Until a few years ago, there was no way I would have packed gawky whitetail decoys into the field with all of my other gear and equipment. Like many deer hunters, I just didn't feel whitetail decoys could have any significant impact on my overall hunting success. However, I quickly changed my mind after watching several hunting videos that showed fired-up bucks with swollen necks and bad tempers kicking the you-know-what out of foam-filled whitetail decoys. In truth, adding decoys to your setup can dramatically increase your chances of tagging a bruiser buck.
When coupled with calling, a decoy provides a buck with a visual confirmation that what he heard was real. One or more decoys can also have a calming effect on a suspicious buck that is playing it safe and being too cautious to approach your setup. These are just a few of the advantages of hunting with decoys, but simply throwing up a fake just anywhere is not going to get the job done. Let's take a close look at the decoying secrets and setups the pros use to consistently tag giants all across the country.
DAVID BLANTON'S DECOYING MAGIC
David Blanton and the Realtree Team know how to crank things up during the fall and capture unbelievable hunts on video that usually feature monster bucks getting smoked!
When the cameras are rolling, David always has a few tricks up his sleeve for coaxing a long-tined giant right into a cleared shooting lane. A strategy David utilizes during late October until early November involves deadly decoying setups that will drive the big boys crazy. Pay close attention if you want to see a buck with intimidating headgear march stiff-legged in to your decoy setup this season.
According to David, pinpointing areas that offer high visibility can play a dramatic role in your overall success.
"I prefer to find a setup that will allow a buck to see my decoy from at least a few hundred yards away," David explains. "This allows me to cover a lot of ground, especially when bucks are cruising for does in open areas. Next, I want to allow the current deer behavior to dictate my decoy setup. For example, I usually start with a single buck decoy, but I will switch gears if the deer are acting skittish or spooky with this setup. Sometimes changing over to a two-decoy setup seems to relax deer that just aren't acting right around a single buck."
In the past, David has had a lot of success with a Flambeau Ready Doe decoy placed in a bedding position facing a small-buck decoy.
"This creates a scenario where it appears the doe is ready to breed, but she is just not interested in the smaller buck," David continues. "When a dominant buck passes by and assesses the situation, it's usually more than he can stand. The last thing a mature buck wants is some cocky young intruder trying to breed his does. I strongly feel this setup works better, because it simply looks real and it strikes a jealous nerve with the bucks that do most of the breeding."
With either setup, David likes to add a little Tink's 69 doe-in-heat scent around the decoy, and he never starts calling until after he sees a buck. He tries to stay away from blind calling to avoid a buck circling downwind from the stand and blowing the setup.
David relies on a combination of grunting and rattling to grab a buck's attention.
This type of calling is capable of making a buck turn around and completely change course. According to David, once you see that the buck has committed and is heading toward your stand, it's time to stop calling and make him look for you. These decoying strategies have allowed David to film and tag a number of trophy-class bucks across the country.
- Always set up your decoy where it can be seen from great distances.
- Adding attractant scents and calling can be extremely effective when hunting with decoys. However, never put any kind of attractant scent directly onto your decoy. Instead, always place estrous doe and dominant buck scent on the ground around it.
- Always use rubber or latex gloves when handling your decoy and try to be as scent-free as possible.
- When it's not in use, try hiding your decoy near your stand to prevent picking up foreign odors from transporting it back and forth. This will keep the decoy scent-free and saves you the hassle of carrying it in and out of the woods.
- Allow current deer behavior to dictate your decoy setup. Sometimes a buck and doe combination will work better than a single-buck setup.
- Modifying a set of real antlers to fit the decoy can add realism to your setup, but remember to keep the rack small to avoid spooking possible shooter bucks.
- Hanging a real deer tail on the back of the decoy can also add realism to your setup.
- Once you have a buck committed and working toward your position, make sure you stop calling. This will prevent the buck from hanging up or changing his mind. Making the buck look for you is usually your best option with this setup.
- Try to avoid blind calling to bucks to prevent having a buck circle downwind of your setup after hearing you call. When you see a good buck, however, by all means use attention-grabbing grunts or rattling to draw him in close.
HAROLD KNIGHT'S METHOD TO THE MADNESS
Anyone who has ever watched Harold Knight hunt turkeys on television knows that he is a strong believer in decoys, especially the strutting tom "Pretty Boy." This phenomenal turkey decoy has completely changed the way Harold hunts during the spring, but he also feels that deer decoys can be every bit as effective later in the year. In fact, Harold highly recommends that every hunter adding a deer decoy to his or her hunting arsenal, especially bowhunters who are looking to gain an edge by bringing big bucks up close and personal. Harold feels the following decoying strategies will help you close the distance on a thick-necked bruiser this season. He believes that the prime time to use a decoy is from the middle of October until the first of November.
"One of my favorite times to break out a decoy is when bucks are cruising for does," Harold says. "At this point in the season, anticipation of the rut strikes a competitive nerve among bucks with high testosterone levels. Bucks that are territorial are easily provoked to fight and can't stand the sight of another male on their turf. The key to pulling a mature buck into range is to set up the decoy in plain view and utilize calling to grab his attention."
With this setup, Harold will use a combination of grunts with his Rack Blaster grunt call and intense rattling sequences. He says the blasting chamber on this new grunt call allows a hunter to be extremely loud, and this type of calling is capable of bringing a heavy-racked giant in on a dead run.
"It's not a bad idea to add Code Blue dominant buck urine scent around the decoy to coax any buck that is downwind from your stand closer to the setup. Simply not being afraid to pack a decoy into the field and trying these deadly strategies can be all you need to tag a monster this season!"
STAN POTTS' PRIMETIME STRATEGIES
Stan Potts, co-host of North American Whitetail Television, has built a reputation as a decoying master. In fact, Stan has dropped an impressive number of long-tined giants with his customized decoying setups.
According to this veteran hunter, any hunter who leaves a decoy at home from the late pre-rut period to the early post-rut period is really missing out on some golden opportunities. Anyone who has watched his TV shows knows that the right decoy setup is capable of generating some intense and action-packed encounters with bruiser bucks.
Consequently, Stan strongly believes that focusing on open terrain and areas that offer high visibility can make or break a good decoy setup.
"I try to stay away from thick cover or heavily wooded areas when planning a decoy setup," Stan explains. "The only exception to the rule is timbered areas that are completely open and flat. I love setting out my "Bucky Jr." Carry-Lite decoy in an open field that runs between two woodlots. Bucks that travel along the edges of these timberlines can easily spot my decoy and will often work in close to confront the intruder."
Other high-impact decoy setups Stan looks for are pinch points, agricultural fields and open food plots that are high-traffic areas used by cruising bucks during the late pre-rut to early post-rut periods. Stan likes to carefully position the decoy anywhere from 20 to 25 yards from his stand. He also prefers to quarter the decoy toward his position to create the perfect shot when the buck circles to the front of the decoy for a face-to-face confrontation. This little trick also gives a bowhunter the perfect opportunity to come to full draw without being seen by the buck since the buck is usually preoccupied with the decoy.
And just like David Blanton and Harold Knight, Stan feels that calling and adding attractant scents play an important role in adding realism to his decoy setups.
"Coupled with calling, using a doe estrous scent like the Primetime Premium Doe Estrous Plus and Whitetail Dominant Buck Urine from Hunter's Specialties can help pull a buck right in to your lap," Stan insists. "After seeing a buck, I will hit my rattle bag and give him a series of loud grunts. Once I get his attention, a snort-wheeze from my EZEE Wheeze call is usually all it takes to bring him my way. Without question, these decoy setups and strategies have allowed me to tag a number of absolute giants!"
This season, get aggressive with your hunting strategies. Don't miss a golden opportunity by being afraid to pack your decoy into the field. Take an assertive stance and try the decoying techniques that have enabled some of the biggest names in the hunting industry to consistently tag wall-hanger bucks across the country. Right now is the perfect time to grab your decoy, climb into the stand, and hang on with both hands for some adrenaline-pumping, rut-crazed action!