Deer Decoys Are the Way to Go - by Ryan Aulenbacher, 2016 Outdoor Life Deer of the Year Winner

Submitted By Admin Nov .08.2017

Ryan Aulenbacher is the 2016 Outdoor Life Deer of the Year Winner with a stud 191" whitetail.  Harvesting old, mature whitetails on a regular basis is no thing of luck - Ryan is a scent control maniac and has some great tips for all aspects of the hunt.

Last fall I had a friend call me and we were talking about his setup as he is new to bow hunting. I know you are supposed to listen to all the info before offering up ideas but after 30 seconds I blurted out “you gotta buy a decoy!”

It was pre-rut around the first week of November in Southern WI and it was prime time. Bucks were scouting and checking trails and there was a ton of daytime movement. I had my decoy out all week and it was bringing in more bucks than I could count. From simple posturing; to full on ramming the decoy and tossing it into pieces.

Using a decoy is as close as you can get to cheating without having a conversation with a warden. Yes they work that good. There is a right way and a wrong way though to go about using them. You can mess it up just as easy.

The information out there about how a buck should face somewhat towards you, that’s accurate 99% of the time. You do that so the buck is quartering away from you for a better shot with your bow as he walks to the decoy. Bucks almost always come up to another buck face to face. I have had some bucks go to the backside of the decoy but that’s only after he’s been in shooting range and starting to wonder what’s wrong with the homeboy that’s not blinking.

That’s the info you can get just about anywhere though. I'm gonna dive in a little deeper on some of the little things I’ve learned while sitting over a decoy. You can’t just haphazardly throw a decoy up in front of you and expect a running of the bulls….

A few of the things I have learned over the last decade using decoys:

  1. Face the decoy so its facing towards you but not right at you. Think of a steep quartering at you approach for the decoy. That way if a buck approaches from afar he doesn’t follow the decoys sight line right to you.
  2. Use it in an area the deer have a good sight line too. Decoys can pull bucks in from a long ways away. Once a buck sees the decoy he will be so fixated on it you can move around a little even.
  3. Inside corners work better than outside corners. They feel more safe with woods close by rather out in the middle of a field on say an outside corner. It also helps to funnel them towards you.
  4. Bucks typically will approach from the open side of the field. Meaning if you are on a field edge they usually will not walk between you and the decoy. They will come at the decoy from an angle past the decoy. If the decoy is quartering at you then the buck will likely approach exactly broadside to you. They don’t usually go exactly head to head. See #1 above for review.
  5. Keep it close - see #4 above. No more than 20 yards as a buck may lay up a little past the decoy surveying the seen. You want to be able to shoot past the decoy. Also make sure you take drastic measures to keep scent off the decoy. Wear gloves and spray it down with some Scent-A-Way® Bio-Strike® scent eliminating field spray.
  6. Does HATE buck decoys. They will at times avoid coming out in the field to surely avoid the decoy. At the very least they swing well wide of it.
  7. Foam-based decoys like a Doloma Buck Decoy from Rinehart Targets make a lot less noise carrying them into the woods than the blow molded plastic ones. Plus they are WAY easier to transport.
  8. Use some Buck Bomb® Dominant Buck Urine near the decoy but not on the decoy. You don’t want to get it all over you when you take it down. It definitely helps to mask your own scent in the area as deer will get very close to your decoy. The scent factor can lure in bucks that don’t see your decoy at first. It will definitely add some validity to the grunt noises you are making too.

I have seen numerous deer take down my decoy or hoof it like a punch. I can tell you when you start seeing a buck hoofing the ground at your decoy like its eyeing up a matador its one of the most exciting things you will ever see in the woods. Check out my Facebook page for a video of a buck ramming my decoy 2 years ago as well as other tips and tricks. Good luck out there!