Mastering the art of a deer decoy takes time. There are times when everything works out perfectly and the deer come in on a string. Other times, the reaction may not be what you expect. Those are the learning experiences. Every hunt is different and knowing how, when and where to use whitetail deer decoys comes with experience. Below are five common mistakes hunters often make and solutions to avoid making them.
1. Hunters Don’t Use the Decoy
Hunters sometimes buy a decoy before the season starts, but never utilize it on a hunt. It sits in their shed or remains folded up in their pack. Or, they use it once, fail to see results and never use it again.
Commit to using a decoy and pack it with you on every hunt. They are lightweight, compact and set up quickly. Say you’re hunting whitetails on public land. It’s nothing but dense timber and you have just one shooting lane. A doe decoy set up in the lane may be just the ticket to draw a buck over and give you a shot. It would be a shame to buy a decoy, not use it and wonder “what if.”
2. The Decoy Isn’t Visible
This happens a lot, especially during the rut when bucks are harder to pattern. Hunters tuck the decoy in the corner of a field or on the downslope of a ridge because that’s where traffic is most prevalent. When bucks are cruising, the decoy needs to be visible from greater distances.
When hunting in timber, select the highest spot within bow range to place your decoy(s). If you are hunting a field or clear cut, place it on a field edge that is visible from as many of the likely travel routes as possible.
3. Your Decoy Smells
Using scents with decoys is a proven tactic. And while splashing your doe decoy with Tinks 69 works great during the rut, it’s unnatural during other phases of the season. Also, if your decoy has human odors, it’s a red flag that something is not right to approaching bucks.
Instead of applying scent attractants to the decoy, place them on the ground below it, or on a towel that you can clip on to the decoy that will simulate the animals tail. Store decoys in a scent-proof bag and set them up using latex gloves. Spray the decoy with scent killing product frequently.
4. You Haven’t Given Much Thought to Your Setup
Decoys are like any other piece of gear you use while hunting. The more you understand how to use them the better they will perform. Should you use a buck decoy, doe decoy, or both? Sure, sometimes you can throw up a decoy and have a buck charge right in, but your odds are better when you give your strategy some thought.
Based on the time of year and scouting information, try to determine what is motivating buck behavior and use the proper decoy setup to cater to his interests. Usually, he is looking to feed near other deer, dominate other bucks, socialize or mate. If he's looking to feed near another deer, set up a feeding doe decoy. If he's aggressive and ready to dominate other bucks, get him riled up with a young buck decoy. And if he's looking to mate, entice him in with an estrus doe decoy.
5. You Aren’t Fooling All the Deer’s Senses
Using scents and calls can add realism to your decoy setup, but when used wrongly can sabotage your efforts. Just like a deer spooks when he keeps hearing a call, but doesn’t see a decoy, he may become suspicious if your decoy doesn’t have some scent or vocalizations accompanying it.
You don’t have to overdo it, but mixing in a bleat when using a doe decoy or a grunt with a buck decoy can sell your strategy to apprehensive bucks. A little Tinks wouldn’t hurt during the rut. And of course always make sure that it is free of human odor.
We hope these decoying tips shorten the learning curve and give you confidence to use deer decoys this season. There’s no better feeling when you set the perfect decoy scene and have big bucks come charging in to investigate.