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5 expert tips for hunting with whitetail decoys

Duping deer

Lure wary bucks into range by adding a decoy (or two) to your set-up

It was cold for an opener that first morning last season, as the first rays of the rising sun reflected off the snow, slowly overtaking the veil of darkness. Despite the frigid temperature, I was comfortable sitting in my chair all bundled up, the propane heater whispering warmth into the confines of the blind. I was prepared to sit all day if I had to. Thirty metres from the blind was my buck decoy, standing sentry and staring obediently into the bush as though a doe was tiptoeing his way.

It was 40 minutes after legal light when some movement 200 metres down the cutline caught my eye. A peek through my binoculars revealed it to be a buck, and a pretty decent one at first glance. I sat glued to my seat and watched as he strode slowly but purposefully straight to the decoy, his eyes fixed on the intruder, not once appearing to notice my blind. When he was about 80 metres away, I could easily count five points per side, with good mass and width, and reasonable height. I was going to have to make a decision. Quickly.

For luring wary white-tailed bucks into range, try adding one or more decoys to your set-up Click to Tweet

Mainly because it was still early in the season, I opted to not shoot and instead sit back and watch the spectacle unfold as the buck walked right up to the decoy. Snow flew as he pawed the ground, ready to fight for local supremacy. He began to walk in circles, then pawed the ground again, clearly confused his would-be competitor was showing no reaction. In all, he must have been at the decoy for a full five minutes, at times as close as 20 metres to me, before sauntering back into the cover of the forest.

Over the following days, I had four other bucks walk in to investigate the decoy, though none were as big as that opening morning buck. That’s just the way hunting luck goes, and I don’t regret not hitting the switch on that deer. The encounter did serve to reinforce, however, that I’d made the right decision to include deer decoys as an integral part of my annual whitetail strategy.

Ken Bailey

Ken Bailey

An all-around hunter, Ken Bailey enjoys pursuing waterfowl the most. Based in Edmonton, Outdoor Canada's longtime hunting editor Ken Bailey has hunted every major Canadian game animal, in every corner of the country. For many years, he’s shared his deep knowledge of game behaviour, and wide expertise with all manner of firearms with OC's readers. His work has been recognized numerous times by both the Outdoor Writers of Canada and the National Magazine Awards. Ken is a committed conservationist, dedicated to habitat preservation, sustainable harvests, and passing along our hunting heritage to the next generation. He's also an avid fly fisherman, and a pretty darn good game chef.