In Part 2, we look at some tips on how to best use a decoy, how to freshen up scrapes, and how to increase your chances of success by using scent.
Decoying Is A Real Hoot
I've had more fun deer hunting during the last 15 years than I ever had before, and it's because I began using decoys. Hunting over a deer decoy is a lot of fun, and I don't know about you, but having fun is important to me.
Of course there is also the added benefit of a decoy providing me with not only more opportunities at bucks, but better opportunities as well. One of the neatest things about hunting over a decoy is that when a buck comes into a decoy, usually the buck is so focused on the decoy that drawing on the deer is no problem. Any bowhunter will tell you that the really difficult part of bowhunting deer is not getting the deer close enough for a shot, but rather drawing that string back without getting picked off. Using a decoy pretty much eliminates that problem.
Then too, when a buck comes into a decoy, he usually affords you with perfect broadside or quartering away angles and gives you all the time in the world to pick your spot and make a good release. All of this adds up to good shots and quick kills. I like that.
Decoying deer, like calling and rattling, is really easy. There are, however, a few key points you might want to keep in mind to boost your odds of success when hunting over a decoy.
1) The decoy should be visible to deer at a distance. The further away a buck is when he spots the decoy the better the odds that he will commit to the decoy. Decoys will scare more deer than they attract if you use them in heavy cover.
2) The wind should be blowing from the decoy to you. In a pinch, you can hunt in a crosswind. But never place the decoy downwind of your stand or ground blind.
3) I'm a much better shot at 15 yards than I am at 40 yards, so I position my decoy no more than 25 yards upwind of my stand or blind. When a buck comes in, he will usually circle downwind of the decoy, which puts him between you and the decoy.
4) As you might expect, when that buck gets downwind of the decoy, if he smells any human scent on that decoy, he is gone -- no questions asked. I handle my decoys with gloves (usually rubber gloves) and always spray them down with an odor neutralizer after setting them up.
5) I use scent when using a decoy, but I do not apply it directly to the decoy. I jab a stick in the ground under the belly of the decoy, hang a scent wick or cotton ball on the stick and apply my favorite scent to the wick or cotton ball. When using a doe decoy, I use a doe-in-estrous urine and when using a buck decoy, I go with a buck urine or tarsal gland scent, although I really don't think it makes much difference to the deer. What the scent does is encourage that deer to hang around a little longer, which translates into better shot opportunities for you.
6) If you use a buck decoy, face the decoy towards you either head-on or at an angle. A doe decoy should be angled facing away. I know that you have probably read or heard that you should never position a decoy so that it is facing the stand or blind because deer will then look where the decoy is looking and spot you. I don't know where this information got started, but it is not true. I've decoyed in dozens of bucks to buck decoys, which were facing in my direction and none of those bucks has ever picked me off.
Position It Right
The reason you want decoys positioned this way is that when a buck comes into a buck decoy, he almost always circles around the head end of the decoy because that is the end which can cause him pain if he is not cautious. A buck circles around the rear end of a doe decoy because that is the end of the doe he is most interested in.
7) I've used about every decoy on the market and all of them will work, but I've got my favorites. The Robo-Coy is a full mount of a deer with the addition of robotics in the head and tail so that you can either swivel the head or twitch the tail via remote control. The robotics are not legal to use in all states, but even where you cannot use the robotics, this decoy is deadly. It should be, it sells for around $600. But for those who want the best, you can find out more about this remarkable decoy at www.wildlifedecoys.com, or by calling 715-692-3000.
On the other end of the spectrum are silhouette decoys. Silhouette deer decoys are relatively inexpensive, lightweight and they work. No, they do not work quite as well as a full-mount like the Robo-Coy, but then, you can buy a whole herd of silhouettes for what one Robo-Coy will set you back. Two of my favorites are the Montana Decoy (www.montanadecoys.com or 406-748-3092) and Martine's Decoy (www.martinesdeerscent.com or 219-992-3802).
To tune up a scrape, just walk near it, but not into it (don't laugh, I've seen hunters do it), squirt some of your favorite scent into the scrape and get out of there.
Surrounded By Scent
Before I climb into my treestand or ground blind, I will usually put four to eight scent wicks juiced up with deer scent in a circle around my stand. I hang the wicks three to five feet off of the ground on tree limbs or bushes and add probably six to eight drops of scent to each. I've used a lot of different brands and kinds of scents over the years and I really do not have a favorite for this application. I've had good luck with doe-in-estrous, tarsal gland scent, some synthetic scents and several different gel or paste types of lures.
I don't think the scent wicks actually draw deer to my stand, although I could be wrong about that. But many times I have had bucks, which were just cruising through, as bucks often are during the rut, stop and spend some time sniffing, licking and sometimes even chewing the scent wicks. That is all I need to have the time to make a good shot.
I personally know of two Boone and Crockett bucks taken one season, which would not have been taken except for scent wicks. In both cases the bucks were on the prowl and in a hurry and only those juiced up scent wicks stopped them long enough for an arrow to deliver its fatal message.
Follow Me, Mr. Deer
Rarely do I hike into my stand without pulling a drag rag behind me to lay down a scent trail for deer to follow. About the only exception is when I happen to be able to access my stand from straight downwind. Scent trails, like everything else in deer hunting, do not always work. I've had deer step across my scent trail and never so much as give it a cursory sniff. Many times I have had them smell it and then just continue on their way. Other times they follow it for a short way and then just appear to become disinterested and wander off. I've even had a few, which followed it in the wrong direction. But several times each season, deer cut the scent trail I laid down and follow it right to my stand site. In many cases, I know that these are deer that I would not otherwise have seen. That is reason enough for me to continue laying down scent trails.
A drag rag can be something as simple as a clean rag tied to the end of a string, although commercial drag rags like the Primetime Trail Drag from H.S. Scents, which is the one I rely upon, hold much more scent, which means that you do not have to stop and freshen up the drag rag as often.
I've had good luck using tarsal glands off of bucks I have killed earlier in the season or from road-kill deer. Tarsal glands are easy to peel off of the hocks with a small fillet knife. Wear rubber gloves so that you do not contaminate the glands with human odor and put the tarsal glands into Zip-Loc bags. I like to use one tarsal as is and juice up the other with a one-half ounce or more of doe-in-heat urine. Sometimes I drag them both, sometimes just one. I've had deer follow both ways, so I don't know, which is better.
The whole idea behind laying down a scent trail is to intercept deer, which cross your trail and encourage them to follow the scent to your stand. As I see it, it is a no-lose situation for us hunters.
Like I said in the beginning, you can hunt a lifetime without employing any of these tactics and still kill a bunch of deer. But you will be missing out on a whole lot of excitement, and quite possibly a date with a real monster. The choice is yours.
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