We Fool Turkey, Waterfowl and Even Crows With Them…
As I look back I must be crazy not using a deer decoy. After all, I use turkey decoys every spring with success, so why haven’t I used one during archery season?
Using a deer decoy had never crossed my mind throughout the twenty-five seasons I had spent pursuing whitetails with stick and string. Not that I doubted their effectiveness in the deer woods, but being a Michigander I had always thought that they were better suited for hunting deer in western states where the terrain was more open. This thinking quickly came to pass when a friend of mine used one on public land to lure in an eight point a few years back. Between his success and those of hunting celebrities on bowunting DVDs, along with hunting shows I had watched, I was convinced that decoys did indeed have a place in a bowhunter’s arsenal. It was time for me to put one to the test during the rut.
November had finally arrived, which is my favorite time to be in a treestand. More importantly, it is the time all of us bowhunters dream about all year long, the rut. Newly discovered rubs and scrapes adorned the property that I was hunting. This along with the fact that I had not hunted there since the opening day of archery season increased my eagerness to arrive at my treestand, which was located in a mixture of hemlock and oak trees. However, before climbing my treestand I had one important task that I needed to complete, setting up my new decoy that I had purchased a few weeks back. This was only the second time I had used the decoy and I was excited to put it to work, especially during the rut. After spraying it down with some scent eliminating spray, it was finally time for me to climb my stand and get settled in for a four-hour morning vigil on stand.
Not long after daylight motion caught my eye directly south of my stand. The deer looked to be around one-hundred yards out slowly working its way toward me. It didn’t take long to figure out that the deer was a buck after it began rubbing a small group of saplings. As if it was an old western gunfight, another buck came sauntering in from behind me staring down the fake doe in front of me yet keeping a watchful eye on the other buck. Soon both deer were a mere twenty yards from each other, one with his ears back and hair standing straight up on his neck and the other subdued. After a few minutes these two bucks became bored with the motionless deer and left the area.
Both of these bucks weren’t shooters, but it didn’t matter. The doe decoy had done its job and lured in two bucks to within shooting range. I was instantly convinced that the deer decoy officially had a place in my bowhunting arsenal.
When used properly and during the right time, decoying deer can be extremely effective and greatly improve your chances of tagging a mature buck this fall. The following are six decoy tips that will help convince deer to pay you a visit while on stand this fall.
Why Use a Decoy
If you have ever used decoys to hunt turkeys or waterfowl then you probably have already experienced how magical they can be when it comes to being successful. Oftentimes they can mean the difference between going home empty-handed or filling your freezer with game. In bowhunting the concept is no different. Like other animals deer are especially curious creatures. A decoy helps put this response into motion and also causes them to feel more relaxed. Keep in mind that this can all change depending on the personality of each deer and the timing of their use, which we will discuss later. By using a deer decoy you increase your chances of drawing in a deer from a long distance to within shooting range offering you with a shot opportunity that would otherwise walk on by. There were times when I kicked myself for not using a decoy while I was on stand, especially while hunting along large fields or natural openings. Obviously, the sound of my grunt call wouldn’t reach them, but if I had a decoy staked out in front of me chances are they would have come in to investigate.
With the popularity of decoys increasing, bowhunters can choose from a wide variety of both buck and doe dekes from various hunting manufacturers. Poses include alert, feeding, and breeding positions for a doe and for a buck an alert stance. Some decoys even have the ability to move its head and tail in a natural motion when there is a slight breeze. The cost of a deer decoy range anywhere from fifty to two hundred dollars. It is always good to have several different types in your bowhunting arsenal, especially during the rut when pairing a buck and doe deke together can cause a passing buck to charge in. Decoys are no longer as cumbersome as they once were several years ago when they were first manufactured. Most larger 3-D dekes include removable parts that can be stored inside of its body cavity for easy transport. This type usually includes a blaze orange bag for carrying it to and from your stand. However, if you plan on being more mobile or hunting in remote areas a silhouette
3-D decoy would be a better fit in your bowhunting arsenal. Last fall
I had several stand locations on public land where I had to carry my hang-on stand in one hand and my bow in the other. This afforded me no extra room for a bulkier 3-D decoy so I opted to purchase a silhouette style instead, which I could easily fold up and tuck in my backpack.
Before putting your new decoy into action it is crucial that you wash it with either an unscented detergent or baking soda to remove the “new” smell from it. After it air dries outside, place it in a scent-proof bag and it is ready for the hunt.
The best time to start setting up a decoy is during the pre-rut when bucks begin chasing does and when the rut is in full swing. These timeframes can vary from year to year depending on various factors, such as weather, hunting pressure, and the moon phase so pay attention to deer behavior while on stand. Typically throughout most of the country this period occurs around mid-October to the end of November. Decoys can also be used during the entire season however, setting out decoys too early could be detrimental if you only have a few places to hunt. The last thing you want to do is risk educating them before the prime time. If you have the ability to hunt on several different pieces of property and numerous treestand options are available then using a decoy early on won’t be as much of a problem.
Before you drive the decoy stakes into some prime real estate near your stand location it is essential that great care is taken to set it up in the best possible location for a shot opportunity. There are several different factors to keep in mind. Wind direction, type of decoy (doe or buck), available shooting lanes or openings, and distance. First off, choose an area where your decoy is going to get some attention such as a field or food plot. If you decide to use one inside timber select a higher spot where it will get noticed. Second, always set your deer decoys upwind from your stand location no matter which sex your decoy is. Oftentimes, a buck will circle downwind and approach the decoy from downwind. Therefore, it is extremely important to place it in an opening, which will provide you with a clear shot opportunity.
When it comes to distance I like to place my doe decoy between twenty to twenty-five yards. This helps lure a buck into the shooting range that I feel most comfortable with. While using a doe decoy place it at a slight angle quartering away from you. Bucks will typically work their way from behind checking to see if the doe is in estrus. If your choice of decoy is a buck, position it slightly angling towards your stand. Chances are he will meet head to head with the fake deke much like a boxer in a ring. If you find that bucks are approaching the decoy from behind then consider quartering it slightly away from your stand.
Scent elimination should not take a back seat when it comes to deer decoys. After all, if you are like me you have taken great lengths to be as totally scent free as possible up to this point by implementing a scent-free regimen so why ruin it. Therefore, it is critical that you don a pair of rubber gloves before handling your decoy and spray it down with a scent eliminating spray to remove human odor. If you fail to do these two things the alternative could be a white flag waiving in the distance and a bowl of tag soup when you arrive back home. Lastly, when the hunt is over keep the decoy in a scent-free bag or container. This will help keep your decoy as uncontaminated as possible and ready for use.
Careful thought has gone into the location and positioning of your decoy, now what? After you have staked your fake deer into the ground consider adding some doe and estrus scent to make it appear more realistic. Some decoys come with a location towards the rear that allow you to place scent pads, which you can dip into doe-in-estrus scent, thus enhancing your decoy’s attractiveness to mature bucks in the area. If your decoy does not include this feature, use wire instead to attach scent pads or a ball of cotton.
Your decoy alone does not ensure that your hunt is a slam dunk Other bowhunting tools in your arsenal should be utilized such as antlers and deer calls. Although the decoy acts as a visual, using a doe bleat, rattling, or a grunt call can perk up a buck’s ears and could be the final ingredient that puts a shooter in front of you.