Like other game that respond to the visual cue of decoys, including waterfowl, turkeys, pronghorns and even moose, whitetails are social animals. They like to keep company with others of their own kind, though for different reasons between the sexes, and from season to season.
Despite their gregarious nature, white-tailed deer are also timid creatures that cling to the safety of dense cover. The weak link in this natural armour, however, is that their innate shyness disappears when they see others of their kind loitering in an exposed area. Decoys give deer confidence that all is well, overriding that fear.
During the rut, mature bucks are both aggressive breeders and competitive. If they see what looks to be a doe, they’ll investigate to see if she’s receptive. Alternatively, they’ll approach other bucks to assert their dominance in the breeding hierarchy.
Another advantage of decoys is they give you a better opportunity to make a good shot, whether you’re hunting with a rifle or bow, because the deer’s focus will be on the decoy, not you. Decoying also adds an enjoyable layer to your hunting; I’m often entertained by a deer’s antics as it tries to arouse a reaction from an inanimate object.