Although deer hunting with a decoy can increase your chances of bagging a beautiful specimen, there are a few rules and guidelines and it is important to be aware of them in order to get the most out of your decoy. There are hundreds of choices that must be made both when choosing and arranging a decoy and, if you decide on something that is not right for you or your circumstances, it could be highly counterproductive.
First of all, you have to decide which decoy you want to use. This will be your hunting companion for many lonely hours so choose wisely. There are hard plastic decoys, foam decoys, and 2D cardboard decoys. Some come with a carrying strap to facilitate transportation and some come with a special case for added protection. Some deer decoys are even electronic, adding movement and a little extra weight to the decoy.
It’s important that you pick something that you’re going to want to bring with you every time you hunt. If your decoy is too heavy for you, I guarantee you it will stay in the garage. Sometimes even those two dimensional deer decoys, although forcing the loss of a lot of realism, can be more worth it because of how easy it is to transport them to your hunting site. Whichever one you choose, most hunters recommend putting together your decoy a little ways away from your hunting spot to ensure you make as little noise as possible once you arrive.
You need to decide on whether you prefer to use a buck decoy or a doe decoy. Both have their advantages and disadvantages depending on your hunting plan. Using a buck decoy will only attract the biggest bucks to try to fight it and will repel smaller ones. Although you will see less bucks and need a lot more patience, if your plan is to only go after the very biggest bucks in the forest, use a buck decoy.
Doe decoys will attract all sizes of bucks to try to mate with it. If you don’t mind killing only an average sized buck, use only a doe decoy to pique the curiosity of any bucks in the vicinity. Although you will still need lots of patience, you will get more deer of all sizes coming around to check out if your decoy is cute, single, and available. Bucks may not be interested, however, if they already have a doe that they are happy with.
Some hunters use both a buck decoy and a doe decoy. Although it is harder to carry two decoys to your hunting location, especially if it is heavily wooded, having a decoy of both genders covers more possibilities and will attract any territorial bucks in the area to come have a look.
Set up your decoy in a highly visible location, but make sure it is well in range of your hiding spot. Bucks need to be able to easily see your decoy with no possibility of spotting you, but if your decoy is too far away, bucks that come to check it out may never come within viable range of a shot.
You may want to try some deer calls to get the attention of any bucks in the vicinity. Deer calls and rattles can help passing bucks to notice your decoy and want to come in a little closer for a better look. Don’t overdo on these, however, or nearby bucks may decide that there is something wrong and decide not to show up.
Movement is important to the visibility of your decoy and, in states where it is legal, you can buy a decoy that moves electronically with a timer. If this is not legal where you live or too expensive for you, you can always tie a string to a movable tail on your decoy, string it up to your hiding place, and tweak it whenever necessary. You can also use a piece of white plastic from a garbage bag or even a piece of lightweight white cloth to create a movable tail. Attach it to the back of your decoy and allow it to blow around with the breezes that pass by.