Decoy a Buck in the South

Deer decoys aren’t just for the midwest.  You don’t have to be around agriculture fields or large, well manicured food plots but they can certainly help!  From my experience, knowing your local peak breeding time and where does will be late October & early November are the key factors.

I’ve always thought the best decoy is a doe and I’ve killed several good bucks with that style.  Why not mimic a doe in heat?  What is a buck really looking for – a hot doe or rival buck?  Why not entice a jacked up, testosterone fueled bruiser with a doe ready to breed?

When the first does enter estrous cycles, it’s time to implement this method.  The estrous scent is unmistakable in the woods.  Usually, in my part of South Carolina it hits the third week of October.  At this point, bucks are up and running around with one task in mind. It’s then time to readjust your approach in the whitetail woods.

Through scouting and herd intel, you can lure a buck of any age class within bow range. Even in increased hunter density areas. It’s not an every hunt tactic to use. Only when conditions are right and wind is in your favor. I may only hunt with a doe decoy once a year and have gone a couple seasons without using it. It’s certainly not suitable for tight areas.

Key Points:
1.  Know where does bed and where they travel to feed.
2.  Scouting does is key during the rut.  Hunt does to kill bucks. Don’t overthink it. If you find does, you’ll find bucks. You’re hunting bucks but they’re hunting does.
3.  I wouldn’t target buck bedding areas.  They are moving more and may be bedding at other sites.

This was my first decoyed buck. Late October 2008. He appeared on the edge of the field in tall grass with no shot and eyes locked on the decoy. I hit a low bleat call and he slowly eased in. I took several “practice shots” with the safety on to calm my nerves. This was my first buck on the Farm after passing bucks for 2 years.

Ideal Locations:

  • Food plots
  • Ag fields
  • Clear cut sites (next to dense or light cover).
  • Thinned & burned pine blocks. It should be adjacent to thick cover or a staging area. 
  • Bottomland hardwood sites.  Again, the area should be next to cover as mentioned above.
  • Outside doe bedding areas.  Play the wind and don’t spook the does.   

I find it best to give deer a buffer of least 75+ yards before they lay eyes on the decoy.  You don’t want to spook anything.  Especially, a doe.  That being said, I’ve never had a doe become alarmed from my decoy.  They’ll look briefly but that’s about it.    

10/20/15 – Peanut field surrounded by 5 yr old pine thickets. Does were feeding around the decoy. The perfect storm. After several bleat calls he charged into the field.

Killer Scenarios:

1.  A buck has been cruising past you several times and you’ve been unable to get a shot off or maybe he hangs back in a staging area until dark.  

2.  A doe food source is loaded with fresh buck sign; scrapes, tracks, rubs and is prime for a mature whitetail to pop out. 

My Setup:

  • Position on the opposite side where you think a buck will enter your field of vision.
  • Do not place the decoy close to your stand unless bow hunting.  You don’t want deer possibly catching your movement.  
  • Use scent where legal.  I prefer Tink’s 69 in the scent bomb re-usable cans.  Play the wind and position the scent to drift where a buck should appear.
  • Bleat calls can be effective but don’t overuse it.  
  • Grunt calls can be good to entice a buck within earshot to check out the scene.     

10/17/20. The hunt for this buck lasted 24hrs and is a story for another time. The footage on my homepage is this whitetail.

*** Always be safe when transporting and setting up the decoy.  Wear orange and never assume anything with other hunters.  Even while on private land.  Check local game laws before using a decoy. *** 

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