by Cole Daniels
Calling is considered a required science in turkey, duck, and goose hunting. But when it comes to deer hunting, many experienced hunters have never called a deer in their life. A lot of bow hunters are getting into calling and it can be very effective for gun hunters as well. There are three main types of calls for deer hunting: buck calls, doe calls, and antler rattling. Just like turkey and duck calling, there is some practice and technique required to be effective.
When I first get settled into the stand, I get my gear in order and start with a short series of grunts. If you are hunting where you should be, there could be target deer nearby so you don’t want to start off with a communication assault. Some soft grunting should get the attention of anything that is in the immediate area. If nothing starts moving after ten minutes or so, I’ll start with some soft rattling.
A lot of people are scared to rattle because they worry about messing up. Listen, no two deer fight alike. They all make different sounds and even if you could mess up, it probably wouldn’t matter to the deer. Some hunters use real antlers, some use rattle sacks, some use those plastic thingies. They all essentially make the same sound. Personally, I like using real antlers because they are easy to pick up and put down. It’s a natural motion for me but it’s a matter of preference in what you like.
There are some general guidelines I use while rattling. Early in the season, while bucks are still in loose bachelor groups, I tend to keep the rattling really light. Deer aren’t battling to the death this time of year. It’s more or less a skirmish to establish dominance. You’ll be surprised at how much attention light rattling will get. It’s like if a fight breaks out in the hallway, everybody wants to gawk. As the rut approaches, amp up the intensity of your rattling. During the rut, you can go to an all out throw down when rattling. I’ll climb down from my stand and kick around branches and leaves in an attempt to mimic a major forest power struggle. Some hunters will simply tie a rope to a few dead branches on the ground to create this effect. If you go this route, set up a block and tackle or your can get tired pretty fast. You can purchase a lightweight pulley system for about ten to fifteen bucks at your local hardware store. This short video gives you an idea of what rattling a deer looks like.
For even more realism, hit them with the snort-wheeze before you start rattling. This is something deer will generally do before fighting. It’s sort of like the middle finger to us. It’s the ultimate show of dominance in a rutting buck’s world. And don’t forget to mix in some grunts as well. The buck grunt is probably the most versatile and easy to use call at a deer hunter’s disposal.
No matter how good your rattling & grunting sounds, there are days in which bucks just won’t respond. Sometimes bigger bucks are worn out from fighting and smaller bucks are too intimidated. In those cases, give the doe & fawn bleat a shot. It’s an enticing, non-aggressive sound that bucks associate with safety and possibly an easy opportunity to breed. I really like using a bleat when I can see a buck hung up and he doesn’t want to budge from cover. This will usually make him more confident or at least stoke up his curiosity.
Calling deer can help pass the time while hunting and really increases your potential for success. It’s not going to work every time but I can assure you that it does work. The first time you call a deer in, you will be hooked. Truly interacting with the game you pursue is an unmatched thrill.