Put Down the Grunt Call
A grunt call is only one of several calls that Harold Knight, of Sheffield Financial's Ultimate Hunting, uses to pull in trophy bucks. (Photo courtesy Knight and Hale)
Sure, the grunt call gets all the press, but sometimes it takes a different kind of sound to bring in the big buck. Here are a few deer calling tips that will have you on using the full range of deer vocalizations to your advantage.
Doe Bleat and Grunt
Deer are far more vocal than many hunters believe. It's just that the sounds are often so quiet that hunters never hear them unless the deer is directly under the stand. A doe bleat and grunt is most effective from late pre-rut to post-rut. Remember, the secondary rut occurs a month after the peak of the first rut. The reason doe sounds are effective at this time is simple -- bucks are looking for does to breed.
Follow the normal deer calling rules when using doe bleats or grunt calls. A tip-over call or mouth-blown doe bleater should be used sparingly. Produce a couple of bleats every 20 or 30 minutes at most, and watch down wind for bucks to sneak in and attempt to smell the doe. Use some doe estrous urine set to both sides of your stand, and hunt as scent-free as possible. Anytime you call you can position the deer downwind, and if it smells you instead of the hot doe he heard, that buck is out of there.
When using a mouth-blown doe call, practice at home or in the truck on the way to your deer hunting spot so you can consistently produce the proper "baaaawwl." Use it sparingly to avoid letting a buck pinpoint your exact location, and if using in the early morning, wait until good shooting light to produce your first bleat.
Fawn bleats can be effective all season long for one reason – a doe's maternal instinct. The mournful bleats of a lost-fawn will bring any doe within earshot in to investigate. If you're hunting does, have at it. But this does not mean that a fawn bleat will only work on does. During late pre-rut to late post-rut, the doe that investigates may have a buck in tow, so while all of the other hunters are blowing their best grunts at every buck in the woods, a fawn bleat can be your ace in the hole. This is comparable to calling to a gobbler with hens. You can't call the gobbler away, but you may attract the hen and she pulls in the gobbler.
Another way to use a fawn bleat call is to call in a distressed manner. The payoff is that the hunter never knows what will approach the sound of the deer call. It could be a buck or a doe, or it could be one of your local predators looking for a free meal. When using a fawn-in-distress call, begin quietly for a minute or so before cranking up the volume. Remember that fawns have smaller lungs than you do, so keep your breaths into the call short. The fawn-in-distress call is excellent for bringing does in to investigate.
The snort-wheeze is a sound bucks make that is interpreted as aggression. It's a fantastic call to go to when your grunts are being ignored. The snort wheeze is a call that can be effective all season long.
Snort wheeze calls often are used in association with grunt calls and rattling. Use the "fffttt, fffftttt, fshhhhhhhh" of a snort wheeze call to add another component to your rattling/grunting sequence or to top off a grunt to a visible buck. Often the snort wheeze call is more than a buck can take, kinda like talking about someone's Mama. Them's fightin' words.
Rattling calls evoke the sound of two deer clashing, and if used correctly, can be effective all season long, but really shines from the late pre-rut to the post-rut. It's the sound of two bucks fighting, and brings in bucks for several reasons. First and foremost, everything loves to see a good brawl. Just like the Fighting Purr system in turkey hunting, rattling for deer brings in young and adult animals alike.
Another reason rattling works is its volume. A good clashing of antlers can be heard much farther away than a grunt or snort-wheeze call. Don't be shy when rattling. Ensure there are no deer in view prior to producing a sound, then really go at it. Buck fights can go on for more than a minute, so don't be afraid to get into it. Quick slams and hard grinding of the antlers or Rattle Bag can reproduce the sound of two bucks really going at it.
Add in a few grunts and maybe a snort wheeze at the end (or even during, if possible) of your rattling sequence provides the realism you need to pull in a buck. Again, watch downwind for bucks sneaking in and trying to get a whiff of the bucks it hears.
More of a visual learner? Watch Sheffield Financial's Ultimate Hunting, and Chris Brackett’s Arrow Affliction and Fear No Evil to learn how to calling in the big boys.