Decoying deer has been used by hunters in one way or another long before decoy manufacturers flooded the market with lifelike replicas that can fool most rut-crazed bucks.

A decoy is capable of doing one of two things. First, it can be just what is needed to bring a mature whitetail into bow range. Or, it can do the complete opposite, and send a buck into the next county.

It is not uncommon to see hunters scratching their heads, wondering why decoys work some of the time, and not at other times.

A couple things put decoy use in the hunter’s favor. The days just before the rut are the best, and areas where the number of bucks and does are just about equal tend to lead to the most success when using decoys.

When several bucks are vying for the attention of hot does, tempers will flare, and there will be more feuds amongst bucks.

Decoys positioned in the right place can be a deadly tactic against mature bucks. Stand a decoy in the wrong spot, or at the wrong time, and you run the risk of ruining the hunt.
Deer do not like surprises, or to be startled. Even being surprised by another deer is not a good thing. Decoys placed in heavy timber, or cover is never good. Anytime a deer walks up on a decoy at very close proximity without seeing any movement, the decoy will likely spook a live deer.

To combat this, make sure your decoy can be seen from a distance. Plus, it is easier to fool a buck from afar. A live buck that spots a decoy from a distance is more likely to come in relaxed, or mad and ready for a fight. Either is good because the deer will not be focused on the hunter.

If you have no other option than to place your decoy in timber, place it where it can be seen, like on an old logging road. Try to find a funnel, or feeding area. Concentrate on areas with a lot of deer movement, especially cruising bucks during late October to early November.

After you have decided on a location, it is then time to get your stand or blind in position.
When a buck walks up on another buck, he often does so looking for a fight head on. Position a buck decoy facing your stand, or slightly quartering to you about 20 yards upwind.

This will provide a shot less than 20 yards at a buck broadside, or quartering away as he walks up on the decoy. The buck only has the other buck (decoy) on his mind. Even though the rut-crazed buck is not paying you any mind, be ready to take the first good shot before he figures out it is all a trick.

Check out this video from Realtree.

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Jason Houser
Jason Houser is an avid traditional bowhunter from Central Illinois who killed his first deer when he was nine years old. A full-time freelance writer since 2008, he has written for numerous national hunting magazines. Jason has hunted big game in 12 states with his bow, but his love will always be white-tailed deer and turkeys. He considers himself lucky to have a job he loves and a family who shares his passion for the outdoors. Jason writes full time and is on the pro staff of two archery companies; in his free time, he fishes and traps as much as possible.