Deer decoys can make a big difference in your hunt, if you choose and use them wisely.
While there are certainly hunters out there who don’t buy into the idea of using decoys during deer hunting season, there’s little doubt that a well-placed decoy can catch a buck or doe’s attention and bring them right into your firing range.
If you’re looking for a new way to attract deer, decoys may be an answer.
With that in mind, here are five tips you should follow when it comes to choosing and using the right decoy for your hunt.
View the slideshow, and share any additional deer decoy tips in the comments.
1. Consider the season timing
Optimally, with few regulations on hunting season dates and locations, the time of the season should be the number one consideration when it comes to deciding which decoy you take into the field. This wonderful chart above, designed by Mark Timney over at Bowsite.com, shows you precisely when you should be using different decoy types to ensnare different types of deer.
As you can see, a fawn decoy is only really going to come in handy for luring does in the earlier parts of the season. Bucks, meanwhile, are most drawn to decoys in the pre-rut, rut, and post-rut. Doe decoys are hunter’s bread and butter for attracting a buck, but using a buck model can be a homerun move when aggression is running high at peak rut time.
2. Consider your state’s hunting season dates
We said that, under optimal conditions, season timing would be the number one consideration for choosing a decoy. Unfortunately, a lot of states don’t allow hunters to operate under optimal conditions. During a long, wide-open archery season, decoys are endlessly useful. With brief or truncated gun hunting seasons, on the other hand, the rules change. Of course, seasonal timing still remains a concern, but if your state only really allows hunting during the peak rut, that fact is naturally going to change your plans a bit when it comes to using decoys.
It goes without saying that fawn decoys are more or less useless if you only get a week or so to hunt in the late season. If you still want to go after bucks AND does, picking out a few doe decoys and positioning them near a feeding spot might be your best bet: bucks will be drawn to the decoys as part of their breeding drive, while does may see the fake deer and take them as a sign that it’s safe to come grab a bite to eat. A buck decoy may draw the males, but as a general rule, hunters using decoys in short seasons will want to go with doe decoys for utmost versatility.
3. Consider your hunting style
What’s your style for deer hunting? Do you like to set up in a treestand for an entire morning and wait patiently for the bucks to wander into firing range? Or do you prefer to set up temporary blinds so you can move around consistently?
If you’re in the latter camp, you may want to consider a two-dimensional decoy. These are lighter weight and more portable than their 3D counterparts, but they are also less realistic and can easily be sighted as imposters depending on the angle of a deer’s approach. If you’re a patient treestand hunter, a more fully realized 3D model will likely be your decoy choice, though you might consider an alternative if getting to your stand involves a long walk. Lugging around a decoy for a lengthy trek can be exhausting, a fact that makes the otherwise inferior 2D decoy an option worth considering.
4. Consider mechanical decoys
You know the duck or dove decoys you have that flap their wings around? There are deer decoys out there that are cut from the same cloth, built to attract bucks and does with movement. Usually, the movements made by these mechanical decoys are minimal (a spinning tail, rotating ears, moving head, etc.). However, even a slight bit of motion can sometimes be enough to get a buck to let his guard down and approach a decoy to investigate. For this reason alone, mechanical decoys are worth considering, though they certainly aren’t free of drawbacks.
In most cases, mechanical decoys will be more expensive than their stationary brethren. Due to their wiring and battery systems, there’s more chance of malfunction in the field than most of us would like. In other words, you could end up paying more for less with a mechanical decoy, since a stationary decoy can essentially have a limitless lifespan if you take good care of it. There are also some states out there that simply don’t permit the use of mechanical deer decoys, so check your state’s laws, regulations, and guidelines to see if your decision has already been made for you.
5. Consider calling
Often, a decoy is only as effective as the calls you use along with it. Call sounds that match your decoy really do a lot to sell the entire package, and can ultimately make a huge difference in whether or not your decoy works as a magnet for bucks. On one hand, calls can make a difference in which decoy you choose to take into the field with you. If the only call you have handy is a buck grunt, then you certainly aren’t going to opt for the doe decoy because you won’t have the sonic support to make it work.
Ideally, though, you’ll have a selection of calls to match your decoys and will be able to choose the right decoy and call combination depending on the stage of the season you’re in. Are you using a fawn decoy to call does in the late summer? Use a fawn distress call. Are you hoping to ensnare a buck with a doe decoy during the rut? Estrus doe bleats will bring your decoy full circle? Or is your main concern landing a buck in the pre-rut? Double up a buck decoy and a clashing antler sound for best results.