Let's admit it. We've all been fooled by a cardboard cutout. And if it can work on you, it can work on a deer with poorer vision that is impulsive during the rut and unfamiliar with the deer decoy manufacturing process.
Deer decoys have been growing in popularity with deer hunters over the years for one simple reason: they work. Both bucks and does can be tricked by a realistic decoy and approach it for a number of reasons from simply wanting company while feeding to angrily wanting to drive a rival out of their territory.
There is a catch, though. You need a quality, life-like decoy and the right strategy and setup to take advantage of it. Below you'll find our favorite deer decoys for different situations as well as instructions on how and when to use them.
Best for The Rut
Flambeau boss buck
Best Doe Decoy
FLAMBEAU BOSS doe
Best Deer Decoy At A Glance
7 Best Deer Decoy Reviews
Primos Scarface Decoy
Primos is a well-known name in the hunting world. Their products are famous for their quality and versatility of use. This Scarface decoy certainly lives up to that reputation, letting you buy with the confidence that you'll be able to use your decoy successfully over multiple seasons.
For one thing, it's just a well-crafted accessory that holds up to weather and tough environments. Plus, it can be taken down, the head, ears, antlers and legs fitting inside the body. This way you can take it to just about any hunting location.
As for effectiveness, Scarface is one of the more convincing and realistic decoys on the market. In fact, its name comes from the detailed scar running down the fake buck's eye. Additionally, both the tail and head move in the wind, though it can take some adjustment to get the head wobbling consistently.
The exact design is also attractive to bucks. It's a mature buck, but with a narrower neck and eight-point antlers, it appears to be a new, younger buck coming into his prime. This appearance makes it threatening to the older, dominant bucks in the territory who will be eager to come confront their new rival.
Our favorite part of this decoy is the real whitetail deer tail that attaches to the decoy via a hook.
Pro Tip: We like to add a piece of toilet paper to the tail. The white toilet paper will move with the slightest breeze, adding realism to the set up and making even the most reluctant buck sure that it is a real deer.
- Brand name reputation
- Quality weather-resistant design
- Stores away in body
- Life-like details
- Moving head
- Draws in dominant bucks
Loud to set up
If you're a serious hunter who hunts from multiple locations, Scarface is an ideal decoy choice. It's easy to move but can handle most terrain and weather. Plus, it has the details to attract dominant bucks and increase your chances of success season after season.
Best Deer Decoy For The Rut
Flambeau Masters Series Boss Buck Whitetail Deer Decoy
The Boss Buck decoy looks like just that, a powerful dominant buck that no local buck is going to want to see in his territory. The thick neck, eight-point rack and tall posture will definitely antagonize large bucks when their testosterone is up for the mating season.
Moreover, the Boss Buck is structurally tough, built of 3D molded HDPE plastic. This means it'll handle the weather and the wear and tear of being moved around and stored during the off-season. Speaking of which, the entire decoy is portable with the legs and head fitting into the body. Just keep in mind that since it's a particularly large buck, it's still a little bulkier and more awkward to carry around, but you can still take it out to your tree stand no problem.
We do wish the deer had some mobile features to give it a more life-like quality, but it's certainly enough to attract bucks during the rut. In fact, for the size and detail you're getting, it's a great value.
- Large buck design
- Tall posture
- Tough 3D molded plastic
- Collapsible and portable
- Great value
The Boss Buck decoy is specific to the rut, but it should work extremely well during that time period if you're hunting trophy bucks. Because of its large presence and tall, confident posture, it may scare off young bucks and even does during the hectic time period of the pre-rut. However, once territories have been established by the dominant bucks during the peak rut, they'll get angry seeing an interloper. Use this decoy strategically and deliberately to finally get your 10-point trophy rack.
Best Doe Deer Decoy
Flambeau Masters Series Boss Doe Decoy
Flambeau doesn't just make realistic bucks. They also make a great doe in the form of the Boss Doe. This decoy looks just like a young yearling doe that attracts all kinds of deer, especially bucks in the rut looking to mate.
Like the Boss Buck, the Boss Doe is made of 3D molded HDPE plastic that can hold up to the rough weather of the rut season after season. It's also highly stable with threaded leg posts and locking lungs.
Finally, we really like how versatile this decoy is. It's smaller than the Boss Buck, so it's easier to take advantage of its collapsible and portable design. Plus, it has a peg for attaching scent pads like doe estrus to complete the image of a receptive doe. It also has two different ear options: submissive and alert so you can experiment and see what works best on your local bucks.
- Young doe design
- Threaded leg posts
- Collapsible and portable
- Peg for scent pads
- Two ear options
Loud to set up
This Boss Doe decoy is a general-use decoy that works during most of the hunting season. While it might not be as antagonizing as a big buck during the peak rut, it's much more versatile, and will attract other does and spike bucks during the pre- and post-rut.
This versatility is enhanced by the ability to attach scents and change the ears, not to mention the portability. This is a great decoy to have in your arsenal if you hunt frequently, especially if you hunt for sustenance and aren't trying to take down a specific mature buck.
Best Deer Decoy For The Money
MONTANA DECOY 23 Dreamy Doe Whitetail Decoy
Deer actually don't see nearly as well as they hear and smell. As a result, a decoy doesn't necessarily have to be as perfect as it would to fool the human eye. In fact, 2D photo decoys are often effective and can save you a lot of money that you can use for other accessories like cover scents and lures.
The Dreamy Doe Whitetail Decoy from Montana is a great example of this. By using actual photos of whitetails, they create a quality decoy that can draw in deer for a low price. In this case, it's a realistic-looking doe that can bring in other does, young bucks and even mature dominant bucks during most of the hunting season.
The 2D design also makes it really easy to set up and take down, not to mention carry around, so you can use it everywhere if you like to travel around to different sites with a climb-up tree stand. Just make sure to get the spikes deep into the ground, otherwise the decoy can move unnaturally in the wind or give itself away due to the lack of feet.
- Budget price
- Realistic photo design
- Works all season
- Easy to set up and carry
- No feet
- May move in the wind
Other than those on a budget, we highly recommend the Dreamy Doe for those who don't hunt on their own property. If you hunt on public land or with permission on other people's private land, this is a great option because you can move it around so easily and carry it even if you have to carry other gear like a climbing tree stand. Plus, the low price lets you spend more on other portable accessories.
Best Deer Decoy Setup
MONTANA DECOY Dream Team Buck and Doe
If you think that 2D photo decoys work for your situation, consider going all out. Instead of just getting Montana's Dreamy Doe, go for the full team—both a buck and doe for a lower price than many single decoys.
Like the single Dreamy Doe, both decoys in the set fold easily so that you can set them up easily and carry them around with no problem, an even bigger convenience since you have to carry two. The photo used for the buck is just as realistic as the doe, too, and gives the impression of a young up-and-comer trying to take one of the dominant buck's does.
You also get a lot of versatility with the two-deer setup. If you just want to draw in does or spike bucks, try out just the doe. However, if you need to walk light but still want to antagonize bucks, you can leave the doe at home. You can also play around with positioning to see what gets the best response.
- 2-for-1 value
- Easy to carry and set up
- Realistic photo design
- Versatile combos
- No feet
- May move in the wind
If you're a serious hunter and want to experiment with your decoys and lures, this decoy set is a great way to do that without draining your wallet. You can carry it around without hassle and try out different positions and combos to see what works best on the deer in your area. Not only does this increase your chances of a successful hunt, it's also a lot of fun all on its own.
Great For Feeding Areas
Flambeau Masters Series Grazing Doe Decoy
Even during the rut, deer have to eat. A grazing decoy can help you take advantage of feeding areas to hunt them consistently.
Flambeau's Grazing Doe is a solid option for this purpose. That's because it's made with quality in the USA to hold up whatever weather might come its way. On top of that, it's collapsible and portable so you can easily get it out to feeding areas, which tend to be in places far from human civilization.
There's slightly less detail on this decoy than other Flambeau models, but it's still effective since the decoy isn't designed to elicit strong emotions but rather calm deer to let their guard down. Plus, the Grazing Doe does have opposable ears that you can adjust into a natural, subdued look that tells all the deer around not to worry.
Lastly, this decoy is stable so you can get realistic positioning even on uneven terrain. It has threaded leg posts and locking lugs.
- Quality construction
- Collapsible and portable
- Opposable ears
- Threaded leg posts
- Less paint detail
We'd recommend this decoy for anyone who's managing a herd and wants to hunt the food plots they've spent so much time developing. It's great for hunting bucks in the rut who get hungry but need to be lured into an open feeding area. As a bonus, you can also use it to attract does all season long and encourage herds to use a certain feeding area.
Best Deer Target Decoy For The Money
GlenDel Buck 3D Deer Target Decoy
It doesn't seem necessary to spend money on both a 3D target and a 3D decoy. Couldn't you just use one 3D deer for both? With the GlenDel Buck, you can.
For an archery target, it's an excellent way to train. It mimics the weight of an actual buck at 200 pounds and has a well-marked target to practice hitting the kill zone. You can then remove and replace the target area, increasing its value. Plus, the PolyFusion technology means you get more life out of the target. Around 1,000 shots to be specific.
For a decoy, it has the appropriate size and posture to antagonize bucks that want to defend their territory. The head is admittedly not the most realistic, but you can adjust it to give it a natural orientation and create more effective angles. Also, since the head is removable, you can move the decoy to where you want it more easily, though it is still a bit bulkier than dedicated decoys.
- Target-decoy combo
- Realistic 200-lb size
- Well-marked, replaceable kill zone
- 1,000 practice shots
- Removable head
- Unrealistic face
- Bulky and heavy
The GlenDel Buck 3D archery target is a clear choice for bow hunting. Use it during the hunting season and the off season to practice your shots and get your aim down with a realistic target. But you can also get your money's worth by using the target as a decoy to draw in mature bucks that want to challenge what looks like a big rival.
Editor's Note: I had one of these that I was using as a target in my backyard. I also hunted on some acreage behind my house. On November 9th, 2019, I headed out in the predawn darkness and walked right by the target on my way to my treestand about a half mile away. The target was standing there in perfect shape. I returned from an uneventful hunt around 11 am and found the target absolutely shredded. It was very clear that a rutting buck was very unhappy with its presence! I wish I had been there to see it, because it had to be quite a sight!
Deer Decoy Tips And Tactics
Effectively using a deer decoy to lure in bucks is more than just getting a decoy that looks realistic. You have to know how and when to use it too. While a lot of decoy strategy can be learned by trial and error with the deer in your area, it's always a good idea to have a solid foundation of decoy tactics before you get started.
What Is The Best Time To Use A Deer Decoy?
The pre-rut is the best time to use a decoy. This is usually the last two weeks of October in most of the North American whitetail range. Decoys can also be effective during the rut, or peak breeding season, which primarily occurs in the month of November.
The pre-rut is the best time because it's the most chaotic, when bucks are marking out and fighting for their territory. Young bucks especially are more impulsive and willing to let their guard down to take on a rival or chase after a doe.
During the rut itself, territories tend to be marked out already, but dominant bucks may still approach a decoy if it looks like a receptive doe or mature buck that threatens their domain.
Best Way To Set Up A Deer Decoy
The angle to set up a decoy at is a subject of much debate in the deer hunting community, but a few aspects of setup are not. For instance, dominant bucks tend to approach decoys head on while subdominant bucks like to approach from the back where they can't be seen. Either way, though, they prefer to come in downwind so they can smell the potential rival. For this reason, it's probably best to put the decoy downwind from you so that the quarry's nose is distracted and it doesn't have to pass you on its way to the decoy. This is especially true if you use a scent lure with the decoy.
As for angle, some hunters will tell you quartering towards you, others quartering away, and others say broadside is the best. Here at Deer Hunting Guide, we honestly think all three of these setups can work. Broadside will give you the best all around chances of getting a broadside shot if you don't care whether you draw in a dominant buck or not. However, if you're placing the decoy downwind of your tree stand, quartering away gives you a better chance of getting a dominant buck while quartering towards will increase your chances overall.
Be sure to plan your tree stand locations carefully in order to take full advantage of the best deer decoy setup locations.
Deer decoys work best in open areas where deer can see them from a long way off, such as open fields, food plots and meadows, but they can also be deadly when used in conjunction with a mock scrape.
What Kind Of Deer Decoy Is Best For The Rut? (Buck or Doe)
The best decoy for the rut is actually a buck and doe combo. Nothing drives a dominant buck wilder than seeing a rival buck getting close to one of his does.
That said, if you have to choose between the two, we recommend a buck for the rut. While mature bucks certainly care about does, by the time the rut comes around, they have their territories marked out and know they don't really need to "chase" the does. The does come to them.
A rival buck, though? That they cannot stand. A mature buck will confront an interloper, especially if it's of a similar size and therefore a threat to his dominance.
Best Deer Hunting Decoy Brand
There are dozens of deer hunting decoy brands on the market, and that can make it confusing. Which should you choose? At Deer Hunting Guide, we've found that three brands in particular manufacture products of consistent quality. This means the brand name itself adds to the decoy since you can buy with confidence.
Primos Deer Decoys
Primos started in 1976 when Will Primos started making turkey hunting calls from tin beer cans. People started buying them, and his business took off.
Now they're famous throughout the hunting world, not just for their calls but for all types of hunting gear and equipment, including decoys. With Primos, you know you're getting more than just a piece of plastic shaped like a deer. You're getting a decoy designed by hunters who have learned over the decades what works in the field.
Flambeau Deer Decoys
Flambeau Outdoors is a large and storied hunting company going all the way back to 1947. With operations in both the US and Europe, they have the resources, expertise and extensive R&D to make solid products, realistic decoys being one of their specialties. We especially like their decoys for their versatility and adjustability.
Montana Deer Decoys
As their name suggests, Montana Decoy Company is devoted entirely to decoys. As a result, they have tons of different options, our favorites listed above. They use quality images of real deer to make 2D photo decoys that are highly realistic without being unaffordable. As a bonus, they're easy to carry and set up, too.
Is a buck decoy or doe decoy better?
The best deer decoy setup is both a buck decoy and a doe decoy together. This creates the feeling of safety for deer that are approaching, and can be extremely effective during the rut, as it could represent a buck with a doe in heat.
Are deer decoys worth it?
Deer decoys are so worth it! Some of the most exciting hunts that I have been on involved the use of deer decoys Nothing will get your blood pumping faster than a bristled up buck sidling up to your decoy looking for a fight!
Should I use a doe decoy during rut?
We prefer a buck decoy during the rut and here's why. Most of the time, a whitetail buck will attempt to scent check a doe from a distance to see if she is in heat. That can sometimes blow your set up. When using a buck decoy, a whitetail will be more focused on posturing and trying to intimidate the decoy, and less focused on trying to scent check it. Don't get me wrong, we have been successful with doe decoys during the rut, but we have had more success with buck decoys.
Deer decoys are effective ways to lure in deer and make your hunts that much more successful. In fact, they can even bring in big, mature bucks during the pre-rut and rut.
Our overall favorite is the Primos Scarface Decoy. Its bobbing head and tail make it highly life-like and convincing so that it draws in dominant bucks looking to defend their territory.
However, for more niche purposes, consider any of the decoys on our list. With the right decoy strategy and setup, they can help you bring any buck into range and they are so much fun to use while deer hunting.