by Mark Hicks
Any fake deer might help bring a buck into bow range. But if you want your decoys to be as effective as possible, choose them and set them up to take full advantage of how real bucks behave through the phases of the rut. Here’s a season-long plan for using these impostors in every phase.
Preferred Decoys: Feeding subdominant buck
Why it Works: Early-season bucks are social and may approach this nonthreatening fake for company. Later in the pre-rut, it can especially draw big bucks looking to assert their dominance.
Strategy: Place a small-racked decoy in a food plot, a field, or an open wooded funnel. Hunt in the afternoon and call with a mix of contact grunts and light rattling.
Phase: The Chase
Preferred Decoys: Standing buck and doe
Why it Works: Dominant bucks rarely put up with interlopers in their territory now. A subdominant buck decoy will trigger a response that can be violent.
Strategy: Stake the buck behind the standing doe. Add realism by attaching a deer tail or a short strip of a white plastic bag that will move in the wind. This is prime time, so sit all day and stay ready.
Phase: Peak Rut
Preferred Decoys: Standing buck and bedded doe
Why it Works: With many bucks tending estrous does, this is a natural combination.
Strategy: Set your dekes in an area open enough to be visible but near thick breeding cover. Apply dominant buck and estrous doe urine and use rattling antlers, grunts, and estrous doe bleats to lure a big buck that’s in between mates.
Phase: Post Rut
Preferred Decoys: Doe
Why it Works: With most females already bred, late-season survivor bucks (often true giants) are searching hard for last-minute action.
Strategy: Stake a solo standing or feeding doe directly on a food source. Attach a deer tail or some shredded white plastic and apply estrous doe urine. An estrous doe bleat could lure in a monster.