Tips for Deer Hunting with Decoys

Hunting deer with a decoy has proven to be a very effective tactic. The best deer decoy placed in the right location can produce a hunt of a lifetime and lead to a punched tag.There are many variables to consider when planning to purchase and hunt whitetails with a decoy.

Using deer decoys can be a highly effective part of your hunting strategy. Here are some tips on using decoys to maximize your potential for a great hunt. 

It’s Decoy Time

When is the best time to use decoys? Approximately two to three weeks before the peak of breeding season (varies across North America, check your local breeding season timing) is a perfect time to put out decoys. It’s during this time that bucks are separating from their all-male clusters and establishing their own turf. Decoys are most effective at this time because of this process of bucks establishing their own home range. They are more aggressive, and showing more dominant behaviors, and thus are more likely to engage with a decoy. 

Buck or doe? 

Both can be effective. But if you’re only bringing a single decoy into the field, make it a buck. The reason has already been covered in the previous topic, but here it is again: two to three weeks before the peak of breeding season, bucks are aggressive toward one another. A buck is more likely to act aggressively (and come within shooting distance) if he sees competition on his turf. Tapping into the buck’s natural instincts to dominate an area can override any mixed feelings he might have about moving closer. 

Which decoy to buy?

Decoys are more lifelike than ever these days. And that’s good. Because a decoy can’t be “too lifelike.” In short, the higher quality your decoy, the more success you’ll have with it, and vice versa. There are many great brands of high quality decoys. The best decoys are versatile, with adjustable postures, removable antlers, opposable ears and more. 

Location, location, location. 

If half of a decoy’s success is its verisimilitude, the other half is placement. First, make sure your decoy is within shooting range (and not at the very limit of your range) with a clear line of sight. Position your decoy in front of where you want to make your shot, and turned slightly facing away from you. Buck’s most often approach from behind, not from the front as you might think from their fighting postures. Also make sure to take into account your hand dominance, ensuring you can make your shot from the angle you’ve established. Lastly, and most obviously, make sure the decoy is visible to bucks in the surrounding area. 

Smell of Success

An enormous part of making a decoy seem real is scent control. A decoy that’s been in your garage and smells like gasoline and motor oil isn’t going to get the job done. Scent eliminators help, as does keeping your decoy in its protective cover in open air, where it can absorb the scents of nature and the season. If you want to add scent, some doe-in-heat scent applied to a drag rag can be a winning strategy. Drag several paths that lead back to your stand and decoy set-up, and wait for the big bucks to show. 

These decoy tips can help you have a more successful, rewarding hunt. Good luck, and happy hunting.

Written by The Brandon Agency