Setting Up A Killer Whitetail Decoy
September 22, 2010
Looking over my right shoulder, I was impatiently watching an immature 8-pointer exit the scene and waiting for him to get far enough away from my setup so I could do some more rattling and calling. The poor youngster had stuck around my stand area for over 20 minutes. He was trying to determine just what was up with the newcomer -- my decoy, "Deek Boy." The buck was reluctant to leave, and I was running out of daylight as the sun was lazily beginning to dip below the tree line.
The buck was just going out of sight when I slowly turned and reached for my antlers to give what would probably be my last calling sequence of the day. At that same instant, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. There, just to my left along the woods edge, I saw a puffed-up buck with his ears pinned back, homing in on the decoy. I instantly recognized him as a shooter, and while scrambling to trade the antlers for my bow, an incredible spectacle began.
This mature buck had snuck in on my position while I was watching "junior" leave. He obviously had heard the initial rattling and calling that I'd been doing. Now, with the decoy firmly in his sights, he no doubt was bent on letting the unknown intruder know that he wasn't welcome.
Without warning -- and in what seemed like milliseconds -- the disturbed buck charged in and attacked the whitetail decoy in the most brutal and most frightening display of aggression, power and dominance I have ever seen. Deek Boy lay in tatters as I subconsciously drew my bow. After the attack, the buck charged into the woods and nearly knocked himself out on a heavy limb. Then he stopped almost right below me, turned around, and looked back at his fallen enemy with a "What the heck just happened?" blank stare in his eyes. I centered the peep on his kill zone at eight yards and touched the release.
After the arrow hit him, he took off through the Kansas woods, and shortly thereafter all fell silent. From when I first saw the buck to when I put an arrow in him, not more than seven seconds had elapsed. To this day, I still don't remember drawing my bow; it all happened that fast! In my entire hunting career, never have I witnessed anything as intense as this encounter -- on TV or otherwise.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Earlier that morning, I had placed the whitetail decoy in the pasture in a heavy November fog only a short distance from where I'd set him up the evening before. I had accidentally slept in that morning, as the unseasonably warm weather had zapped some of the zeal out of me that normally accompanies an early November archery hunt in the Midwest.
The big bucks just weren't doing their thing, due to the warm daytime temperatures. When I woke up earlier that morning, it was cool, and a heavy, damp fog filled the air. I mentally kicked myself for sleeping in, but got set up by about 9:30 a.m.
The fog finally lifted around 10:45, and it didn't take long for deer to come out of the woodwork. At 11:15 this same buck came out of the woods across the pasture with two does. I rattled, grunted and snort-wheezed, and although I got his attention, unbeknownst to me at the time he couldn't see the decoy. He was a couple of hundred yards away, and Deek Boy was in a small dip.
The wind was out of the west, so I was set up on the edge of a finger of timber that stretched roughly from the north to south linking two larger sections of timber. I had made two mock scrapes along the finger's edge to my right and left. My intent was to try to dupe any buck that might circle downwind of the setup into thinking that a new intruder buck had slipped into the area. Later on that evening my strategy really paid off!
UPPING YOUR ODDS
Decoying can be a deadly method to lure in big bucks, but it's a strategy that doesn't always get the desired results. I've fine-tuned my setups to add as much realism as possible -- hopefully to fool any mature buck that might hang up just out of shooting range.
The first piece of advice I have to offer anyone who wants to increase his or her odds of success while using a decoy is to wash your decoy thoroughly and make it as free of any foreign odors as possible. This means washing the actual decoy with any of the various scent-free soaps on the market and allowing it to air dry. Don't be afraid to rewash it frequently.
After the decoy dries, it's time to give it a liberal dose of scent-killing spray. I personally spray my decoy down with scent killer prior to each setup. While I try to handle the decoy with gloves on at all times, it still might brush up against my skin at some point in time.
ADDING THE ULTIMATE REALISM
Once you've removed all alarming odors from the decoy, it is time to add some real deer urine to the setup. Notice I didn't say to add to the decoy. It's imperative that you don't ever put any type of scent directly on the decoy itself. Safety should always be a main concern, especially when dealing with aggressive, rut-pumped bucks in the fall.
I incorporate Mrs. Doe Pee's Buck Lures products into practically all of my deer hunting because they've proven their effectiveness over and over again. These products are the real deal, and they should be used appropriately. The second piece of advice I can give you is to use them sparingly. Remember, whitetails have "sniffers" that are far superior to our own. A few drops of real deer urine -- whether estrous or otherwise -- will draw the attention of bucks from all over the county.
As mentioned, I used mock scrapes in the above situation. Both scrapes were pawed with a stick from the woods and then doused with a bit of Mrs. Doe Pee's Continuous Scrape Set. The scrape that the buck came in contact with also had a scrape dripper above it, with some of the urine in it as well. This lure is a mixture of buck and doe urines. My intention was for any buck that might circle downwind of the setup to get a whiff of an intruder's urine and force him into action. That strategy worked unbelievably well!
The buck walked in from my left, and he actually came in contact with one of my mock scrapes while en route to the decoy. I have no doubt that this olfactory stimulation helped cause the aggressive attack on the decoy. I believe that this 9-pointer, having assumed dominance over that part of the farm after the dominant buck died back in September, was fully duped into believing that another buck had intruded into his territory and had made a scrape there.
And poor Deek Boy paid the price for his intrusion! I can still see and hear the buck hitting that decoy with such force that the image will be forever imbedded into my mind. Deek Boy's foam eyes were actually gouged out in the attack by the narrow-racked buck's antlers.
Decoying can be one of the deadliest tactics in today's whitetail woods -- especially when you add more realism to the situation with real deer urines. While you may not cause a violent attack every time (I don't know that it would be too affordable to have this happen all the time), it can help pull that elusive mature buck into a shooting position when he might hang up otherwise. And, of course, safety should always be of paramount concern in all deer hunting. Perhaps it's time for you to step it up a notch and take your decoying to the next level!