How To

Deer Decoy Placement

Whitetail Buck. Photo: Glacier National Park Service

You’re sitting in the tree. You have been set up since before daylight and your decoy is out. Within range, you have high hopes and you have confidence you have gotten in without leaving a scent trail, other than an attractant. Lets say you have a buck decoy out and have done all the work you can to get it as attractive to a buck as possible. All the right moves, all the right timing, all the right scents are in place. Everything seems to be in your favor to get this buck you have worked for, into position for a good shot. It’s archery and your range is at 20 yards. With confidence levels this high, it’s hard not to get excited about what may transpire in the next few moments or hours.

Wind is right, temperatures are cold, but tolerable. The woods seem to be speaking and the nature moves all around you. You have your stand set up to be able to ambush him as he steps out from the trail and investigates your decoy. You know what he looks like with all the cam pictures you have. Some deer filter out across the field and you begin wondering if he has changed his pattern. The deer in the field are eating, comfortable and slowly, more and more are showing up to feed. So far, things look very good.

Then, it happens. He comes out from the opposite side of the field. Murphy’s Law has reared his ugly head. Although there are several deer wandering away from you, there is still hope. You give him a grunt to get his attention. He looks up and sees this decoy, a mature buck decoy,  standing at the edge of his field. His tail twitches, ears ease back a little, you can tell he isnt happy with the thought of a competitor moving in on his prospects. You give him another grunt and he begins making his way towards your decoy. Now the heart quickens, blood is pumping and the adrenaline is filling your system like a boost of high octane caffeine.

As you ready for the shot, he is coming in on a string. This is what you have anticipated for weeks or even months. It’s going to happen and you are ready. As the buck approaches, he lays his ears back, moves downwind and makes his final approach. Now, at this point, the question is, how did you orient the decoy, relative to your stand? Did you place it looking away from you? Towards you? At a right angle, quartering away?  Or did you even give it a thought?

Even though there is no guarantee on how a wild animal will act, or react, in a given situation, there are a few things you can take into account when placing your decoy out in front of your stand. Let’s say, again, you have placed a buck decoy out. Most would consider this to be a threat to a mature buck, as he sees it as the “new kid” on the block. He will most likely approach it with an aggressive stance and approach from somewhere in front or slightly quartering into the front of this decoy. This would tend to make you want to place your decoy in such a way that, when your intended target is within range, you have a shot with as high a percentage as possible, to make a lung shot. Ideally, your shot would be a quartering away shot at a slight angle, or a full broadside shot.  There is no way to tell how the buck will approach your decoy. If possible, you can use a tree, bush or other obstacles to “force” his approach. But again, no guarantees. Mostly, a wild animal is going to act just as it is, wild. We can only guess, at best, what they may do and how they will act.

Now, with a doe, in my opinion, this tactic is a little more dependable. Chances are this buck will approach with one thing in mind.  This is the rut, and they are rutting. This doe smells like she is ready and willing. You have him approaching and, when he begins his final approach, there is a great chance he will do this from behind her. He wants to be careful when he makes his investigation. You have set your doe decoy up with her facing away, slightly quartering to one side or the other. The best we can do is try and increase our odds and hope for the best. Even when we do everything right, sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way we pictured it. Just remember that we can study every movement we can, make an educated evaluation with the information we have gathered over our lives and make the highest percentage shots we can, when we do get that shot.

Do your homework, go the extra mile, make that seemingly unnecessary adjustment, practice ethics and conservation. Make your shot count. Practice shooting, trailing wounded game tactics and think about what you’re doing and why. We all take calculated risks when we hunt and if we can make it an activity with knowledge at the forefront, most times it is successful whether make a harvest or not. Teach this to our young. Pass on the respect and conservation minded way of our heritage. We need to follow the right paths for our children to walk behind us, as we have done with the ones who have taught us.

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Featured Photo: Glacier National Park Service

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