The tree-decoy concept isn’t a new one, but it is new to my arsenal of tactics. Flambeau created their commercial version they called the Tree-Coy several years back. I believe the commercial version is no longer in production. Hunters can easily DIY a tree-decoy setup. Today we will look at how I did just that.
The idea is that like fish, whitetail deer are drawn to structure. Creatures of edges and habitat diversity, the whitetail will naturally move along, through and towards structure. Placing a tree in an open area like a food plot, hayfield etc. provides the deer a habitat target to approach when entering an open area.
My own experience shows that solo trees are magnets to whitetail bucks. I planted three apple trees spaced 50 feet apart. I was attempting to create an orchard around my small food plot. Before September ended, all three were rubbed and broken off by visiting deer. Several years ago I planted trees in my front yard. Only to have a beautiful crabapple tree killed by a buck rubbing the bark all the way around the young plant. In each circumstance these trees were the only structure available and thus had drawing power to a whitetail.
Choosing A Tree-Decoy Location
You need to choose a location in an open area that deer are frequenting. The most common is a food source (Food plot, alfalfa field etc.). A tree-decoy in the woods is just another tree, but in the open it is structure. Use inside corners, roads, trails into timber etc. to add more drawing power. Be sure where you place the tree-decoy is advantageous to you. You want the deer coming into range at your stand locations instead of the other side of the food plot or field.
Choosing A Tree-Decoy
I like 8 to 10 foot trees to make tree-decoys. One idea is to use a tree that has been a scrape tree before because the licking branch has natural scent already on it. You want the licking branch to be fairly long and about 4 feet off the ground to allow a buck to get his antlers and glands into the branch. Oaks are one of the best because they will hold their leaves long after they turn brown. Do not worry if you do not have an adequate oak available, you can always add a new branch with leaves onto the established licking branch after the leaves fall off the original tree.
Setting Up A Tree-Decoy
The setup is simple, a cut off tree is really all you need. Many times people use a post-hole digger and set the cut off tree into the ground. I used a T-Post driven into the ground and attached the tree to it using screws from the back side and some wire to ensure it holds. It couldn’t be much simpler than that. Either way works, it is personal preference.
As deer, both bucks and does, begin coming to the tree a scrape will most likely form under that licking branch. As the rut nears, the scrape will really start to take from. If a scrape doesn’t form by mid October, scratch up the ground under the licking branch to make a mock scrape. Bucks tend to work a licking branch head on so be sure to position that branch to allow for a quartering away shot.
I used forehead scent on the licking branch as my attractant. I set mine up in late August, long before the rut so I wanted to be as “natural” as possible. Other people have used food scent, buck urine, or non-estrous doe urine to draw the deer in. Our added scents are just to get the decoy location started. As more and more deer frequent the tree natural scent through their glands and urination will build up the scent profile at the location. I do not plan on adding anything until late October in the the pre-rut. Then a dominant buck urine will be added to the scrape along with some estrous as we move into early November.
Like any mock or natural scrape, the tree-decoy location is a great place to place a camera. You will likely get all the bucks in the area using that tree over the course of a month or so. Let the camera soak for awhile before checking the card to avoid human scent contamination. Better yet, use a cell camera if you have one.
Give the tree-decoy a try this deer season. This tactic is simple to implement and adaptable to your specific situation. It could be just what is needed to bring that buck into range!
Good Luck everyone!