Hunting With Decoys 101

hunting with decoys Hunting With Decoys 101

When hunting deer, one of the most effective ways to attract one up close will be to use a realistic looking decoy. Not only can a good decoy actually fool a deer into (initially) believing that it’s the real deal, but the deer is going to be focused on the decoy rather than you.

At the same time, it’s easy to make some critical mistakes with decoying as well. Fortunately, this article will provide you with some important tips to follow so you can avoid these mistakes and enhance your chances of success.

Give some thought into your setup

Too many hunters make the mistake of simply purchasing the first deer decoy they see in the sporting goods store, setting it up somewhere in their hunting area, and then waiting for their next trophy buck to come trotting by. In reality, you need to give much more thought into your general set up.

For example, you need to think about if you will use one or more decoys and whether you want them to be decoys of bucks or does. Just as hunting in general requires much strategy, so does decoying.

The best way to use a decoy, generally speaking, will be to think about how deer are acting in your area or your time of year. For example, if it’s mating season (the rut), you have an equal shot of attracting a buck with a buck or a doe trophy. This is because bucks will be very aggressive during the rut and looking to dominate other males, but they’ll also obviously be looking to mate and will be attracted to a doe decoy as well.

If it’s not the rut, you would be wise to use doe decoys only because bucks will generally be looking to avoid one another without the need to fight for does.

Set up your decoy at the right time

Speaking of the rut, this will be your very best time to use a decoy. While deer will technically come to a decoy at any time during the year, they always tend to be more active and on the go during the rut season (for both bucks and does). The rut is generally defined as being a month and a half period from the middle October towards the latter part of November.

Choose the right location

The actual location where you set up your decoy can make or break your chances of success, so don’t overlook this.

By way and large, the biggest rule with setting up decoys in terms of location is to set it up so that a deer can spot it from as far away as possible. This means open areas such as prairies, meadows, or clearings will always increase your odds of success over areas of thick brush and woods. You’ll also want to position your decoy on a ridge or hill top if possible, so that it can potentially attract the attention of deer in lower elevations.

Does this mean that you should never set up your decoy in the forest? No, but you will still want to choose the most open area that you can. Deer don’t have the best vision, so they may miss a decoy that’s fully or partially hidden in the trees and brush.

An old trick that many hunters like to do is to place their deer on an intersection between two or more logging roads. Many deer will cross between sections of the forest on a logging road, and they’ll quickly see your decoy when they do.

Hide your scent

It doesn’t matter if you have the most realistic decoy ever made, if the deer can detect your scent and determine that anything is amiss, they will quickly turn and run away. This is why it’s critical that you hide your scent not only on yourself but on the actual decoy as well. Always make it a habit to carry and position your decoy while wearing gloves, and then spray it and yourself with an odor neutralizer.

In addition, you’ll make the scene seem more convincing if you have deer scent on hand. Buck urine, doe urine, and a doe in estrus scent are your best bets. Spray any one of them lightly over the area surrounding the decoy. Don’t overdo it, or else it could also serve as a red flag to the deer with too much scent.

An error that many hunters will make here is to spray deer scent directly over the decoy. The reason why this is an error is because you don’t want to get the scent directly on yourself or your clothing while you’re getting it set up. A good solution instead will be to spray the ground under the decoy with the scent instead. Remember that the purpose of scent is not to necessarily attract a deer, but rather to convince them to stay a little longer after they have spotted the decoy.

So, how are you supposed to attract a deer in the first place?

Make noise

While you can just set up your decoy and wait for a deer to hopefully spot it, the best way to attract the attention of a deer will be create noise, either with rattlers or with bleating and grunting calls.

The idea is that they will hear the call and then make their way in the general direction of it until they spot the decoy. The scent then further convinces them that the decoy is indeed well and they’ll hopefully get closer until you can take a shot.

best game calls


Overall, setting up a decoy is a very effective way to hunt deer, but only if you know what you are doing. By closely following the tips that this article has provided you, you will greatly increase the odds of taking a trophy buck on your next hunt.