White-tailed deer are social as well as territorial animals. A popular tool in the hunt for trophy whitetails has become the deer decoy. Do they really work?
Decoys can certainly fool deer, but they have to a part of the environment and have a natural look about them. The more techniques one uses in placement of a decoy the more it blends into the environment and the better the chance it will fool a deer.
Perhaps the best time to use a decoy is during the rut. During the rut, deer are very territorial. Bucks constantly make and check their scrapes. Near a scrape is a great place to place a decoy. Be sure to place the decoy so that it is not looking at your stand. Any deer approaching will look in the direction that the “stranger” decoy is looking. You can use the decoy to divert the attention of the other deer away from a stand. Also it is important for the hunter to pick camo that blends into the background, not the foreground. The idea is to keep the deer focused on the decoy, not the hunter.
Placement of a decoy can also be used to maneuver the deer into a position for a shot. One can use a blowdown or other structure to move the deer as he tries to get a good look at the decoy.
A bedded doe decoy is good for this type of action. Bedded doe decoys have a calming effect on an approaching buck.
Featherflex makes a very light decoy that is of this type. It must be staked down or it will blow over in the wind, but it is otherwise a good decoy. It is inexpensive, and light to carry into the hunting area. Don’t be put off by the fluorescent orange in the areas that are normally white on a deer. The orange appears white to a deer.
Another set up pattern is to place a buck and doe decoy together on the edge of a corn stubble field or grass field. By placing them at the edge of the field it is possible to pull in a deer that is entering an open area. With the buck standing and the doe bedded it presents the appearance of a buck trying to get a doe to stand. During the rut, bucks breed does as long as they will stand. A dominant buck will attempt to run off the buck decoy so as to be able to take over the doe.
It is also important that the decoy buck have a small rack so as not to intimidate any arriving buck.
Although decoying is basically a visual situation, scents and calls are sometimes used. It is not essential to use scents or calls. Some hunters just like to cover all the bases. If a scent is to be used, the best one is from the tarsal gland or a mild buck scent. It is important to wear rubber gloves when handling the decoy so as not to leave a human scent on the decoy.
Human scent is scary to a deer. Some hunters leave their decoy out in the elements just to reduce the chance of human scent on it.
In using a call, again the best plan is to use it as little as possible so as not to scare off an approaching buck. When a big buck comes to a call, it is expecting to see another deer. If it does not, then he becomes suspicious. The best plan is to use a doe bleat interspersed with a buck grunt. If you get a response from another deer, quit calling immediately. You don’t want to distract the deer from the decoy.
Decoying deer is another tool, not an end all, for the deer hunter. With a little common sense one might be pleasantly surprised by the results it brings.