Using a decoy or multiple decoys is a great way to draw deer from a distance. It's the best way I know of offering a visual confirmation to a buck, which has responded to the invitation of your rattling antlers or grunt call. And it's the best tool you can use to position the buck for the perfect shot.
Another big plus to using a decoy is that when a buck comes into a decoy, his total focus is on the decoy. That makes it much easier to draw your bow without being picked off. These are all excellent reasons to use a decoy, but the main reason for using a decoy in my book, is that hunting over a decoy is fun!
Hunting over a decoy brings the excitement level up a notch. You will see more deer if you use a decoy and for most hunters seeing deer is important. And some of the antics deer pull with decoys will have you nearly laughing out loud in your stand.
Fun With Decoys
Researchers claim that a deer does not change facial expression. I disagree. I'll never forget the look on the little 6-point's face when he attempted to mount my Carry-Lite doe decoy and had the plastic shell crumple beneath him. It was dismay, wonder, confusion, and maybe even a touch of frustration. I could see them all on his face as he stood and stared at his fallen love.
Last November, during the peak of the rut, I was on one of my all-day-sits as is my habit during the rut. Three bucks already had come to my rattling antlers and decoy that morning, but none were of the caliber I was looking for. When I had left my truck that morning I had failed to put my lunch, which was sitting in a brown paper sack on the front seat, into my daypack. I figured I could make it all day without food, but by noon, my belly was gnawing on my backbone. I decided to climb down, hustle back to my pickup, grab my lunch and get back on stand. My stand was in the corner of a large, picked cornfield, which was totally surrounded by timber. The decoy was 20 yards out in the corn stubble where any deer crossing the field could easily see it.
I figured it would take me only 45 minutes to hike to my truck and back to my stand, so when I left, I did not bother to take the decoy down. I was crossing the field coming back to my stand after retrieving my lunch, when I noticed that my decoy had company. I could not see a rack on the visitor and since I was looking specifically for a mature buck on this hunt, I just kept walking towards my stand.
Bold Button Buck
The deer spotted me when I was about 200 yards away, but it did not run. When I had halved the distance, the deer, which I could now see was a button buck, got nervous and pranced around the decoy, before standing shoulder to shoulder with the buck decoy and watching my approach with the intensity, which only a whitetail can display.
Seventy-five yards, 50, 40, 30 and still the button held its ground. Every few seconds, the button would turn its head to look at the decoy, as if to say, "Hey buddy, don't you think we should be making tracks?" Finally, when I was only eight or 10 steps away from the decoy and the nubbin, I stopped and whispered to the little deer, "Come back and see me in three or four years. Now get out of here."
The nubbin looked at me, then at the decoy, then back at me and with one last glance at the decoy, reluctantly stiff-legged it off into the timber with his bushy tail flared in that "hey guys, something is suspicious over here posture." Ten minutes after I had settled into my stand and went to work on a half-frozen peanut butter sandwich, the little buck was back. Talk about cheap entertainment.
If you have tried decoying deer but have had not had much luck, give these five set-ups a try this season. And if you have not yet used a decoy, don't let another season slip by without giving them a whirl. I won't guarantee that you will shoot the biggest buck of your life over a decoy, but I know that using a decoy will add enjoyment to your hunt.
Please read some more tips on using a decoy followed by five excellent decoy set-ups in Part 2.
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Gary Clancy writes a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Gary has hunted whitetail deer in 20 different states and provinces. He has harvested many record-book animals, and presented hunting seminars from Tennessee to Wisconsin. Gary also has authored or co-authored six hunting books, four on whitetail hunting.