The Complete Guide to Hunting Decoys

It’s hunting season and the elation of the hunt is in the air – but looking for those elusive wild game can be a tricky feat. Gone are the days of relying on pure luck to locate your game. Now, the savvy hunter has a few tricks up their sleeve in the form of decoys. If you’ve ever wondered how to make the most out of hunting decoys, or where to even begin, then this is the complete guide you’ve been looking for! Here we will go over helpful tips, tricks, and strategies for using decoys effectively. From effective ways to place them, to an overview of specific types, and even the best places to look for them – this comprehensive guide has you covered in all aspects of using decoys for hunting! So, if you’re looking to bring home the bacon – figuratively speaking of course – then it’s time to get reading!

What is a Hunting Decoy?

A hunting decoy is an artificial object designed to resemble a particular species of animal, typically game or waterfowl, which is used to lure animals close enough for hunters to take aim and successfully catch them. Decoys can be crafted from nearly any material, but wood, cardboard, plastic, and metal are among the most common used in modern-day hunting excursions.

The art of hunting with decoys dates all the way back to the 12th century when stone carvings of birds were used as lures during falconry expeditions. Since then, many have argued that continuing to use such decoys is unethical as it preys on the natural instincts of prey wildlife. Opponents argue that while hunting with decoys may increase the odds of catching prey, it also interrupts animal migration patterns and nourishment cycles. More conservative approaches to using decoys has encouraged other hunters to use them as strategically necessary parts of the hunting process. It’s often seen as being more respectful and humane than other methods because a successful hunt can be achieved without having to track down and disturb the animal’s habitat or migrate patterns for too long.

  • Hunting decoys are versatile tools that can be used with a variety of techniques and gun types.
  • A study published in 2019 found that the use of hunting decoys can increase a hunter’s success rate by 20%.
  • According to the American Hunting Association, hunters have reported seeing up to a 40% increase in total game sightings when using a hunting decoy.

Types of Hunting Decoys

Now that you’ve established what a hunting decoy is and how it can be used, let’s delve into the types of hunting decoys available. Hunting decoys are made of wood, plastic, or foam. Each has their advantages and disadvantages.

Wooden decoys are heavier and more expensive than plastic ones. They can last for years and won’t be damaged easily. Some people even suggest that wooden decoys offer a more authentic look which appeals to certain game animals. Plastic decoys on the other hand are lightweight, affordable, and benefit from advanced technologies like realistic paintwork. They may not last as long or look as realistic as wooden ones. Foam decoys are cheaper than wood and durable like plastic but are often considered flimsy and less convincing for game hunting purposes.

Waterfowl Decoys

Now that we’ve gone over the different types of hunting decoys, let’s focus on one of the more popular decoys: waterfowl decoys. This type of decoy is designed to lure migratory birds like ducks and geese to a particular spot. Some people argue that waterfowl decoys are an effective way to bring game within shooting range while others believe they’re too easily detected by wary birds.

Those who advocate for waterfowl decoys point out their effectiveness in attracting birds, both experienced hunters and newbies alike. Most of these types of decoys are made from durable materials, are very lightweight, and come with realistic paint patterns which resemble natural coloration. Decoys can also be combined with calls and other movements which convince birds that the area is safe to land and feed.

Some despise using waterfowl decoys as they’re easily visible to a duck’s eyesight from a long distance. They may also become too saturated in deeper waters to remain afloat, thus making them ineffective if situated in wetter areas. When used properly and strategically, these decoys can be incredibly helpful for duck hunters specialized in both fresh- and saltwater hunting.

Upland Bird Decoys

Upland bird decoys are gaining in popularity for hunters hoping to attract grouse, pheasants, and other ground-dwelling birds. Upland bird decoys come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some resembling full-body taxidermied mounts, while others feature simple silhouettes or live action decoys that imitate the flapping wings of a real bird.

The debate over which type of upland decoy works best is an ongoing one. While some argue that full-body taxidermied mounts are the most successful in attracting birds, others insist that it’s the silhouette decoys or live action decoys that will be most effective. Proponents of full-body taxidermied mounts point to their realism and believe they are a closer imitation to the actual creature than simpler silhouettes or live action decoys, and therefore more likely to attract curious birds from afar. Those who advocate for simpler silhouettes or live action decoys believe movement is crucial when hunting upland birds; they argue that these types of decoys allow hunters to more easily add motion—a crucial element when imitating courtly behaviors among upland species—giving them an edge when attempting to attract their quarry.

What’s certain is that careful consideration must be given to all types of upland bird decoys before making a purchase. Hunters should take into account their habitat needs, local regulations, cost considerations as well as personal preference before deciding which type of decoy is right for them.

Where to Set Up Hunting Decoys

Setting up hunting decoys can be a challenging activity for hunters, as areas with ideal conditions for success are often hard to identify. One of the most effective strategies for decoying upland birds is setting them out in field edges or near creeks or rivers that feature an abundance of tall grass and weeds. This type of terrain allows the decoys to blend in naturally, making them more effective. Hunters should also consider adding motion to the decoys, either by using motion bases or by attaching flapping wings and spinning heads. Motion can draw attention from great distances and prompt birds to make a more direct approach.

The ideal location for decoy setup will vary depending on the species being hunted and can range from open fields to marshlands to wooded areas. It is important to thoroughly scout prospective areas before setting out your decoys. Take note of possible roosting spots, good hiding places for predators, and potential food sources such as seeds, insects, and fruits. All of this information will help you position your decoys in an optimum place for greater success during the hunt.

Natural and Camouflaged Environment

Once you have chosen a location to set your decoys, the next step is to blend in with the natural and camouflaged environment. While some hunters prefer to use camouflage gear so they blend with their surroundings, others opt for natural elements like leaves, branches or grass. Both methods can be successful when hunting wild fowl.

Camouflage gear has become a popular choice for hunters as it provides an additional layer of disguise that may help scare off birds who notice slight movements and shapes of unfamiliar objects. Most camouflage patterns available on the market are designed to help break up human body shape and line of sight within any environment. This tactic can also increase your chances of success as it helps keep you hidden from birds that may otherwise wander out of range.

Some hunters prefer to take advantage of the surrounding natural environment by using leaves, branches, or grass to cover both themselves and their decoys. While this method may not provide as much cover as modern-day camouflage gear, it certainly does help prepare for a more natural encounter when hunting in moderately concealed areas. It is also a great way to repurpose materials found in nature while still protecting yourself and decoy against prying eyes from wandering birds.

Setup Materials Needed for Decoys

Now that you have a good idea of the optimal natural and camouflaged environment to set up decoying, it’s time to discuss what setup materials you will need for your decoys. Most hunting decoy sets feature a variety of forms, sizes, and colors of the decoys themselves, as well as an anchor for each decoy to keep them in place over time. It is recommended that you select lightweight, yet durable materials when selecting your decoys and accessories. This will ensure that you can easily transport them to the hunting grounds while also providing effective protection from rough terrain and inclement weather conditions.

When purchasing additional setup materials, there are a few key factors you should consider prior to making your purchase. Some argue that artificial decoys with bright colors tend to be more attractive to game birds. Others maintain that more muted colors depict a realistic look and feel in the field, which could result in higher success rates. The decision between the two may come down to personal preference.

Before heading out on your hunt, make sure you have all the necessary setup materials and safety equipment with you. This includes proper camo clothing and blinds, tools for attaching anchors properly, ground stakes or foam pads for securing your decoys firmly in place, and safety gear for fishing or hunting in water. In addition to itemizing each component of your decoy setup before leaving home, it is wise to do periodic checks during trips to ensure everything remains intact throughout your hunt.

Using Lures and Calling with Decoys

Now that the necessary setup materials for hunting decoys have been established, it’s important to consider the use of lures and calling with decoys. Doing so can greatly increase the effectiveness of decoying. Adding sound and motion can be quite convincing for game animals, especially when integrated with a decoying setup.

Most hunters agree that using sound and motion in conjunction with decoys can be very effective. Not everyone is sold on the idea that stillness and silence can’t also be successful strategies. Some hunters say they’ve had plenty of success by relying strictly on static decoy setup, carefully placed in an area where game animals are likely to pass through. Regardless of personal preference, there’s no denying that when used properly and tastefully, adding lures and calls to a decoying setup can significantly improve success rate.

Using sounds such as woodpecker tapping or owl hoots for mid-day hunting can draw birds into the area while evoking a sense of safety; adding just a few simple critter movements like feeding ducks or feeding geese to your setup can simulate real life scenarios which are more likely to draw in approaching wildlife. These subtle actions go a long way towards creating a realistic situation that will peak the interest of nearby animals in pursuit of food. No matter what kind of effect hunters are looking for, adding sound and movement to their setups definitely becomes more viable when integration is made straightforward and methodical with consideration for timing.

Different Situations for Effective Use of Hunting Decoys

The use of hunting decoys can be effective in a variety of different situations. Though it is best to use lures and calling when possible, there are times when decoys are the preferred option. When and how you should deploy a decoy can be highly dependent on the bird or other game animal you are targeting, the environment, and the time of year.

Placing decoys out in open fields near water sources tend to be more effective for ducks than in more wooded settings. This can also depend on the species of duck; with larger species such as Mallards being drawn more readily to open water stretches. The number and arrangement of decoys is also important for maximum efficiency. Where it may take a single floating duck decoy to attract a small flock, larger spreads covering more territory tend to do better for attaining greater numbers of birds.

Using motion with your existing decoy setup can also make hunting more successful due to increased realism as well as added attention from birds passing by overhead. It is also plausible to use additional forms of concealment along with a motionless setup if you’re looking for big waterfowl such as geese—who by nature are much warier than ducks. But keep in mind that environmental factors such as available food sources will drastically affect where these wary birds decide to settle.

When targeting upland birds such as quail and pheasant, however, decoys actually aren’t recommended since most species are not attracted by stationary objects. That’s why using lures in combination with calling is often considered the most effective approach for bagging these birds more quickly and conveniently. While there may still be some disagreement with this tactic among experienced hunters, recent field studies have suggested that sound-based luring techniques offer higher success rates regardless of terrain type and seasonal changes in comparison to traditional hunting methods relying solely on ambushing behavior patterns and formations.

Responses to Frequently Asked Questions

What hunting decoys are the most effective for certain types of hunting?

The type of hunting decoy that is most effective will depend on the species of game that you are trying to attract. For waterfowl such as ducks, goose, and swans, a full-body floating decoy is recommended as it closely mimics the natural swimming motion of the animals in their environment. Using a spread of at least 12-18 decoys will increase success rates.

For turkey hunting, a 3D or semi-3D turkey decoy is preferred as it gives off a realistic appearance when viewed from a distance. When placed near more natural coverings such as bushes or trees, the decoys can look even more realistic to predators and attract larger amounts of game..

For big game like deer and elk, a stalk-and-call technique with an artificial call, scentless mock scrape lures and scents spiked with calls are recommended. These techniques all aim to mimic the behaviors of animals in their environments in order to successfully lure them in.

What factors should I consider when choosing hunting decoys?

When selecting a hunting decoy, there are several factors to consider.

First, consider the type of environment in which you plan to use your decoy. Different types of decoys work best for different conditions. If you plan to hunt in open fields, you will likely need a decoy that is durable and can withstand windy conditions. If you plan to hunt in more wooded areas with less wind, a more lightweight model may work best.

Second, consider the size of the decoy as this can also affect its effectiveness. Larger decoys may attract more attention and work better in wide-open spaces but they also require more storage space and may not be ideal for more heavily vegetated terrain or approaches on foot.

Third, look at the design of the decoy and think about how realistic it looks. While some people prefer vintage wooden decoys for their unique charm, many hunters now prefer newer models that feature more realistic details such as lifelike feathers and anatomically correct shapes. The more realistic the decoy looks, the better its chances of drawing game close enough so that an effective shot can be taken.

Finally, consider the price of the decoy when making your decision as this will determine whether you get a quality product for your money. Generally speaking, higher quality materials make for longer lasting decoys with better performance, so keep this in mind when making decisions regarding your purchase.

What are the pros and cons of different types of hunting decoys?

The pros and cons of different types of hunting decoys will depend on the type of game you are trying to attract. Motionless decoys, such as duck decoys, provide realistic results for ducks (hence the name) but can be limited in terms of what it attracts if a different type of game is desired. Moving decoys such as wind-powered spinners or flapping wings may be more effective in attracting multiple types of game due to their highly visible movement, but they tend to cost more, require more maintenance and may not look as realistic. Electronic decoys such as robotic waterfowlers can offer both realism and flexibility in terms of attracting desired game while also being relatively affordable compared to other options. The downside is that electronic decoys may cause animal disturbance due to their realistic movements, which can throw off the natural behavior of wild animals. It’s important to consider all factors before deciding on the type of hunting decoy best suited for your objectives.

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

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