Be Aggressive for Mule Deer Success
Author Matt Palmquist has been using Heads Up Decoy since 2010. He's had great success with the Heads Up Decoy Mule Deer Doe and has helped us develop different techniques for success bowhunting open country mule deer. Matt shares his story and tips below.
Story and Photos courtesy of Matt Palmquist
I started using the heads up mule deer doe back in 2010. I wasn’t convinced decoying was going to be part of my repertoire of tactics for hunting mule deer so I used the decoy sparingly the first two years. However, I watched several buddies effectively use the decoy and started asking questions on how/when they effectively used the decoy.
In 2012 my eyes were opened drastically when my brother Lucas and I killed two mature mule deer in less than an hour on the same ¼ section of ground. Three days later I killed another mature mule deer in Eastern Colorado with the doe decoy and realized how deadly it can be. In fact I looked back on my 2010 and 2011 seasons and how many times I could have used the decoy to lure in large mule deer to successfully fill my tag.
My favorite scenario to use the mule deer doe decoy is when I find a mature buck that is cruising in search of a hot doe. Mule deer are typically in herds consisting of a dominant buck with a handful of does, but before they join a group you can often find mature bucks on the move during the early stages of the rut. A lone buck looking for love is in trouble when using the decoy.
The number one key for success is that the buck has to see the decoy. Be very aggressive when you find a cruising buck. If you can’t intercept him don’t be afraid to move aggressively directly at the buck using the decoy for cover. When the buck finally sees the decoy it is usually over and they head straight to the decoy. Two out of the three deer we killed in 2012 we ran at the deer until he finally notice the decoy. I shot my Kansas buck at 12-15 yards and the Colorado buck at 20 yards!
If you find a buck already with does don’t be afraid to use the decoy still. Often times the does will also check out the new doe and lead a buck directly to you presenting a shot opportunity. If they aren’t interested don’t hesitate to crawl towards the herd with the decoy visible to the deer. On multiple occasions I have crawled within range on bedded deer, including a small group of bucks before the rut, as well as a mature buck tending a herd of does. To be successful the decoy has to leave the pickup. Once the decoy became part of my arsenal I had some amazing experiences that resulted in short blood trails!
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