by Travis Faulkner
If you watch hunting shows, you’ve seen one big-racked whitetail after another march up to a buck decoy and kick its plastic rear-end. That’s partly because buck decoys work. But it’s also because a fight makes for good TV. What you rarely see is how effective doe-decoy setups can be, especially during the rut. But hey, you can see that in real life, right now, right under your stand. Just use one of the three ruses below to pull in a breeding-season trophy.
#1 – Fake-Out
Funnels and pinch points make good stand locations at any time of year. But they really shine when bucks begin traveling more widely during the seeking phase of the rut. The trick, of course, is getting one of those bucks to travel through the particular funnel you happen to be hunting. And the solution is to show them what they’re looking for. That is, spray down a standing doe deke with scent eliminator and place it in the pinch point of your choice about 20 yards upwind of your tree stand. Make sure it’s in a spot that’s visible to cruising bucks. Just before climbing into your perch, walk a scented drag rag to the decoy from the direction you expect bucks to approach, and hang wicks with doe-in-heat urine in a circle around your stand.
#2 – Woods Waylay
Breeding-season bucks love to cruise open hardwood flats to check for does nibbling browse or chomping hard mast. But with few edges or terrain breaks to funnel deer, these areas can be tough to hunt, especially with a bow. Bringing along a doe decoy, however, can make it a lot easier.
This season, as the chase phase of the rut heats up, do a little speed scouting to find out where does are feeding, such as an isolated pocket of productive oaks or soft mast. Then stake a feeding doe decoy over the grub and run a drag rag with doe-in-heat scent 100 yards to each side. Hang your stand just downwind of the fake and call with a combination of tending grunts and doe bleats. If there’s a buck in earshot, he should come running to your setup.
#3 – The Bedroom Scene
When the seeking and chasing phases of the rut are over and bucks are actually breeding, targeting known doe bedding areas can be the deadliest decoy setup in the woods. Bucks may be lying down with the does now, so don’t barge into the bedroom. Instead, place a doe decoy in plain view off its downwind edge. Hang your stand nearby and call using doe bleats. You might lure out a doe, with a buck in tow. But you’re also in perfect position to intercept a buck that’s scent-checking from downwind of the does’ sleeping quarters.