Not many hunters use decoys during the first week or two of the bow season.
So I guess you might say that I am the exception to the rule, because I rarely
sit on stand during the early season without a decoy out in front of me.
Of course, most bowhunters who do use a decoy use
them primarily from late pre-rut right on through the rut. And I certainly
agree that this is prime time for decoying in bucks, which are out cruising for
does or looking to pick a fight. None of that is going on during the early
season, so why do I bother to use a decoy? Because during the
early weeks of bowhunting, whitetail deer, including
the bucks, are very social.
When a buck sees another buck, which he does not recognize as part of his
bachelor group, odds are pretty darn good that he will wander over to
investigate. He is not looking to fight, he simply is curious to know who the
new buck in town might be. On a couple of occasions, I have had several members
of the bachelor group come to visit at the same time. That's pretty darn
When I am decoying during late pre-rut or the rut, I do quite a bit of
grunting, some bleating and some rattling. But during the early weeks I call
sparingly and rattle even less. If I do call it will be a simple, short contact
grunt and if I rattle at all, it will be to imitate sparring with a rattle bag.
If I am looking to put an early season doe in the Clancy freezer, I use a
doe decoy. As is the case with bucks, does know every other doe within their
area, and when they see a doe they do not recognize, curiosity gets the best of
them and they will usually come over to see who the stranger might be. That's a bad mistake.
With three daughters who were brought up on venison and three grandsons who
think that deer meat is the best meat of all (OK, maybe the pepperoni on their
pizza ranks first), I am always looking to fill any antlerless tag available.
Usually, I do not call when looking for a doe, but if a doe is going to pass me
by without seeing the decoy, I will attempt to get her attention with a soft
doe bleat. If that fails I will use a fawn bleat call, but that my friends, is
fodder for a column of its own.
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Gary Clancy writes a twice-monthly 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.