I just got in from a 4 mile run and need to wind down before hitting the sack. My good buddy and Sitka Pro Staff member Matt Palmquist drew an awesome elk tag in New Mexico for this September and asked me my thoughts on using decoys. Here they are:
They work…sometimes. 🙂
The areas we hunt in north-central Idaho are extremely thick and the terrain can be very steep. Because of this, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to pull my Montana Decoy out of my pack. There are times, however, when decoys can be extremely effective, especially when used as an extra alternative to get a bull to come that final 150-200 yards.
The times I like to use a decoy are when I’m in an area that has good cover, but also has some good visibility out 150+ yards. It seems I’ve had the most luck with decoys when a bull can get a glimpse of them at a fair distance, but then has to move in closer (without being able to see the decoy) to get a better look.
I’ve had a couple experiences where we’ve spotted a bull on the far side of a meadow or clear-cut and pulled the decoy out, expecting the bull would immediately run up for a nice 20 yards shot. It’s never worked out that way unfortunately. The bulls seem to hang up at 80-100 yards and stare at the decoy, waiting for it to move. When it doesn’t, they slowly walk off.
I like to use a decoy to catch a bulls attention when we’re set-up in an area that will 1) allow him to see it from his location 150-200 yards away, and 2) provide enough cover between us and the bull that he won’t be able to see it again until he is 20-30 yards away. With a shooter set-up 50-60 yards in front of the decoy/caller, chances are good that the bull will come in closer to get a better look, and likely walk right in front of the shooter for a good shot. Always Remember Concealment though.
As the shooter, it’s important to get out in front of the decoy without the bull knowing you are there. Set-up with good cover behind you to break up your outline (remember not to set-up behind a tree or big alder thicket). Lastly, but most important, get downwind of the line the bull will likely walk in on. He’s going to be coming by you and will need to be at a 90 degree angle from you for a good broadside shot. Check the wind to be sure he’s not going to smell you before he walks in front of you.
We had some great set-ups with decoys in Arizona last fall. The terrain in the southwest is very conducive for decoy use. Here’s a great video clip which illustrates the set-up I’ve described above. Dave Perry is set-up with the decoy about 30 yards behind me in an area where the bull can see the decoy at 120 yards. The thick cover between us prevents him from seeing the decoy again until he stops at 18 yards, after walking by me broadside at 20 yards. He wasn’t a shooter, but Donnie got some great footage that demonstrates how effective using a decoy can be when elk hunting.
Check out the bulls reaction when he gets to 18 yards and has a good clear look at the decoy. Had he been able to see it clearly at 70-80 yards, he likely would have hung up out there and done the same thing.