FOR A STUFFED animal, Timex the deer works like clockwork. Timex, a stuffed doe with implanted antlers, is one of the country's most reliable enforcers of hunting laws.

In the past few years Timex and other stuffed deer have helped game wardens in Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Connecticut, Maine and Ohio catch dozens of poachers. New Jersey and Pennsylvania say they will start using stuffed deer this season. Maryland wardens are "toying with the idea" of introducing the decoy deer.

Timex catches "road hunters" who cruise back roads looking for deer. When the dummies spot the dummy, they stop and shoot. Timex doesn't fall or flee like a live deer, but some poachers keep shooting anyway. Before the wardens move in, they sometimes fire entire clips of bullets at Timex.

Road hunters, who are despised by real hunters, are a danger as well as a nuisance. They spoil hunting grounds by shooting farmers' livestock, which the road warriors evidently mistake for game. After their horses or cows have been shot by road hunters, many farmers refuse to let legitimate hunters on their property.

Road hunting's nighttime counterpart, "jacklighting" -- using headlights or spotlights to mesmerize deer and then shooting them -- is a significant problem in Maryland. "We receive hundreds of complaints" from landowners, says Col. Harvey Cook, deputy superintendent of Maryland's Natural Resources Police. In fiscal 1986, Maryland game wardens recorded 287 cases of jacklighting, each punishable by a maximum $2,000 fine and a year in jail.

Although state officials are "toying with the idea," Maryland's game wardens don't now use stuffed deer, Cook says. Instead, wardens stake out likely sites.

Virginia first tried a decoy last year in Rappahannock County, says Col. Gerald Simmons, enforcement chief for the department of game and inland fisheries. A stuffed six-point buck antlers suckered two dozen poachers in three days.

Faced with maximum penalties of a $250 fine and 30 days in jail, some of the violators posed legal challenges to the stuffed deer, arguing the decoy constitutes entrapment. But Virginia's courts upheld its legality, says Simmons.

"It's not entrapment to give someone an opportunity to commit a violation," Simmons says; the stuffed buck was set far from the road, where only road hunters would notice it, and on land clearly posted against hunting.

In Pennsylvania, where road hunting is "a good bit of a problem," game wardens will start using stuffed deer this season, says Barry L. Warner, chief of special operations for the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Bureau of Law Enforcement.

"We look at {road hunting and jacklighting} as something that's unethical," says Warner, because vehicles give road hunters an unsporting advantage over their prey.

"It's unfair to give these people the title 'hunter,' " says Rob Winkel, deputy chief, Bureau of Law Enforcement, New Jersey Department of Fish, Game and Wildlife. "As far as we're concerned, they don't deserve to called hunters. They're basically criminals."

This season, one of New Jersey's 50 game wardens will experiment with stuffed deer.

Although wardens see road hunting and jacklighting as serious problems, they have a sense of humor about stuffed deer. Some of Maine's stuffed deer are motorized; by remote control they blink their eyes and nod their heads. With an unmotorized deer, however, one game warden nabbed over a score of jacklighters last season, says Lt. Bill Vernon of Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Game wardens have even given affectionate names to their stuffed assistants. One of Maine's deer is named Studdley, "because he's a stud," Vernon says. Ohio's most famous stuffed deer is Memorex, as in "Is it live or is it Memorex?"

Whatever their names, stuffed deer can prove expensive. In Tennessee, the home of Timex, the wildlife agency can't afford to buy many. Most are donated by landowers eager to rid their property of road hunters.

The stuffed deer look decidedly unlifelike from 10 feet away. You can see the metal stands that support them. But from 50 yards they look live enough to fool most road hunters.

Timex's notoriety has cut road hunting in Tennessee, says Bob Bass, wildlife-officer supervisor of the state's wildlife resources agency. "Those semi-honest people who thought they might try it, they're not doing it anymore. We don't see as many people making 15 trips up and down the same road look for deer. We've eliminated it to those people who don't know about Timex. There are lots of uneducated, beer-drinking people in every little town that still do it. "They don't know about Timex until they get caught."

Although poachers have punctured Timex plenty, she's shock-resistant; the wardens just patch her up.

Timex takes her lickings and keeps on ticketing.

Andrew Roblin is a freelance journalist living in Nashville, Tennessee.