Decoying deer can be a risky strategy at times, but when it pays off, the action is a sight to behold and the reward the mature buck you have been hunting. Just as there is no one strategy to hunt deer, the rules of when, and how, to best use a decoy is not straightforward. Your particular hunting situation, phase of the rut or second rut, hunting pressure, food sources, deer density etc. will all play into your strategy. Here are six tips to increase your odds with a deer decoy.
You are trying to fool a worthy opponent. I have seen deer attack blow-ups and plastic decoys. Some made me do a double take from 40 yards and the others looked, but over all, the more realistic looking and smelling, the more likely you are to decoy a buck.
Ensure the decoy matches the set-up. If you are in the middle of the rut, a feeding buck or bedded buck would be out of place. However, after the rut, when the bucks are trying to make up for lost weight, a feeding buck decoy would be much more appropriate than one with an aggressive stance.
To get the realism you need, you may need more than one decoy to stage the scene. For instance, a small buck standing over a bedded doe, or a couple of does feeding in a food plot etc. Think about how deer naturally use the ground in your shooting lanes and stage the scene appropriately.
Deer are not static. Ears twitch, heads bob and then there is their trademark whitetail of course. You’ll get more action by producing a little action. Commercial ear or tail kits are an option, but a white rag or something fuzzy from the craft store may do the trick. I have even heard of using chicken feathers. The wind is not a hunter’s friend, but a piece of fishing line to create a little movement at the right moment.
Scent is a funny thing, and few of us understand it to the level we think we do, but here are a few basics. Scent is basically bacteria, so it can be targeted differently. That’s why scent killer can target human scent, but a cover scent can still be effective. In reality, scent strategies is a topic all its own and cannot be done justice in just a few words here. The main thing to remember is that deer rely heavily on their noses. When setting up a decoy, expect the buck to circle downwind to check thing out first. If food is important, use a scent that mimics a local favorite. If it is the rut, use something the lines of buck rut or estrus scent depending on which decoy you are employing.
Deer are social, but also very skittish. They can easily spook on another. When they are being social, they often approach each other with necks stretched out, noes to nose. When setting the direction of your decoy, keep this in mind and position the decoy to ensure a quartering shot.