Tips on how to rattle, grunt or bleat whitetail deer
- 15 Nov, 2019
If you’re new to hunting or whitetail deer calls this is a great place to start. Because calling is, of course, vocal we won’t be able to get into the exact method to each call, but I’ll hopefully be able to draw a map in your mind about what to use when so you’ll have better guidance navigating through deer communication. Here are my tips on how to rattle, grunt or bleat whitetail deer. This is what works for me; you may need to do things a little differently or maybe entirely differently.
I hunt primarily in the Mid-Atlantic area from early archery in September until the end of season in January. Your seasons and rut may be different in your area. You will need to know when the pre-rut, start rut and heavy rut are. It will be slightly different each year; it was early here this year.
Before you do any attempts at a rattle, grunt or bleat you need to have a functional understanding of wind and airflow. You can dress up and spray down all the scent blocker you want, but knowing the wind is way more important in the long run. This is especially true for spot and stalk.
Often if you make a call a deer will circle and come towards you from downwind. If you have positioned yourself accordingly in a strategic place they may not be able to pick up your scent. If the wind is blowing a lot I wouldn’t call at all. You run the risk of a swirl or change in wind direction to bust you.
The absolute best instructions you can receive on how to call a deer is from the critters themselves. The more dirt time you can put in and observe what they do and how they do it the better you will be at intuitively knowing what to do when.
Antlers and rattle bags
Antlers and rattle bags both have their advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the time of year I probably take both. I like the rattle bag for convenience but feel like I can get more authenticity out of antlers. That said, I usually use a bag but take antlers to rub on a tree. I like to give a tree a hard scrape and then a grunt.
Early in the season bucks will be locking and pushing but only gently. They like to mock-fight just like boys like to wrestle. When you use your antlers or bag in the early season it’s just a gentle lock and push, nothing too heavy. Even though deer might play around like this for an hour or more I don’t rattle for more than about 90 seconds. You need to make your call and get yourself set. If a deer hears it and is interested they’ll be on their way soon enough. Be alert and be ready!
When the rut starts to kick off and the deer fight they are in a deathmatch. When making your call at this time of the year you can slam the bag or antlers together sharply. I still don’t go any longer than 90 seconds and usually only about 30 seconds.
To add some authenticity to the call I will break sticks and kick leaves and shake saplings. If you observe deer in action a lot of the noise comes from the battle motions and not just from locking antlers. That’s why I tend to keep it short. I don’t want to get busted making a ruckus in the forest by Mr. Buck when I should be knocked and ready. Don’t overdo it!
The grunt call is probably the most universal and easiest to use. Just don’t overdo it! If I’m blind calling in the early season a general rule is I only do a call series every 15 to 20 minutes. That series is usually a grunt, wait 20 seconds then another grunt. That could be a buck or a buck grunt or a doe grunt or bleat.
If you see a deer and give a grunt just wait for a reaction. If the deer isn’t coming wait for it to turn away then give another grunt. Don’t try to call it in if it’s looking in your direction. When its early or heavy rut you could do an estrus bleat every 10 minutes if you know the call well. If you start doing estrus bleats you’ll need to be ready and focus quickly. When a buck comes in he’s coming in hot.
I use the can around the end of October on into November. If just using the can I role it once, wait about 5 seconds then roll it again. The biggest bang for your buck is to do a double call, roll the can twice then use the grunt call and give a grunt. If there is a buck in the area he’s going to come to investigate for sure!
If you’re new to this it would be best not to start out blind calling. If you can see deer and see how they react you will be able to better gauge your effectiveness.
Never use any of the calls if a deer is looking in your direction! If a deer locks in on where they expect another deer to be and don’t see one they’ll be suspicions. It will also make it extremely difficult for you to get set if a deer is headed straight for you. Also, keep in mind a deer has a different peripheral vision then we do.
If you are using sheds or antlers you found, remove the brow tines or you’ll end up busting your hands up.
After you do a call get set and don’t move around too much. If a deer is coming you want to be ready and focused. Also, keep in mind they may be approaching from downwind of you.
Out of all the calls, grunts and rattle options, I would probably recommend learning the grunt call first and foremost. The grunt can be used throughout the season and the vocals on the call can be changed for different times of the rut.
When you carry the grunt all carry it in a pocket. Sometimes they come apart and you don’t want to lose half of it on your way to your hunting position.
- Know the rut
- Know the wind, don’t call on windy days
- Pre and early rut, light push rattle
- Heavy rut, rattle and bang
- Heavy rut estrus bleat with grunt
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