Decoying is one of my favorite things to do. There is a time and a place where decoys can help you become more successful. I primarily use Montana Decoy Inc. decoys. I have learned through trial and error on some good ways and some bad ways to decoy. I will discuss different species and some tactics I have used to help get more opportunities and be more successful.
Most everyone knows about decoying antelope during the rut. I haven't had much luck doing that, but have had more luck decoying on water holes. For instance in 2010 I set up on a water hole and had three bucks come in, but never got closer than 80 yards. During that setup I had the doe decoy on the water, as if she was drinking, and the buck next to my blind. The three bucks that came in were all younger smaller bucks, and it appeared the buck decoy intimidated them. The next morning I set up just the doe decoy, and the buck I shot, which is pictured, sprinted to the water and gave me a great shot. The buck was relaxed and fed. I have also had instances though that the decoy did not work on water. I had several does come in one afternoon and were very weary about approaching. They eventually left the area.
Just this past season I used the decoy on a prairie dog town during the early season. The rut had not kicked in, but bucks were becoming territorial. I had been watching a mature buck with a bunch of does, and finally was able to work my way in get my decoy in sight. The antelope were feeding a long ways away, but my decoy caught the attention of the buck. He came running in and checked me out for several minutes. The buck just didn't close the distance and stood at 72 yards for quite a while. The buck eventually left to get back to his does, and again for a second time came running back. Again he never got any closer so I was never offered a shot. Of course the one day I forgot my decoy I got my opportunity. I had a buck come running as I was stalking on him and his does on a water hole. Some cattle began to watch me and the antelope buck became angry and came to see what the cattle were looking at. Had I had my decoy I'm guessing he probably would have run me over. The buck didn't see another buck and stopped for me at 45 yards. I guessed the range at 35 and shot just under him. Everything happened so fast that I didn't have time to grab my rangefinder. With the decoy the buck may have came much closer.
I have yet to try the decoy in the rut, but know they work as I have heard many tactics and stories on decoying antelope during the rut.
For my setup on antelope I usually do the following:
In the video there is a couple of ways I set my decoys in front of my blind.
Mule Deer and Whitetail
Another popular animal to decoy is deer. I have had luck on both whitetail and mule deer. Again I use the Montana Decoy Inc. decoys.
I do a lot of blind hunting and have had varied success in the blind with the mule deer doe decoy outside of the blind. The deer become curious and approach the decoy, but will sometimes keep their distance. It has been a great way to pull them in from a distance and bring them to my location to check things out. The biggest problem I have seen is that they become weary when there is no movement. The feeding pose does great though as it keeps them calm and helps ease them in. If you read my blog from my 2012 archery buck I never got to use the doe decoy, but the buck was rutting very hard and just seeing something he thought might be another doe brought him right in. If I had the decoy it may have been a much closer shot. Once again things can happen so fast you may not have time to set up. I do always have the option though.
Mule deer don't seem to decoy as well as the whitetails for me. During the rut it can be the perfect time to have that mature buck get puffed up and come check out another smaller buck in his area. I haven't hunted much in the rut, but from articles read and videos watched the buck decoy can be a great asset to you add to your gear. I have had good luck with the Dreamy doe on whitetail bucks in the pre-rut though. In early October I will locate bucks and set the doe and simply use a bleat can. In 2011 I had a small whitetail buck come to my calling on a string. I had the dreamy doe set up in the open and got down wind. I spotted the buck around 400 yards away and he slowly worked to where I was calling from. The buck came close and started to work down wind where I was located, and he stopped broadside for me at 20 yards. I had ranged the area where I thought he would come out at and the range was 30 yards. I shot and missed over his back, but without the calling and decoy I would have never had the opportunity. I hunt primarily on the ground as well and it is a great tactic.
For my setup on deer I usually do the following:
There is no better example for decoying than turkeys in the spring. It is an amazing feeling watching a big tom come into your setup looking for a fight. The spring can be a down time for some hunters, but for me its a time to get out and stretch the legs and get the bow out.
I have had great success turkey hunting with decoys. I again use the Montana Decoy Inc. turkey decoys. I am very excited for the coming spring as they have now come out with a new 3D tom. Check out the site to get filled in on Papa Strut. I have also hunted with friends who use the B-Mobile tom from Primos and have seen great success with that as well. I prefer the Montana Decoy though due to the weight and portability. I can easily fit 4 decoys in my pack with leg poles and don't notice the weight at all.
For my turkey set up I usually do the following:
Now to one of my favorite animals to decoy. The elk is a special animal and one I anticipate with excitement hunting in the fall. There is no other animal that gets my blood going like a bull during the rut. There are many tactics to use on elk and decoying is a great way to do it.
I have had varied success in using decoys on elk. Sometimes things happen so fast I don't have time to set them up, but that's when it's fun hunting and exciting. On my cow this year they came so quick there wasn't time to think about it.
In 2011 I had amazing encounters while using the decoys. I found a good water source that was being used a bunch. I set up my blind and set up the Flasher and Ms. Sept. The first bull that came out stepped out at around 150 yards into the open. I called, but the bull just didn't seem too interested. It was a mature 350 inch bull that got my heart racing even at 150 yards. About a half hour later another bull popped out in the same spot as the previous bull. I gave him a few light cow calls and he came running. I had made one fatal mistake and that was not setting up for the wind. The bull got within 80 yards and worked down wind of my set up. His nose got me and he was gone. It was amazing though to watch him pick up his head look at the decoys and come sprinting on a mission. About an hour later I was still in my blind cow calling and heard a cough behind my blind. I peaked out the back window and to my amazement 5 cows and a bull were able to sneak quietly behind me and were standing less than 20 yards away. They were looking at the decoys and continued to feed like it was no big deal. I was waiting for a shot on the bull, but he stayed at the right spot where my only shot was his neck or head. On all of these occasions I would not have had the encounters I did without the decoys.
One thing I have notice with elk is that they have amazing hearing and can locate your calling and locate it at the exact point of the calling. The decoys can help when calling by directing their attention on the decoys. This was shown to me during the 2009 and 2012 seasons. In 2009 my friend Stephen traveled out and partook in our elk camp. It was his last day out for the week and we spotted 9 cows and calves. It would have been great to get a bull, but I told him if he gets an opportunity on a cow not to pass as any elk with a bow is a true trophy. We set up with him sitting around 40 yards in front of me and I sat behind a tree and called. It worked like a charm and the lead cow and a calf came right in. The cow had me pegged and became suspicious as she could tell where the calling was coming from, but couldn't see any elk. Stephen was fortunate enough and the cow was only 17 yards away. The cow was getting ready to leave and Stephen made a great shot and a memory we will always remember. In this set up a decoy would have been key to keeping the cow around longer and possibly having her step on him. The next hunt was this last fall with my Brother Todd. We located some elk in the morning and elected to sleep for the afternoon with the elk and would begin calling in the afternoon. This time we had the decoys and they proved to be the key to the hunt. Todd began to call while I was set up with the decoys in some cover. We set up the Flasher to where only her head was showing, and Ms. Sept. to where only the hind end was visible yet visible enough to where you could see she was feeding. I sat patiently waiting for Todd to tell me to call. Pretty soon I could hear Todd giving me the OK. I began to call softly and watch the cow go from weary to spotting the decoys and coming in on a string. The cow came right to the decoys and offered Todd a broadside shot at 38 yards. He made a perfect double lung shot and she tipped over 100 yards later. Todd told me if it hadn't been for the decoys he may very well have not killed that cow.
If you are looking for that leg up on the elk decoying is a great way to have them come in calm and let their guard down enough for you to maybe get that shot you didn't get in the past.
For my elk set up I usually do the following.
As you can tell decoys are a big part of my tactics when it comes to hunting. It is fun to watch animals interact with the decoys, and they have helped me in more ways that hurt. If you are looking to get a leg up go to www.montanadecoy.com and pick up some of their decoys and try them out. These are just a few of the tactics that have been successful, but as I stated before trial and error is a great way to see what works best and ways to improve your success in the field.