Deer Decoy Fundamentals

Using deer decoys have been a proven tactic for bowhunters for the better part of two decades; however, they can also be a deadly weapon for rifle deer hunters too. If you want to up your odds for gun season, figure out which decoys will work best for you and get one now.

Silhouette (two dimensional) decoys are one of the hunting industry’s best kept secrets.  Hunters in the west have been using these lightweight ‘pop-up’ decoys with great success for Pronghorns and Mule Deer, but they can also be used all over the country where spot-and-stalk hunting can be done in open areas.

The premise is simple; find an animal or area you want to sneak up on and hold the decoy in front of you while you slowly move forward. I have successfully used cow-shaped silhouette decoys to sneak up on fields full of geese, and I have used cow elk decoys to follow herds of elk while bow hunting. I have also found good results using 2D deer decoys while creeping on feeding deer in open fields.

Sneaking up on deer in an open field is impossible without a decoy, so if you try it make sure you are safe from other hunters. To close the distance on deer, I find the best results come from appearing to meander and slowly zig-zag towards them. It works, trust me.

Using the standard 3D life-size deer decoys is a whole other ballgame. They are perfect for stand or blind hunting. Much like bowhunters, I like to set my decoy up in the corner of a field, about 60 yards away facing me. I usually use masking scent and give the decoy a good spray down.

This field tactic relies on curious bucks coming to investigate the plastic intruder. If you are lucky, the buck will circle between you and the decoy and walk into easy gun range. Deer never seem to cooperate with the wishes of hunters, but decoys can force them to go through their natural motions and help you score.

As a reminder, always use common sense and think safety. Some of today’s decoys look very realistic, so I try to use hunter’s orange when possible as I never trust anyone when it comes to guns and deer.