© By Othmar Vohringer
Using a deer decoy during the rut to lure a buck to your stand or ground blind can work extremely well. But like everything else, decoying has to be done right. Just randomly setting up decoys and hope for the best is bound to fail. In this segment of Rut Tactics I will provide you with a few tips on how to make your decoy set ups get noticed by bucks.
To have any chance at decoying success the timing has to be perfect. Used at the right time, a decoy can significantly increase the chances of a buck responding to it. Fail to get the timing right and bucks will ignore the decoy, or worse get spooked by it. My experience is that the best time for decoying begins in the pre-rut phase and right up to the peak of the rut. The closer it gets to the peak rut the better is the likelihood that a mature buck will respond to your decoy.
Why is timing so important? During the rut bucks are single minded driven to breed every doe that they can get and to fight every buck for it. In their breeding frenzy a roaming buck will be attracted by anything that looks like a deer.
Another important consideration of timing is to set the decoy up when you hunt and not before. This seems to make sense but I have encountered hunters that set up decoys the evening before they hunt. It’s a big mistake to do this. The whole premise of decoying is to fool a buck into believing that there is an actual deer and not to give him time to figure out that the decoy is a fake deer.
|A typical decoy set up using existing deer travel funnels .|
First, the decoy has to be set up where deer are traveling, meaning active deer travel routes. Deer, even a lovesick buck, will not go out of their way to investigate something that looks like a deer when he knows that it is not an active travel route. In fact he will get suspicious about it. In my experience the best place for decoys are funnels and crossing points. The bottom line is. You need to be where deer will travel and see your decoy.
A decoy should always be placed where bucks can spot them form a fair distance away (see image above). You also have to pay close attention to the wind. Bucks often try to approach decoys from downwind. Make sure that the buck cannot go downwind from your stand position without stepping into one of your shooting lanes first.
Next pay close attention in which direction the decoy faces. There are several opinions where a decoy should face, while some believe a decoy should face away from the hunter, others are of the opinion that the decoy should face the hunter. From experience I share the later opinion. Here is why. When a buck approaches a deer he tries to get downwind from it to scent check it. Then the buck approaches the deer from the front, he wants to look the other deer into the eyes. As the buck turns to face the decoy he will at some point come broadside of me and give me a shot. By doing so the buck is fully focused on the decoy, he will not notice when you shoulder your rifle or draw your bowstring. Conversely, if the decoy faces away from you and the buck approaches it he will look in your direction and might see you move. Because of how a buck approaches another deer, in this case a decoy, it is important to place the decoy in such a way that the wind blows directly from the decoy to you and that the decoy faces you.
How far should the decoy be placed from the hunter’s position? That depends what you’re shooting with. If I hunt with a bow I place the decoy no more than 30 yards from the stand, preferably a little closer. With a firearm the decoy can be placed further away from the setup, provided the decoy is still clearly visible to any approaching bucks. Distance from the hunter to the decoy is important because a buck will typically keep a safe distance from the decoy before they walk right up to it. Preferably I like to get a shot at the buck before he walks right up to the decoy. It doesn’t take very long for some bucks to figure out that a decoy is a fake deer, then swaps ends and departs in a hurry.
Should I use a buck or doe decoy?:
Most of the time I use a buck decoy and sometimes a buck and doe together, the later seems to work especially well if the buck decoy mimics a smaller buck. A larger buck will have no hesitation to come rushing in, trying to run the smaller buck off.
I rarely use a single doe decoy, as my experience has been that it attracts mostly other does and fawns. What I have experienced a time or two with single doe decoys is that an older doe got suspicious, somehow these older girls seem to have sixth sense of things that are not quite right. It is these older does that can make all other deer nervous with their paranoia and eventually convince the others deer to vacate the area and by doing so take bucks that might lurk around with them. By using a buck decoy the does will usually stay clear of it. Bucks on the other hand will approach the decoy with the full intention of kicking this intruder’s butt, especially if the decoy as I said earlier mimics a smaller buck.
Complete the illusion:
When I use decoys I want to create a lifelike illusion. To do that I use scents, calls and rattling antlers that are appropriate for the time of the rut.
If you haven’t had much luck decoying deer in the past, try some of the tips provided here and see how decoying deer can work for you too. I am often asked whether full body or silhouette decoys are better. Personally I like the silhouette decoys from Montana Decoys. These decoys look lifelike and fold up to a small format that will fit easily into a backpack. To me this is important. Especially when I use a climbing treestand, spot and stalk or have to hike a long way to my stand, I don’t feel that I also should burden the load by carrying a life-sized full body deer decoy when the are other options that work as well as a Montana Decoy.