I am firmly convinced that hunters don’t use decoys as much as they should simply because they can be inconvenient at times and most hunters aren’t patient enough to work with them until they learn to appreciate their deadly potential. Most decoys are noisy and cumbersome to use in the field and hunters just don’t take the time and expend the effort to maximize their effectiveness.
One of the advantages of being a whitetail outfitter is that I can make full use of decoys for my clients and myself in extreme situations and conditions. It’s relatively easy for me to carry several decoys in the truck or on an ATV and to set them up while the hunter is getting situated in the blind or stand. Then I leave, causing a minimum of disturbance. If you’re hunting alone, you might tote the decoy or decoys to the vicinity of your stand and hide them prior to hunting the stand. Then all you have to do is sneak in, set up the decoys and you’re ready for action. Leaving the decoys in the blind or woods will also help dissipate the scent on them.
During the pre-rut I’ll generally use one or two small buck decoys along with the fawn decoy, as the bucks are more apt to be in fighting or sparring mood. As the rut progresses and the bucks are really running does, I’ll switch to a buck and doe along with the fawn and often use two does and a buck decoy to aggravate a mature buck.
I’ve used about every decoy on the market, and often will use a couple of full-bodied CarryLite decoys along with the Feather Flex fawn in conjunction with a couple of portable Montana photo-realistic silhouette decoys to add numbers to the setup. When using a silhouette decoy, I generally use two decoys set at opposing angles to give the impression of depth to a buck circling around the decoys.
Decoys aren’t only effective during the rut to bring in big bucks. During the late bow and firearms seasons, a time we are hunting wary and skittish deer that run first and look later, I’ll often use decoys. A word of warning: I limit my decoy use during firearms seasons to my private leases where I have control of all hunters. Even then I am very careful when setting out decoys and keep in mind blind placement in regards to decoy placement. Never carry a decoy into the field during a gun season on public land, and if you use one on private land, keep it covered while in the vehicle and cover it with a blaze-orange bag or cover when transporting in the field.
I often use several decoys in conjunction with food plots during late season in hopes of allaying the deers’ skittishness, bringing them into the food plot during shooting hours and enticing them within range of my blind. I’ll place a couple of doe decoys and a couple of medium-sized buck decoys fairly close to the blind. If the hunter is bowhunting, I’ll place a doe and buck decoy off to each side of the blind and leave the area immediately in front of the blind or stand open for deer to move into without feeling crowded. I’ll often add a couple of turkey decoys staked so they will swing in the breeze and add movement to the decoy spread as additional confidence decoys.
When I’m muzzleloader hunting the late season for mature trophy bucks, I’ll use a couple of buck decoys placed 25-50 yards from my blind in hopes of giving a mature buck the confidence to come out of cover earlier in the evening and work within range of the blind.
Decoying deer is probably the most underutilized method of getting close to a trophy buck. Granted, decoying can be intimidating and frustrating, and like all hunting, is never a sure thing. You only get out of it what you’re willing to put into it. However, the first time you watch a trophy buck get suckered by your decoy setup and end up right where you want him, you’ll become a believer. Extreme decoying tactics might just become the most deadly deer hunting method in your arsenal.