Deer Calls and Deer Calling Tips with Michael Waddell
Deer Calling Guide | Deer Calls and Deer Calling Tips
Hunters have used calls for thousands of years as a hunting tactic to lure game into range. Deer hunters are no different. Deer calls are designed to mimic the sounds deer make in an attempt to pique the interest of a lurking buck or perhaps make that trophy whitetail turn just enough to land a quality shot.
Most hunters are familiar with calls for deer, yet some hunters have never used deer calls out of fear of spooking whitetails away. Not knowing the sounds deer make and when to utilize a call is part of the problem. With this deer calling guide, you can be more confident in your ability to effectively talk-the-talk the next time you climb in that stand for deer hunting.
Sounds as they pertain to deer hunting can be simplified into four main categories. They are the grunt, rattle, bleat, and snort wheeze. Of all the sounds whitetails can make, almost all are a variation or combination of one of these four sounds. Understanding these sounds and the calls for deer that match them, will take your deer hunting game to the next level.
All deer hunters are familiar with the grunt. It is one of the most important and popular calls for deer. Bucks grunt during all phases of the rut, including when making scrapes, rubbing trees, fighting, and chasing does. Typically, it is a vocalization to project dominance over a doe or other bucks in the area.
A soft grunt call is most effective when a buck is in sight but out of shooting range. Blow the call in quick bursts while the buck is turned away from you. Grunting while a buck is facing you easily gives away your position. The grunt is a dominance challenge and he will often start moving towards you if he is interested at all. In addition, grunt calls can be used for deer calling when a buck is not visible. Blind call by blowing two or three times every 30 minutes or so, varying from short to long notes. A buck may not be in your area, but by using deer calls like a grunt tube (such as the Bone Collector Ol’ Faithful), a buck may be inclined to investigate the sounds another buck is making in his neighborhood.
After grunt calls, rattling is the second most common sound hunters know and use while deer hunting. Rattling is an aggressive deer calling tactic to simulate two bucks fighting during the rut. Fighting occurs throughout the rut cycle, from pre-rut to post-rut. The key is to know how bucks spar with each other in the different phases of the rut. In the pre-rut, bucks are determining where they stand on the dominance ladder. These encounters are more likely soft altercations where bucks butt heads and spar lightly. As the peak of the rut comes in, bucks aggressively challenge each other with more intense clashes for breeding rights to does. The post-rut has little fighting between bucks, but rattling still comes into play as those few remaining does are finally coming into heat and are contested for by established bucks.
Rattling can be accomplished with real antlers, synthetic antlers, rattle bags, or other rattling systems. Nothing beats a real set of antlers when it comes to realistic sound, but the Bone Collector Bag-O-Bone comes close. This rattling system is lightweight, portable, and can be adjusted to generate any rattling variation you may need while deer hunting from a stand or on the ground in the rut. Start with only a few tines in the rubber bag, and add more to increase the volume and intensity as the rut progresses.
As described above, rattling is not all about creating an all-out brawl in the woods. Keep your deer calling rattling strategy related to the phases of the rut. Too much rattling can be unnatural and sounding too intense can reduce your chances of bringing in less dominant (but still shooter) bucks. Try rattling with a few short rattles when a dominant buck is in the area. If he is in the right mood, he will react and come running to show his dominance. During the peak rut, ratchet up the rattling to represent intense fighting of two bucks. This deer calling can carry well past your immediate hunting area. Many times, bucks will respond immediately if you hit it right, but sometimes it can take time for a buck to move in to check out the call. Rattle for several sequences mixed with other deer calls like grunts, and sit and wait for this calling strategy to pay off.
Deer calls such as the bleat mimics the vocalization of does and fawns. Does bleat throughout the year, but particularly during the rut when being sought out by bucks. Fawns will also make this sound to communicate with their mothers. Bleats from fawns are at a higher pitch than those from a mature doe.
Bleat calls like the Doe Bleat from Bone Collector are effective when combined with grunt calls for deer. The two combined sounds will trigger mature bucks to think that a hot doe is being pursued by a rival buck looking to take one of his does. Also, bleats by themselves can be used to “talk” to other does in the area. Other does may respond and bring in trailing bucks that otherwise would not come into range on their own.
For those lucky enough to hear a buck snort wheeze in the field, they know it is one of the calls reserved for big bucks. The snort wheeze is a dominance call. Mature bucks use this sound to intimidate subordinate bucks. The two short bursts of air followed by one longer one translate to “I am going to (or already did) take you down.”
First, a lesson in deer calling 101: use the snort wheeze only when the time is right. Bucks – even mature, big bruisers – do not make this noise often. Hunters can use the snort wheeze to heighten a dominant buck’s territorial instincts against him. However, using the snort wheeze can either produce a ticked off, rut-ready buck or send him the other way. The snort wheeze deer call will not work all the time and should not be your first choice among your deer calls, but it certainly has its place at the right time and with the right buck during the rut. The Challenger call by Bone Collector is a grunt tube and snort wheeze combination to give you the ultimate edge.
Taking Deer Calls a Step Further
Deer calling is not all that different from turkey calling. Outside of the basic sounds deer make, there are variations and situational sounds, just like turkeys, that can mean the difference from calling one in or having one spook.
Grunt calls can range from a number of different sounds depending on the buck, the situation, and season. Social grunts are calls bucks use to communicate to others in the herd. A social grunt can be used throughout the year, but usually is most effective during the rut. Does also produce a grunt, called a doe grunt, which is used in social settings around other does and fawns. A doe grunt is very similar to a social buck grunt except it is at a higher tone (i.e., not as deep as that of a male whitetail). Another variation of the grunt is the trailing grunt. This grunt is emitted from a buck who is actively on the trail of a hot doe. Trailing grunts are short bursts, consistent, and even rhythmic as a buck pursues a doe. Deer calling with trailing grunts work best in the pre-rut as bucks are starting to enter rut mode searching for receptive does. Finally, the tending grunt is a grunt variation that a buck will use when he has a doe acquired. This low, deep sound is great during the peak of the rut when combined with a trailing grunt to mimic a buck that has chased and pinned down a hot doe.
To expand on bleats, the estrus bleat is specifically used by does who are ready to breed. Estrus does will use this vocalization prior to making contact with a buck. A buck in turn will hear this sound as a signal of a ready mate and come check her out. Deer calls that mimic the estrus bleat of a doe are ideal during peak rut when many does are entering estrus and looking to be bred. Blind calling with an estrus bleat will many times bring in a buck looking for an interested doe.
Lastly, fawns are very vocal and produce a range of sounds. The more common fawn call is the fawn in distress. A fawn in distress call is a frantic and agitated sound frequently made by fawns that have been separated from their mothers or are being hunted by a predator. Fawn distress is a good call for early season bow hunting when fawns are still with their mothers. Typically, does will respond to this call regardless if they have fawns with them or not. Use the Fawn Bleat call by Bone Collector to fill an early season doe tag or to possibly bring some pre-rut does in with a prowling buck on their tail.
Important Deer Calling Tips
Here are a few important deer calling tips to remember for this hunting season.
- Be ready. Far too many times, you hit the right call and in an instant, a buck responds. Have your bow ready and arrow nocked or your gun in a prepared position prior to starting your deer calling sequence.
- Start soft. Many hunters make the mistake of blind calling as loud as possible with whatever deer calls they have. Starting into a call loudly can drive away any bucks that you may not have seen nearby. Start soft and gradually build up to project the sound out farther.
- Mix it up. Do not rely on just one deer call. Deer calling should change throughout the season and you should be able to transition from one call to another depending on the time of year and the deer hunting situation.
3 Situations When to Stop Deer Calling
Usually, using a call while hunting for deer has no ill effects. There are, however, certain situations where you want to not use calls for deer.
- A buck is coming towards you. The last thing you want is to move or call again to give him a fix on your position. Let him continue on his own if he is coming in.
- Deer, and certainly bucks, that are just out of range but on alert should not be called to. If they’re already alert (either from earlier calling or other factors in the area), additional calling could tip them off that something’s not right and it might be time to move on.
- At times, a buck may not be interested in any of your deer calling. As such, do not continue to call to him as it may negatively affect his patterns the next time he is in the area.
Improving your Whitetail Calling
No matter what level your calling skills are at, it is important to understand when to use a call, brush up on some deer calling tips, and practice before you plan to hit the woods. Along with this deer calling guide, Conquer the Call is a state-of-the-art software system that gives hunters from all levels the ability to take lessons and put their deer calling skills against world champions and top hunting professionals like Michael Waddell. The Bone Collector version of Conquer the Call takes you through many of the deer calls discussed in this article including the doe bleat, snort wheeze, and trailing grunt. This version also gives you inside field secrets on deer calling, as well as an exclusive Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) section on whitetails and their habits.
To wrap up, deer calls are tools every deer hunter should be comfortable with. Each call is effective in different situations, either by themselves or combined with one or more other calls to paint a realistic picture to whitetails in you hunting area. That said, hunting is hunting and with that there are no guarantees. But understanding how, when, and why bucks and does communicate together with the right calls for deer can put you in a position to connect this season.
Like this Deer Calling Guide? Check out our turkey version Below:
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