Decoy Do's and Dont'son Oct 21, 2012
The two scenarios are identical in every aspect except for one thing. The buck in scenario 1 heard the call, but did not see the deer that made it. Since he was out cruising for does, he doesn't have time to go search for a subordinate buck he can't see. In scenario 2 however, when the deer heard the grunt and turned his head to look he was given visual confirmation of what he just heard. He could see (in his mind) the deer that just grunted. His ears and eyes both agreed that there was an intruder buck in his territory, so he had no choice but to investigate. The strategic placement of the decoy made the difference in killing the deer and having it slip slipping away.
Decoys are a subject that I am personally very passionate about. Using decoys is an aspect of hunting that is often overlooked, and in my opinion, not utilized nearly enough. Some have used decoys without much success and given up on them; thinking they are not worth the hassle of carrying in and out of the field. However, decoys are like any other tactic bowhunters use. Its takes knowledge and practice to use them effectively. There are times when a decoy may be the only way to get a big buck within range. Other times using one may actually hurt your chances of success. So, we are going to take an in depth look and the do's and don’ts of using a decoy for bowhunting.
A decoy can help draw in even the cagiest bucks.
First of all, to be successful with a decoy, you have to use one. So finding a decoy that is right for your situation is the first step. Many companies offer quality decoys. When I search for a decoy that will be effective, there are several things that I look for. First, I want to portray a subordinate buck; one that will not intimidate bucks passing by, but rather peak their curiosity or even enrage them. For this reason I tend to shy away from the really big bodied decoys. Some giant bucks have very non-aggressive personalities which, for many, allows them to become live longer. However, a small, subordinate buck with the nerve to challenge a mature buck is something not many bucks will just shake off.
I also want one that I can take off the antlers easily and move the ears, so that I can use it as both an aggressive buck or a submissive doe. I really like the ones by Carrylite. I have had a buck completely destroy one of them...twice! Even though most decoys come with a bag to carry them into the field, I prefer to assemble them at home or at the truck and carry them in fully assembled. This makes setup much quieter and quicker. In fact in most areas where I know I will be using the decoy multiple times, I will lay the decoy down close to my stand when I'm done hunting and cover it with brush to hide it. That way I don't have to carry it in every time.
If you have a long hike in or are hunting “run and gun” style, this doesn't mean that decoys are out of the picture. Companies like Montana Decoy make some really nice silhouette decoys. These are color images of a deer printed on both sides of a plastic cutout of the deer. They fold down and are very packable. I have had success using them in a pinch in the past as well.
Decoys will produce the best results when used at precisely the right time, and in the right fashion. For example, I like to leave the decoy at home until about October 20th. Bucks are generally not that interested in either does or other bucks until at least this time. When I do decide to start using it, I pick how I will do so according to where I will be hunting. What works in one area may not in another.
For instance, in most areas I hunt, a buck decoy works best. However, on one particular farm I used a buck decoy extensively last season and had very little success. I realized that this particular property has a tremendous amount of does. So the bucks do not feel very threatened by other bucks. So I switched the decoy to a doe. I positioned it with ears perked up and tail raised like she was ready to be bred. The very first evening I used the doe decoy, A 1 ½ year old forkhorn ran straight up to it and mounted it, only to be ran off by a gorgeous 120 class 2 ½ year old 8 point. A simple change hade made a huge difference.
In general, I will use a buck decoy in an aggressive posture. That is, ears pinned back and tail tucked low. This position will grab the attention of any aggressive buck. When positioning decoys, I always place a buck decoy quartering towards my stand at a distance of 25 to 30 yards. This is because most of the time a buck will circle to the head of a buck to challenge him, thus ending up facing away from me at 20-25 yards, allowing me to draw my bow undetected.
The opposite is true for a doe decoy. I place her quartering away from me, as a buck will usually walk straight in to the tail end. This setup allows me the greatest chance of getting a shot at a deer that comes in to determine whether or not she is in estrus.
Putting decoys where they can be seen from a distance will increase your chances for success.