alling can be effective at any given point in the deer seasons, but predominantly so during the pre-rut. Some hunters are bit shy when it comes to calling deer; I am not one of them. In fact, looking back, the majority of the mature bucks that I have been fortunate enough to lure into range, I did so with the aid of a call.
Just like any other animal, deer can become call-shy if called to repeatedly or you get busted calling one in, but for the most part, if you follow sound logic, you should probably be relying on your calls a bit more than you are.
There are a few general rules of thumb to follow along with some tips that may help increase your odds of drawing a buck into range.
Calling all deer:
One thing I have learned over the years is that if a buck is out of range and heading in the opposite direction, I have nothing at all to lose by calling to him. Sometimes hunters feel a little intimidated to call because they don’t want to spook the deer. But, in situations like I just mentioned, you have nothing to lose anyway, so why not try to make something happen. Just keep in mind that, more often than not, you won’t have that deer come running in for an easy shot – but the chance does exist.
Think of it this way – if that deer is heading in a direction that will not bring him by you position, then what have you got to lose by calling to it? During the pre-rut and rut, I will literally call to every shooter buck that I see if he isn’t on a path that will bring him within range of my set-up.
Most of the time I generally get a stop and a stare in my direction and that is about it. Sometimes the deer may actually even start my way, even though he may not actually commit to coming in, and often I get no response. But, occasionally I get more – A lot more!
Case in point: My best three archery bucks were all taken because I was able to call them in. Each of these deer was either not in range or walking away from me, but I was able to alter their course of direction in order to bring them in for a shot. Like I said, don’t expect this often, but if works on just one deer then consider yourself ahead of the game.
For the longest time, I thought rattling was extremely overrated at best. I had tried it occasionally with no results, and therefore had given up on it for a few years. But in recent years I decided to give it another shot. What I found was that rattling can be extremely effective if used at the correct time and in an area where there are a fair amount of bucks. This past season was the best I have yet to experience for rattling in bucks. They were all small, subordinate bucks for the most part, but still, it was fun and it was working!
It seems like the opposite from everything we have been taught about deer hunting. We have always been trained to remain quiet and motionless while on stand, and this sage old advice remains true for the most part today. However, deer are a far more vocal creature than most hunters realize, especially at key times of the year, like during the rut. So don’t be bashful or hesitant to bang the horns together in November. You won’t spook the deer and you may just bring in a giant. Try rattling every 30 minutes or so while on stand, and make each rattling sequence last about 20 to 30 seconds in length. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled after each sequence; however, as often times a buck can come in a hurry. Expect him to circle downwind too as he approaches as he tries to sniff out any danger. Rattling will also bring in curious does hoping to see a fight.
Keep in mind when rattling, however, that a deer has the ability to not only detect the general area where the rattling is coming from, but is also quite capable of being able to deduce from which exact spot the sound was emanating. So always be on the lookout while rattling and once finished, keep movement to a minimum and your senses on high-alert.
Love is in the air:
Another great tool in the deer caller’s kit is the estrous doe bleat. I have had a lot of fun using The Can® by Primos to call in love-struck bucks looking for some action. Used in conjunction with a grunt call, this can be a deadly combination. I once had a nice buck follow a doe to within spitting distance of my tree only to not be able to get off a shot.
The doe ended up making her way past my stand into a pine thicket, but the buck, realizing that she wasn’t quite ready to breed yet, made a 180 and headed back in the direction from which he had come. When he got to a little patch of multiflora rose, he began thrashing and shredding the bush to let out a little frustration. I let out a few estrous bleats and grunts, which were eventually more than that tank of a buck could bear. He felt that it might be worth one more try and once again made his way towards me. This time I made good on my opportunity.
Mix it up:
For the most part, other than rattling, you want to use a grunt call to bring in a buck. In recent years, the snort-wheeze and buck roar, or growl, although unheard of until the last few seasons, have soared in popularity and for good reason. Such calls have their place and are sometimes just different enough to bring in an aggressive buck.
Putting it all together:
Calling is in no way a given nor can you expect it to pay huge dividends most of the time. Think of it more as another tool in your arsenal to use when the bucks veins are pumping with testosterone and anticipation during the breeding season.
Use calls when it is apparent that your quarry has no intentions of coming your way, and you feel the need to try to make something happen rather than sit idly by or to try to bring deer in that you cannot see. You’ll likely get denied nine times out of 10, but that one time you don’t could be worth it all!