Hunters know decoys work for waterfowl and predators, but are they effective in luring deer within archery range?

If you think so (check out the photo with this column), you still must be prepared to expend time and effort to get the results you want.

During a trip to Iowa in November 2007, I met a man from Oklahoma named Ron McCorkell. He also was hunting this area for the first time.

Our group of Tar Heels hunted game lands for the most part, but McCorkle hunted game lands and a private farm where he had obtained permission. McCorkell came to the lodge where we stayed a couple days after our arrival. But he had been there a couple weeks earlier and was returning to continue his quest for a big buck he'd seen.

We hunted for about 10 straight days. After a couple days and some good evening campfire talks about our adventures, McCorkell revealed he was using a deer decoy to entice a nice buck he'd seen at the private farm. He had photos taken from a ground blind of several smaller bucks coming to his decoy. What impressed me most was the effectiveness of his decoy (a 3-D Flambeau Doe).

It wasn't just a standard doe decoy. McCorkell had experimented and improvised to make his decoy more life-like. He also had complete control of when and how he did this with no strings attached.

His idea was simple but ingenious. He inserted and secured a stiff wire into the body of a real, preserved deer's tail. The top of the wire was bent at about a 90-degree angle and McCorkle had inserted the tail into a hole he had drilled in the rump area of the decoy.

Inside the body cavity of the decoy, he'd mounted the mechanism from a remote-control toy car and attached the axle of the car to the wire from the deer's tail. Sitting some distance away in his blind, McCorkle controlled the movement of the decoy's tail by flipping the remote-control switch between forward and reverse.

This simple movement, twitching of the decoy's tail, McCorkell said, was all it took to put a rutting buck into a frenzy. I have forgotten exactly how many bucks he said he'd decoyed during this trip, but the number was more than 20.

After 17 days of his Iowa hunting trip, McCorkle used his blind and improvised decoy to arrow a magnificent 10-point buck that will yield an official Pope&Young score of 150-plus inches.

McCorkell offered other tips about setting up decoys.

Distance, he said, is vital to getting a good quality shot at a buck. When bucks approach his doe decoy, they always circle and come in from the rear side at a distance of 8 to 10 yards behind the decoy.

If a hunter sets up the decoy too close to his blind, the buck will come too close as he circles and may detect the hunter with his nose.

McCorkle suggested setting up the decoy facing away from your blind or stand at a distance of no less than 27 yards and no more than 32 yards. When a buck circles behind the decoy, he will present a shot of about 17 to 22 yards.

McCorkle said hunters don't want to let the buck approach the immediate vicinity of the decoy before taking the shot. Older and wiser bucks often break and run from decoys as they get close to them. However, younger bucks will approach and make body contact with decoys, often knocking them to the ground.

McCorkell has taken numerous bucks using his decoy, including three that have qualified for the P&Y record book.

Deer are so well camouflaged that even they often can't see one another until they detect some movement. Even when one deer sees another standing stiff-legged in an open field or forest, they won't react to the other deer until they get some sign that everything appears to be OK. This signal most often occurs when one deer or the other twitches an ear or a tail, signifying all is well.

How many times have you seen a grazing deer standing in a field when suddenly it snaps to attention, focusing its eyes on one spot at the field's edge? Look where they're looking and you'll often see another deer standing there stiff legged. The deer at the field's edge won't move until it sees some sign of movement from the one in the field or vice-versa.

This stance may indicate "Hey, I'm a deer just like you, and everything is OK."

Some hunters who use decoys hang a few strips of light-colored cloth or toilet paper underneath the tail of a doe decoy. A slight breeze will create slight movement which accomplishes the same result as McCorkell's mechanical tail.

The difference is McCorkle has control of when he wants to twitch the tail of his doe decoy.

Carrying one or more decoys to a stand location can be cumbersome and noisy. It can also be somewhat dangerous if gun season is open at the time.

It's best to wrap an orange cloth or hunting vest around the body when carrying decoys in and out of the woods or put them in a carry bag to conceal their tan-brown colors. For solo hunters, when carrying a decoy to a stand location, get in quickly and quietly without making any more noise or commotion than possible.

If hunting secure private land, consider taking decoy(s) the day before the hunt and stashing them at a hidden location near a stand. When you go the stand, you can quickly and quietly set up and get to your stand or blind without disturbing everything in the area.

I know from observation decoying deer works in places such as Iowa and other mid-western states, specifically during the time of the whitetail rut. I don't know if many hunters have given it any measure of honest effort in North Carolina or other southeastern states.

Like other ploys used by deer hunters, it takes time, effort and experimentation to come up with something that works in our area. Hunters may have to tinker with a variety of options to come up with something they feel comfortable with that eventually produces results.

Even so, nothing we may try is guaranteed to produce success all the time, if at all. The eventual fruits of one's labor may depend on how innovative, patient and persistent one can be.

There are a number of deer decoys on the market. Cost range from $30 or so for a 2-D decoy to $150 or more, for a more realistic 3-D full-body decoy.

Flambeau's full-body decoy works well for McCorkell, but Carry-Lite also makes a good-looking 3-D decoy. Both companies produce a variety of styles and sizes of 3-D decoys that are available in buck, doe and fawn poses.

The flat two-dimensional decoys are tough to use with good results. While using a Montana doe decoy, I've found deer attracted to it from a distance, but, once they approach to within 20 or 30 yards, they become fidgety and obviously suspicious and beat a hasty retreat because the decoy simply doesn't look real and natural at close range.

Two-dimensional decoys may work fine for rifle hunting, but they don't appear realistic and convincing enough to draw deer close for a good bow shot.

Deer decoy manufacturers include:

• Flambeau: 440-632-1631, www.decoys.com;

• Carry-Lite: 479-782-8971, www.carrylitedecoys.com;

• Montana Decoys: 888-332-6998, www.montanadecoy.com;

• Renzo Decoys: 800-583-5416; www.renzosdecoys.com;

• McKenzie: 1-800-708-0673, www.Mckenzie3d.com;

• Hunters Specialties: 319-395-0321, www.hunterspec.com.