As fall progresses and the days continue to shorten, darkness begins much earlier each evening and morning arrives a bit later. It’s this photoperiod, which triggers whitetail bucks to enter the rut, a period of heightened breeding activity. And I’ll tell you folks, if the fresh scrapes I’m finding while out hunting and scouting is any indicator, our first rut period is now! From now up until our peak rut in mid-January, bucks will be most receptive to deer calls. They’re going to be on their hooves looking for does and challenging other bucks to territorial disputes in their testosterone-fueled state.
I find it funny how many people think that deer are just these mute little critters running around out in the woods. The fact is, they have a fairly wide range of vocalizations. A good caller, should be able to reproduce at least four of those; fawn bleats, doe bleats, challenging buck grunts and tending buck grunts.
Fawn bleats are a favorite of predator hunters, but they do have at least one good use during the rut. Even if the doe hasn’t had a fawn that year, she is likely to come and check on the bleating fawn, particularly if it sounds as if it’s in distress. More often than not in the weeks around the rut, if you see a doe being followed by a hot buck, you should try to bring in the doe by bleating urgently on the bleat call; repeated three or four times. If you can get that doe to run over to investigate your calling, you can also bring in the buck.
The doe’s bleat is unmistakable when you hear it in the woods. It can be described as a kind of whiny noise, lasting a few seconds. Does use their bleat to communicate with other deer, a common social call to find a companion or just to keep tabs on each other as they move in a herd. But the tone and urgency change slightly when they are in estrous. This estrous call is meant to signal a buck that she is ready to breed and when they make this noise, any buck within earshot is inclined to be interested.
If you’re even a little familiar with deer calls and have used one, you’ve probably got a grunt call in your pack. It is a basic piece of equipment you should definitely have with you when you’re deer hunting. Bucks use grunts to communicate a few emotions, for example, they will use a drawn-out and low grunt to let other bucks know that they are spoiling for a fight. While chasing an estrous doe, the buck will emit a short and staccato series of grunts in order to ask the old gal to stop for a visit.
I use a caller often and though there are many styles, I prefer a basic tube design with a selector on the side to tune it to the desired pitch. As for the bell housing for the reed, I have always preferred the sounds offered by wood as opposed to plastic or laminates. It allows for clearer sounds to my ear at least.
As always, if you have any questions or comments on this week’s column, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. God bless and good hunting!