Hunter with antelope decoy

3 Aggressive Hunting Decoy Tactics Every Bowhunter Should Try

Sep 15, 2023

Pulling animals in close using decoys is always a thrill, but the excitement peaks when you’re hiding behind the decoy itself

Nothing in the world of big-game hunting rivals the adrenaline rush of fooling an animal into bow range using a hunting decoy that you’re hiding behind. This strategy has long been proven on rutting antelope bucks, but an increasing number of hunters are also finding success with it on whitetails, elk and, of course, turkeys.

The conventional method of decoying is to hunt a location where you’ll likely encounter the game you’re targeting and then set a decoy in a highly visible position about 15-25 yards away upwind. This can be very effective when the right animal sees the decoy and responds, but you have to be patient and put in your time in that location in order to encounter the animal you want.

The take-it-to-the-critter decoying method is far more aggressive. If you’ve never tried it, then you’re in for the rush of your life. Let’s discuss a few different ways to go about it.


A great way to quickly cover lots of ground is to hit several different locations, calling at each while hiding behind a 2-D decoy or placing it a short distance away. This is especially effective on whitetails and elk. Rather than wait in one location, you’re sifting through a lot of ground in a short period of time in order to find the best opportunities.

On big game, specifically focus on areas downwind of bedding cover. Before setting up, consider which direction animals might potentially approach from and especially where they’ll begin circling to get downwind of the calling they heard. Make sure that you have sufficient shooting coverage. As was said earlier, either hide behind the decoy or place it a short distance away and upwind. For deer, another option is to place a buck decoy upwind and then hide behind a doe decoy downwind from the buck decoy to portray a mating scenario.


This tactic is simple: Find an animal you want to harvest, then challenge it with a subordinate male decoy. This tactic is especially effective in certain situations, such as when a gobbler is guarding a flock of hens, a pronghorn or mule deer buck is chasing away subordinate bucks from his does, or a white-tailed buck is locked down with a doe in tall grass.

A mistake many hunters make is presenting the decoy from too far away or too suddenly. The goal is to pose a threat or a challenge, and most dominant male animals won’t leave their girlfriends to respond to challenges that are hundreds of yards away. In most cases, your best bet is to sneak to within 100 yards or less, then carefully present the decoy when the buck or gobbler is looking the other way. Then, when he checks his surroundings, he’ll notice the intruder and have the opportunity to respond.

It’s important to note that a deer or turkey responding in this instance can do so within seconds. You not only have to be prepared to shoot quickly, but you also must understand that the animal will be coming directly at you. In other words, you might face a frontal shot angle, which is extremely deadly if you place your arrow correctly. But on big game, it’s a shot we only suggest taking at top-pin range, and with a complete understanding of proper arrow placement. With turkeys, toms are usually running in, so you might face a moving shot.

Regardless of the animal you’re hunting, getting your shot means either using a shooting port through the decoy or rising up above or to the side of the decoy, which will have to be staked into the ground before you can draw your bow. 

The Freshman Decoy by Montana Decoy

A Tennessee hunter shows off a nice buck taken with a Montana decoy.


One final aggressive decoying tactic doesn’t involve a reaction from the animal. Quite the opposite, you’re trying to convince the animal that you’re a domestic cow rather than a human. This can be effective on elk, mule deer, antelope, and turkeys, but whitetails don’t often mingle with cattle, so you’d best save this tactic for the aforementioned species.

Once you get positioned to approach from downwind, don’t make the mistake of going directly at the animal too quickly. In the case of antelope, present the decoy from at least 200 yards away and give the goats some time to accept it. If they notice it but are paying little attention, start cutting some distance, but angle toward the animals rather than directly at them, and use a gradual pace.

The most difficult part of this strategy is getting your shot. Oftentimes, the ground is too solid to shove the decoy in so that you can nock an arrow and shoot. For that reason, this tactic is best done with a hunting partner. Let your partner man the cow decoy and you focus on your bow, ranging the animal, and taking the shot. The best way to go about shooting is to slowly go to your knees and then carefully wiggle your way out so that you can shoot from underneath the cow’s head and neck. This is way less noticeable than standing up and walking out to clear the decoy.


While aggressively decoying game is one of the most thrilling ways to hunt, you must understand that there are risks involved. Not only do you have to worry about other hunters mistaking you for an animal, but you also must know that a gobbler, buck or bull could attack you! Use your best judgment and avoid using decoys in instances when firearms seasons are running concurrently with archery season. Also, know the regulations regarding decoying. Fanning and reaping turkeys has become illegal in several states state. No matter how good of an opportunity is in front of you, it isn’t worth bending the rules or risking safety.


Though Wasp Broadheads are an unmatched value, the truth is that good broadheads of any sort aren’t cheap. Another truth is some bows shoot one style of broadhead better than others, and many bowhunters have strong personal preferences. If you’re looking to try a few different broadheads through your bow without spending a fortune, consider Wasp’s Pick 3 option, which allows you to choose three of Wasp’s most popular broadheads and have them shipped to your door in custom packaging. 

— Story by Wasp Archery Staff; antelope decoy image by John Hafner

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