By Gary Sefton
Most deer-hunting seasons around the country coincide with at least some part of the whitetail rut, so in all likelihood you’ll have the opportunity to hunt during this peak-activity period. Using deer calls can be productive during this phase, if you keep in mind the fact that mating anticipation will be the prime motivating factor. Bucks are looking for does! Check out these 10 tips for rut-time bucks.
1) Pros & Cons of Calling During the Rut
The bad news: Most breeding-age bucks are “camped out” on a receptive doe by the peak of the rut, especially in high doe-to-buck ratio areas. Your chances are slim to none for calling a buck away from a receptive doe. Bucks are also unpredictable and hard to pattern at this time since they are constantly on the move seeking or following receptive does.
The good news: Hyperactive, testosterone-driven bucks are more prone to forego caution when they’re seeking and chasing does, which is why so many street-smart bucks end up as traffic fatalities. This state of urgency makes them highly vulnerable to calling during the rut, if you can sound like a doe or make them believe a receptive doe is in the area. The trick is catching them between does.
2) Set up To Call
Job number one is to set up in popular areas. A good place to set up and call is close to a concentrated food source. The food attracts the does and the does attract the bucks. Try to hang your stand on a rise or in a thicket so the first time you see a buck he is in range. Use physical obstacles (open fields, creeks, swamps, tangled blow-downs, steep banks) downwind of your stand to discourage bucks from swinging downwind to “scent check” the site before committing to your calls.
3) Buck Grunts
The short monotone, hog-like grunts a buck makes when he is trailing a doe can attract other bucks, because it is believed a doe is involved. Make several grunts in a sequence, varying volume and projected direction to give the impression of a buck on the move and following a receptive doe.
4) Sniff Wheezes, Growls, Roars & Bellows
Aggressive call sequences have the potential to clear an area of all deer, with the possible exception of the fire-breathing wall-hanger who comes charging in to discourage intruders. Remember, mating anticipation is what the rut is all about.
5) Decoys & Scents
Doe decoys can be an added attraction, especially if you are hunting fields and/or open country. If a buck hears a doe, then sees or smells a doe, the rest should be up to you. Adding some realism to your calling can’t hurt.
A self-confident buck seeking a doe will investigate aggressive rattling during the rut if they believe a receptive doe is close by. Just be sure your setup discourages scent checking.
7) Doe Bleats
You can’t go wrong with doe bleats during the rut. If you hear a buck trailing a doe, bleat at him. He is on her trail but he doesn’t know where it leads. Offer him a shortcut. Tip cans and bleat calls can sound exactly like what a buck is looking for, and serve as music to his ears.
8) Anticipate Success
When you make a call, expect results. Be ready! When a buck comes in hard and fast and doesn’t see what he heard, he will often leave hard and fast.
9) Don’t Over-Anticipate
Expect a response but don’t be crushed if it doesn’t happen. Successful call-ups depend on just-right situations. Deer won’t respond if they are alarmed, stressed or even suspicious. Survival will always trump social behavior.
10) Don’t Get Discouraged, Hang In There!
Unattached bucks are constantly on the move during the rut. The more time you spend on stand broadcasting invitations, the higher your chances for success. Deer calls aren’t magic bullets, but an accurate deer vocalization done at the right time, in the right place, can be the deciding factor in a successful deer hunt.