Bowhunting Deer With Decoys

By: Joshua Wilson







Most deer hunters have not yet mastered the art of decoying. In fact most deer hunters haven't even given it a try. Hunting other game with decoys is nothing new. Duck and goose hunters have known the effectiveness of decoys for many years. Turkey hunters and predator hunters have also jumped on the decoy bandwagon. So, although us deer hunters are a little late catching up with our fellow hunters, there is no better time then now to learn how effective decoy hunting can be for white-tailed deer.

The first step is to choose the type of decoy you would like to use. Almost all deer decoys fall into one of two categories. You can choose between a flat two-dimensional decoy or a full-body three-dimensional decoy. Flat two-dimensional decoys are easy to carry and faster to set up, but I feel they lack the realistic look necessary to bring deer into bow range consistently. While full-bodied decoys are bulky, inconvenient to store, and harder to carry afield, I feel that the realistic look more than outweighs any inconvenience. Most manufacturers are making full-bodied decoys that are easier to take apart, store and transport, so they are becoming more user friendly all the time.

Choosing the right overall location to use your decoy is very important. Using decoys on field edges gives you the potential of bringing deer in quickly from a distance. Using a decoy in dense thickets is not necessary since the deer will be in shooting range before it would ever see the decoy anyways. Just as important as your location, is the specific placement of your decoy. If your decoy is placed wrong an incoming deer may have to move downwind to face it, and in the process the deer may catch your scent. Also, the deer may not present you with a shot if your decoy placement is wrong. If you are right-handed, place your decoy about 20 yards out and to the left of your stand, place the decoy broadside to your position and slightly downwind. This setup gives you the best opportunity to bring a buck in upwind, and present a broadside shot.

Some deer are more suspicious than others and no matter how realistic your decoy these deer will not approach. I believe this is due to the unnatural stiffness of the decoy. The best way to avoid this is by adding some movement to your decoy. Some of the newer decoys nod their heads and twitch their tails. With a stationary decoy you can try adding a strip of brown and white cloth or a real deer tail that will flutter in a breeze.

Scent control is another important thing to consider when hunting with a decoy. Most decoys are made from injection-molded plastic and don't hold scent very well. But oils from your hands can be transferred to the decoy and the deer will smell it. Leave decoys outside when not in use, and use clean latex gloves when you handle them. After setting up your decoy in the field spray it with a scent-eliminating spray. You can also use natural deer scents such as scent wicks or misting sprays around your decoy for an even more realistic feel. Using scent along with a realistic decoy is sometimes just what it takes to get that big buck to commit.

Calling can also be very effective when hunting with a decoy. You can use grunt tubes, doe bleats and rattling from your stand. However once a deer is close it may realize the sound is coming from somewhere other than the decoy. Once a deer is interested and coming in, stop calling and allow the decoy to do the rest. If you continue to call you only increase the chance of the deer seeing you and spooking. Where legal you could place a electronic caller directly under the decoy. This can be a very effective technique if it is legal in your area.

Most decoys are made with removable antlers so the can be setup as either a buck or a doe. How you set your decoy up will depend on when and where you are hunting. During the pre rut a buck decoy works best. During this time bucks are just starting to spar and fight for breeding rights, as well as search out potential does. During peak rut times you will have equal success with a doe or a buck decoy. During the post rut you will have the best luck with a doe decoy. During this time dominant bucks are more interested in finding an unbred doe than fighting another buck.

Always put safety first when hunting with a decoy. I would not recommend hunting with a decoy during rifle season. The most dangerous time is transporting your decoy in and out of the field. Most decoys come with a large blaze orange duffel bag. Always disassemble your decoy and place it in this bag for transportation. If you hunt in a crowded public area it may be best to not use a decoy at all.

If you haven't tried hunting deer over a decoy yet, and your looking for an effective way to pull in big bucks and even a few big does, give it a try this fall. You may be surprised at how effective it really is. You will learn something new about deer behavior every time a deer comes in to your decoy. Have fun and stay safe.







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