This was sent to me by my good friend Tom McCormick down in Iowa. We have exchanged many Emails about a lot of different topics. When it comes to whitetail deer hunting, this man flat out knows his stuff! Below is an Email that he sent to me about decoying deer.
Enjoy... Decoying Deer Tommy, I wanted to send you information on my decoy "strategies". First some background info.I have been using a decoy for 17 years now. I started off simply using a Delta 3-D target (with good success!). I have tried to read everything I can on the subject and have attended EVERY seminar on decoying at the Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois deer classics. I'm not doing to go into great detail on the "why's" of doing things a certain way.just trust me and do it! Best decoys: Carry-Lite and Montana Buck. ALWAYS use them as a buck. If you use the doe decoy, often other does will stomp, snort and blow everything out of the woods. I have NEVER shot a buck over a doe decoy, but I have shot at least 6-7 does over a doe decoy (two in one afternoon back in 1998). I have used only a buck for the last ten years, with no negative results. It was about 50/50 when using the doe with positive vs negative reactions.
I have experimented A LOT with the various urine based scents on the market and using them with the decoy. Bottom line.don't waste your money. When getting your new decoy, wash it very well with scent free soap and let it sit outside for a few days. Using rubber gloves, give it a "mud-bath" two or three times and simply wash off the mud with the hose. After a few days spray it down two or three times with a scent killer spray. When I transport the decoy I wrap the main body with a large plastic garbage bag so that I NEVER touch it with my bare hands. I keep the bag around the main body of the decoy when I carry it into the woods and take it off and put in my backpack when setting up. The Carry-Lite is a real pain to set-up, however, once its set up it stays that way always. It is next to impossible to take your Carry-Lite into the field and put it together. It is very time consuming and noisy to do so. I put it together and leave it assembled all the time. I never use it as a doe, so I glued the antlers in place. You WILL LOSE the ears and tail carrying into the woods. I always remove the ears and tail and carry them with my foot stakes in my cloth bowcase. I have a little mesh bag I store the ears and tail in and the stakes fit well in a "double" scent free athletic sock bundle. Keeps everything quiet that way. I carry the decoy over my shoulder with a blaze orange vest over his head and neck so I don't get shot.
I thought the Montana decoy was a "joke" when I first saw them. After several years of my friends using them I gave one a try. On my very first hunt, a 150 class buck came into it. I have been sold ever since. I use the Carry-Lite on most hunts due to the "full-body" look. On long walks I use the Montana. The Montana will smell "new" when you get it. Let the sun bake it. I let it sit outside for a few days and spray it down with no scent spray. I store it in cedar chips so it has a cedar smell to it instead of a "cloth smell". Always use gloves when handling the decoys.
My Montana folds up nicely and slips into my cloth bowcase with my bow. I use scent free tube socks to store the stakes inside the case.
Most "EXPERTS" don't use decoys until November. I start early, due to experimentation over the years. I shot a 157inch buck on October 12th that wanted to KILL the decoy. Most early season encounters are friendly, such as "who is this new guy". In November, however, it gets personal.they want to destroy the thing! Set-up: Set the decoy UPWIND from your stand and have it face directly at you. I set mine EXACTLY at 20 yards so the buck with circle down-wind of him to face him head-on. This gives me a 10-15 yard shot. They come into the decoy at around a 45 degree angle, never directly "head-on". If you remove the antlers from one side, they will attack the "weak-side". My Carry-Lite has been knocked over at least 6 times over the years! I have shot three bucks that jumped and turned and came back to fight the decoy again with blood pouring out of them, not knowing that they had been arrowed. One of those I shot a second time because I thought I must have missed! Rattling: I only rattled in two bucks during a 10 year period. I simply quit doing it because I was convinced rattling "didn't work". I now use a rattle bag with the decoy and have had OK success. Morning seems to be the best time and the decoy will give the buck a "visual" to bring him the "rest of the way". Grunting: I use a Rod Benson grunt call made in Michigan. I have called in over 50 bucks with that call and use it a lot. The use of the decoy really brings them in close with the grunt call. Did I give you a grunt call when you were at the Clinton wrestling camp? Set-up: Most hunters use a decoy in the open fields. It works the best when deer can see it from a distance. I use it in the deep woods also. Just as long as it doesn't startle them when coming down the trail. VERY IMPORTANT: Tail position.you can't change it on the Montana, but you can adjust it on the Cary-Lite. Have the tail positioned at a 90 degree angle to the body (pointing straight back from the deer). I have used real deer tails and have used white plastic strips on the tail to produce "movement" in the wind. Just use the tail that comes with it and don't bother with other options. The use of tail movement was "big" several years ago, but most experts are now recommending no movement. It seem to drive the buck "nuts" when the decoy doesn't move. You will be amazed how many deer don't see your decoy. That's when grunting will help. I have friends who tie fish line to a bush by the decoy and tug on it if the buck doesn't see it. The movement of the bush and noise causes the buck to look. Ground blinds: The deer will never pay attention to you in the Double Bull when you have a decoy placed 20 yards upwind. Summary: My 2nd, 4th and 5th biggest bucks were all shot over a decoy. They add a ton of fun to your hunts just by observing the reactions of the deer that see them. It can be a REAL PAIN to lug the Carry-Lite into the woods at times. But when they work all the effort pays off. I have had friends drop arrows, have stands "creak" at the wrong time, miss the deer with the first shot and still get the buck due to their "fixation" on the decoy. From October 10th to January 13th, 99% of my hunts are with a decoy!!!! I have at least 10 friends who now use them with the great success. Please pass the above info on to Tom Sr. and Danny. Good hunting Tommy! Tom McCormick
To say my elk hunting career isn't the typical beginning to this long tradition would be an understatement. It pains me to say it, but I could be considered the trust fund kid of elk hunting. Which my Dad takes pleasure in reminding me of every year.
Each year my Dad, Lee (a long time friend and original member of our 3 man hunting group), myself and the occasional elk hunter who has seen the product of our hard work, go on a 10 day elk hunting trip with llamas. We (and when I say we I mean my Dad and Lee) own 4 llamas. The four llamas, Dante, Scooter, Feathers, and Licorice are truly great animals. Each has their own personality uniquely different from each other. Dante is our lead animal, very stoic and strong. Scooter is the powerhouse, sometimes I think he can haul as much as a Clydesdale. Licorice reminds me of Andre The Giant in the movie A Princess Bride, a little slow yet very lovable. And finally Feathers who is happy to regurgitate his cud and spray it on anyone who even ponders the idea of approaching him. Each animal is a gilded male (neutered) and each has his place in the pecking order.
In the beginning we only had two llamas, Dante and Scooter. It took one full spring and summer to train them to pack. The beginning of the process was very difficult considering I had no experience with llamas in the past. Little things, like making sure their backs we clear of debris before putting on the saddles, took weeks to master. But after a whole summer of continuous work (a minimum of several hours a day 3 to 4 days a week) Dante and Scooter ended their first season packing out TWO Pope & Young bulls.
Having successfully used our two llamas for the first time we jumped on the chance to acquire two more. You would be surprised how easy it is to find people giving away llamas. A co-worker of my mother-in-law owned Licorice and Feathers, he was as pleased to get rid of them as we were to have them. The new, untrained llamas saw how hard Dante and Scooter worked, which made their own training a breeze.
The benefits of being born to a elk hunting legend (in his own mind) are brought up annually. Even if they weren't I can't help but think of how lucky I am. Without the llamas we wouldn't be able to responsibly hunt as far back in the wilderness as we do. I simply would not have the confidence to hunt where ever, and I do mean where ever my body can take me. With a split hoof made much like an elk's, llamas can go almost anywhere an elk can. This completely alleviates the little devil that pops up on your shoulder saying "Do you really think we should kill an elk all the way back in this hell hole?"
Another great benefit is the maintenance free aspect of llamas. Once we arrive at base camp and stake out the llamas (which takes a total of five minutes), we do not have to feed or water them after a long day of hunting. Only every three days do we move the llamas to a new grazing area. We also take them to water every few days, but more for our own conscience than their needs. Being kin the the camel, we have seen them not drink for over 14 days even though we've brought them to water several times. Most the areas we hunt have plenty of moisture in the vegetation.
Some people have asked "Why llamas and not horses?" In our opinion, the two biggest reasons are the cost, and 1000lbs of nervous muscle. The year round maintenance costs for a llama is less than half that of a horse. If the cost of a horse isn't a problem (remember I am just a blue blood of elk hunting, my bank account could bring a grown man to tears) then maybe riding a horse that spooks will convert you to llamas. Over the years I have known plenty of hunters whose horse has spooked, tossing them for a loop.
Horses are big and strong enough to do what they please with their rider. Llamas on the other hand are roughly 400 lbs and don't spook easily. Since you can not ride a llama there is no chance they will buck you off. I have personally seen a sow and her two cubs walk within 100 yards of our llamas, the only thing they did was an alarm call. The best way I've heard a llama alarm call described is that it sounds like a lunatic laughing uncontrollably.
Just to be clear, I am not saying that getting hurt by a llama hasn't happened, I have just not personally heard of it or seen it. I also understand that not every horse spooks, but unless you are fortunate enough to use good horses, they can be flat out dangerous.
I owe much of my elk hunting success to the animals that make hunting deep in the wilderness a possibility. Using our 4 llamas is a privilege that I am thankful for. I always try to remember how lucky I am to have these great animals. And if I ever forget, all I have to do is wait until the following bow season for my dad, "a guy from Detroit", who early in his hunting career thought wild elk to be as elusive as the unicorn, to remind me of my inheritance of his blood, sweat and llamas.
Several other thoughts: Even though we train our llamas to pack all our gear, I always carry my bow and arrows in my hand. Losing the most important tools for dispatching elk on an elk hunting trip can bring rain to any parade. I also learned the hard way to spend the extra money on quality arrows that don't break if they ricochet off a dandelion. I bought dozens of the cheap arrows under the mind set that arrows break (only because I buy the cheap ones) when they hit the ground. Now I only shoot Carbon Express Heritage 250s. The extra money spent up front far exceeds the money lost in the long run. These arrows are by far the best I've found. Of the thousands of arrows I've shot this summer I can only remember breaking two. One at the Colorado Traditional Archers Society shoot on the Iron target course, which breaks any arrow if you miss, and one was scratched pretty deep off of a rock while shooting at my local range in Golden.
So when packing with llamas, I suggest caring your bow. It is also well worth the extra money for quality arrows, such as the Carbon Express Heritage shafts.
Danny, my brother, and Del, a good friend, are two of the elk killinest guys that I know. Each has killed 4 bull elk in the past 5 seasons. They are part of the 20% in the saying, "20% of the guys kill 80% of the elk". We met Del early in 2009 and immediately became good friends. The shared love of elk has a way of creating friendships.
From the time we met until the opening weekend of elk season, the three of us hit the range several times a week. We started at 7am and were usually the only ones on the range. We loosed thousands of arrows together - Danny shooting a recurve, and Del and I shooting longbows. We really grew as archers, but not as fast as we grew as friends. Danny, who has always been a good shot, had a shoulder surgery which forced him to become a left handed archer for the time being. In the 5 months as a lefty he caught up to me on the score card (which really irks me, and Danny wallows in the satisfaction of knowing that too). By the end of the summer we were all shooting better than ever and feeling pretty cocky about the upcoming season.
Two weeks in to the season Danny and Del continued on their elk killing ways. Each taking one shot, each shot resulting in a dead bull elk (this year they both got their smallest bulls ever).
Danny used a Rampart recurve with a Grizzly broadhead, 600 grain CX Rebel Hunter arrow with 200 grains up front. He obtained a complete passthrough on a double lung shot. Danny followed a 200 yard heavy blood trail. Del used a Rampart longbow with a Snuffer broadhead, 620 grain CX Heritage arrow with 200 grains up front.
Del took a quartering away shot, received about 20 inches of penetration, and had a 300 yard sparse blood trail.
Me? Well...I was biding my time (right). The final evening of my 2009 hunt the three of us finally got to elk hunt together for the first time.
Del, who plays the bugle like a magical flute, and Danny were calling behind me as I slowly moved towards a large herd of elk. I will admit that I flat out missed a cow earlier that evening. I was mad at myself and embarrassed that that would happen in front of my new hunting buddy. But I didn't have too much time to be mad. A spike was making his way right to me. I tried to clear my mind of the earlier miss as I drew my bow on this spike, who was quartered away at a steep angle. The snow was coming down and my hands were freezing. It was hard to let go of the bowstring. I stared at the point on his side which would bring my arrow to the far front shoulder. I was telling my fingers to let go but they were so cold and stiff that it was hard to do. The shot was a little further back than I was wanted, but not by much. The arrow was steeply angling towards the front shoulder, it was still a good shot.
The spike hauled the mail when I shot but none of the other elk around seemed to care. With the shot placement where it was we all agreed that I probably got one lung, and that it would be wise to allow the elk time. We decided that instead of blowing all the elk out, who might take the spike with them, we would come back and look in the morning. We didn't spend much time looking. 200 yards from where I shot we found him.
I used a Mohawk longbow, Grizzly broadhead, 550 grain arrow with 200 grains up front.
The pack out was short and sweet. We talked and joked on the way out and had a good time. It meant a lot to me that Del came back the next morning to help look for the elk and pack him out.
The practice really paid off this season. The three of us all felt a great deal of satisfaction knowing that we put in the time before the season and that it served us well. We have started hitting the range again, and probably will several times a week until the next elk season.
On another note, I used some new game bags this year from Caribou Gear. They pack very small, are ultra light, and kept 100% of the bugs off. We will have them listed on our website in the near future. In the meantime check out their website: http://www.biggamebags.com/ . I have not seen another game bag out there that has it all, light, small, 100% bug free, and still be as tough as these bags were.