Decoys, A Heads Up
by Darren Choate
Recently, the use of decoys to attract White-tailed deer has become an increasingly popular hunting method. Tune in to a deer hunting show on any of the major outdoor channels on your TV, and your likely to catch a decoy in use, especially during the rut. To be fair, most of these hunts are for Midwestern whitetail, not the Western sub-species. That being said, there are a few companies making decoys for Western uses including Heads Up Decoy. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Heads Up Decoy founder and owner, Garrett Roe, to get his perspective on decoys, especially their use for Western big game. Below is our discussion.
DC: How long have you been using decoys?
GR: I’ve been using decoys for turkey hunting for over 20 years. I’ve been using big game decoys shortly after I started elk hunting. When I developed the first handheld cow elk decoy now know as Heads Up Decoys in 2008.
DC: What got you started?
GR: After a couple trips to Colorado on an OTC elk hunt, I realized the grind of Colorado elk hunting was much different than The Truth videos I enjoyed in my living room. The dark timber and steep slopes where most elk live called for a tool that was light weight highly portable, ready on demand, and moveable to entice the most weary OTC bull. Given the dense timber, I knew all it would take to attract a bull was just the head…and so it began.
DC: What are the attributes of a decoy that makes it a viable hunting method?
GR: Decoys have been a means to attract animals for many years. But a decoy that can be used or adapted to the situation that is at hand can make the difference in a close encounter or shot opportunity. The reality of decoying is sometimes it will work and other times it won’t. But, what we’ve learned with Heads Up Decoy is that just because they don’t come in, doesn’t mean it isn’t working. Having the ability to use a decoy as a means to stalk, conceal, or confuse can also result in a shot opportunity either for yourself or for a partner.
DC: What successes have you had using decoys, especially for White-tailed deer?
GR: I’ve had success with our Heads Up whitetail decoys in many different methods. From VERY aggressive spot and challenge to setting the decoy out and letting an animal approach from a stationary position. The most successful uses hands down is finding a mature buck locked down with a doe in isolation usually in the open country. If we can get to 80 yards, we can often have the buck rise from this bed, leave his doe looking to brawl with the intruder. This usually results in a very intense and very close encounter with a posturing buck. Cold calling during the rut with rattling and grunt calls in known hideouts can also be highly effective at all times during the day when the rut is on. Being aggressive can be the key to getting a shot not only with whitetails, but with all species during their mating season.
DC: Can decoys be used effectively outside of the rut?
GR: I believe decoys can be a vital tool outside the rut. Most animals are social, seeing a “like” kind or even a species they share space with can help cover movement, relax an animal, hold an animal for a shot, and attract. I had a great whitetail meander his way in the day after Christmas only for me to miss him at twenty five yards. I love to use our whitetail doe decoy in the early season to draw a doe in for meat in the freezer.
DC: What do you believe is the future of decoying as a hunting method?
GR: Since we filmed me walking up to a mule deer buck and doe in the middle of a cut milo field in 2009, old school decoying concepts went out the window. I think decoying and people wanting or knowing certain hunting tactics with a decoy will work and times during the rut…using decoys is changing…for all species. We’ve been lead to believe through 40+ years of writing that there are only certain ways to shot animals. With a decoy, your limited only by your imagination.
If you haven’t used a decoy to hunt Western big game, give it a try in 2015. Good luck!
About Heads Up Decoy
Darren is the Founder of Western Whitetail. Prior to his career in the outdoors, Darren served as an Airman in the US Air Force. As a freelancer, his articles have been published online and featured in magazines such as Western Whitetail, Western Hunter, Quality Whitetails, Cabela’s Outfitter Journal, Fur-Fish-Game, and Rocky Mountain Game & Fish Magazine. Additionally, Darren spent time as the Editor In Chief of Whitetail Journal, Bowhunting World, Predator Xtreme, Archery Business, and Hunting Retailer magazines with Grand View Outdoors. He is a voting member and supporter of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA). Although he lives in elk and Coues country, Darren enjoys hunting across the country and writing about his experiences.