Without some type of decoy motion, deer often became suspicious of the fake. Bucks especially would often stop well out of bow range and just stand there and stare at the decoy, waiting for it to flick an ear, twitch its tail or move its head. When none of that happened, they would usually just turn and walk away.
So I started experimenting. First, I used toilet paper and quickly found out that toilet paper isn’t worth a hoot. When toilet paper got wet, it just stuck to the decoy. And, we bowhunters often find ourselves hunting in light rain, snow, fog or heavy morning dew, all of which render toilet paper worthless for use on decoys.
Next I tried marabou feathers, which look really cool, until they get wet. Then, they are just as useless as TP.
What works best for me is 5-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips of white trash bags. Buy the cheapest bags you can find because the thin plastic flutters best in the breeze. I attach one strip to each ear of the decoy and one strip to the rear end. You can attach the strips with duct tape, thumb tacks or for a more permanent solution, heat up finishing nails and melt them right into the plastic decoys.
A battery-operated device called the Tail-Wagger works very well, but make sure battery-driven devices are legal in your hunting area. When I use it, I turn the foam around so the Tail-Wagger’s white side, instead of its painted side, is visible to deer. I think they see it better.
The ultimate decoy when it comes to both movement and realism is a whitetail mount made by a small company in Wisconsin called Custom Robotics Wildlife Inc. They sell everything from robotic grizzly bears and alligators to customers such as Disney, and they sell game animals such as elk, bear, pronghorn, pheasant, grouse and especially deer to state game departments all across the country. Conservation officers use the realistic decoys to help catch poachers.
In 2000 when the guys at Custom Robotics heard I was writing a book called “Rattling, Calling & Decoying Whitetails,” they asked me if I’d like to try one of their robotic deer decoys, and I quickly said “yes.” So each fall, the decoy I named Rufus and I would travel the country together bowhunting whitetails. Rufus wasn’t much company on those long road trips, but he was dynamite in the woods.
In states where battery-operated decoys aren’t legal for deer hunting, I used Rufus with strips of plastic in his ears and on his tail. But it was in those states that allowed battery-operated decoys where I learned the most about whitetails and decoy movement. On Rufus, I could move the tail, the head or both. What I found was that moving the head was virtually guaranteed to bring in a buck that had hung up, while wagging the tail worked about half of the time.