Decoy a Downwind Buck
The hunt seemed doomed from the start. I overslept, hurried out the door and left my decoy bag in the garage along with my doe-in-estrus scent. The good news was I did have a grunt call in my bow case and a favorable wind for a stand I typically hunt during the rut.
The stand is in a thin strip of woods dividing two agricultural fields. Downwind of the stand is about 200 yards of a cut cornfield running into heavily timbered ridges sloping down to a bedding area near a river bottom. During the rut, bucks cruise the field edge opposite of my stand to scent check for does feeding in the field. I know getting upwind of where I expect the bucks to travel is a cardinal sin, but during the rut, I have seen deer make enough mistakes. As long as I practice proper scent control, it’s usually enough to fool a rut-crazed buck.
That morning, things unfolded as I expected them to. At 8:30, a big 11-point was cruising the border of the field, nose to the air with steam pouring from his nostrils. But there were no does in the field. I hit my grunt call and even let out a snort wheeze hoping I could coax the buck to cross the field and come in for a fight. He looked in my direction a few times and continued to scent check the rest of the field before disappearing.
I am confident had I not forgotten my doe decoy, the buck would have come in for a closer look and I would have had a shot. Even as the rut starts to wind down, it’s possible to lure in a buck looking for does to breed. While having a mature buck walking downwind of you may seem ludicrous, as long as you keep your scent in check and use a good cover scent, it’s not only possible, but deadly.
Proper scent control is always important, but to decoy a downwind buck, it’s paramount. This means washing your clothes in scentless detergent, using scent-eliminating sprays and a doe-in-estrus cover scent. Hang your cover scent around your stand and spray some near Estrus Betty doe decoy when setting it up.
A buck will normally circle downwind of a decoy to begin with, especially in a field. Bucks typically will not walk into an open field right away. Rather, they’ll cautiously approach from cover. Once they use the wind to assess the area and if they detect a receptive doe, they’ll enter into the open and allow for a shot.
Set up your stand in a treeline near a field that has an adjacent area of cover. Make sure the wind is blowing across the field and toward the cover. If you’re bowhunting, place the decoy within range. While the doe-in-estrous scent will work to lure in the buck, also use a doe bleat or grunt, but sparingly. As long as he doesn’t wind you, he’ll come right in toward the decoy and give you an opportunity at a shot. During the rut, even the keenest bucks will slip up when pursuing a doe.