Decoys

RICMIC

Veteran member
Feb 21, 2012
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Two Harbors, Minnesota
I would appreciate your thoughts as to the use of decoys while bow hunting elk. All of my elk hunting experience has been with a rifle of muzzleloader, and have had some success while doing so through the years. It looks like my compound bow is out of commission, so I will be using a crossbow that is darn near as accurate as a rifle within it's range limitations.
I have 2 WY elk tags (GEN "any elk", and a limited draw "cow/calf" tag), and will be hunting mostly solo for the last couple weeks of the archery season. I will later on morph into the rifle season if I still have a tag left to punch. I will be packed up the mountain on horseback, so will have a comfortable camp, and can call on my InReach for a packout. I love to spot and stalk hunt for elk, but don't want to blow out the elk from the area that I can reasonably access from camp, and thus will likely focus on an ambush hide along noted travel areas.
Back to my question?? Being solo, my calling will be used sparingly, primarily to locate elk, or to stop a target for the shot....Q? - Any suggestions as to using a decoy off of my location to help focus a targets attention elsewhere? It needs to be lightweight and packable. I've looked at the Heads Up, and the cow butt profile, and the online comments on both are mixed. I learned to trust many of the folks on this site, so your input is appreciated.
 

kidoggy

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Apr 23, 2016
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more effort than worth Imo.

not saying a decoy couldn't help it is just my opinion that it would be too much trouble for little gain.

it does happen but calling elk is not just sitting on your duff waiting for them to walk to you when you bugle.

often you have to move your set up. seems to me packing a decoy is just spreading more scent around to help you get busted.

sometimes you have to hound them. it is fluid and what you do often is determined by what the elk do. I have had herd bulls round up the cows and bug out into other drainages.
in such situations I have found it to be worthwhile to follow and harass/bugle till that bull gets sick of running and pissed enough to turn back to fight. I have crossed many ridges in this pursuit and while it is not always successful, it often is.

besides, I am lazy and while I am all for putting out the effort needed, I also don't go out of my way to put out more than I must to get it done either.:D
good luck packing a decoy.
 
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Slugz

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Oct 12, 2014
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I'm sure you have seen a couple of my posts talking about this and some of these words are not mine but quotes from others, books, videos and podcasts over the last 10 years.

Mindset of an elk : They gotta hear ya, see ya then smell ya.
If they hear ya and see ya then most likely they wont circle downwind as far because the set up makes sense/its believable. Still set up on the downwind arc though when they are coming in.

Hang up point: You hear it/see it all the time. " he hung up at 70 ish yards" That's because the vegetation in that area allowed him to stop at 70 yards and look around. He already triangulated the call to a spot. He stopped and looked to find an elk or movement to match the noise he heard. If you convince him that the sound and sight matched, he may keep coming in. Or......he never comes further. Or......he maybe, likes the set up and he circles downwind to come closer. Or.....he is a mature bull 5 years or older and he always circles down wind to get scent then come in. (why we need to be on that down wind arc always in a shooting lane)

I run a Montana butt only, head down. Modified with some paracord to form a loop that I can hang on a limb or in a ground level bush. Not in the open, but visible with good ambient light on it and visible pointing about 30 degrees on the downwind side of the direction he is coming.
Its perfect for solo hunting. I don't go in the woods with out one. Its with me even when I'm the caller in the set up as I move through woods with it, flashing it time to time.

Calling: When solo my last calls will come from where my decoy is set up and is always an assembly mew. ( mature cow telling a bull, no I'm here, you come to me) Let them triangulate and see something from where the sound came from. I then push out 50 to 60 yards, set up and stay quiet.

All this is based upon vegetation and terrain and how far the animal can see when he stops to try and visually confirm the sounds he heard. Lastly, combined with the visual range available to see the terrain, small rises and dips, troughs, humps etc will determine where I'm putting the decoy as he will always creep up to the high point and look over, or peek out into an opening before going through it.

Hope that helps some.

11 days 7 hours 20 min till the first arrows of the seson in Colorado will be released! Good luck
 

RICMIC

Veteran member
Feb 21, 2012
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Two Harbors, Minnesota
Thanks Slugz. At the very least, I will likely get the butt decoy and have it in camp to take out with me if I choose to do so.
I love to run and gun for elk, and have shot 3 6x6 bulls at 60 yards. Only one of those may have given me an archery chance, my other 2
bulls were over 400 yards with little chance for a stalk or calling away from their cows. Cows are another matter, and with a cow/calf tag would love to stick one with an arrow if a bull encounter doesn't happen.
 
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mallardsx2

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Jul 8, 2015
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I have definitely called a "peeking bull" a queer before. On many occasions. lol

When they don't fully commit I just keep telling myself that "they are just small ones that are scared of me". haha

On the note of the decoy, I tried toting on around for 1 season. I decided it wasn't for me. I do know a few people who have had great success with them though. I would NEVER use one during Muzzleloader season where I hunt though. Not a chance.
 
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Shane13

Active Member
Aug 8, 2012
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Abilene, Texas
I will carry an elk butt decoy with me next month for an archery hunt. No way I'd carry one around during a general season though, no matter how good they work.
 

FatMallard

New Member
Sep 21, 2020
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Like the others said, they are already looking for you if you are calling and will hangup if visibility allows for them to see the area you are calling from. I've never decoyed an elk, but have killed plenty of whitetails and turkeys over a decoy as they too look for the cause of the sound many times before coming in.
 
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Slugz

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Oct 12, 2014
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Woodland Park, Colorado
I could have used mine last week. I was alone slow playing a herd bull who was making sounds like a spike. Call, then move, call then move.
After an hour of gentle back and forth my decoy set up 45 degress off angle, a quick mew from that spot then me getting in a shooting lane might have done the trick.

It was still muzzleloader week so thats why I didnt have it.
 
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