Deer Calls | Rattling in Bucks 101

Deer Calls for Rattling in Bucks During the Rut

November marks the unofficial start to the rut in many parts of the country. Deer hunters build anticipation all year long for these few weeks. Deer hunting the rut gives you a chance at scoring a mature whitetail that may only have been seen on the occasional Bushnell trail camera photo. A buck’s primal instincts kick in full force in the early weeks in November, which has these heavyweights coming out of the shadows. With the right deer calls, you may very well be able to get one into bow range.

Rattling in bucks is one of the most productive calls for deer you can have in your arsenal during the rut. Deer calling with a set of antlers or a rattle bag to mimic the sound of two bucks in conflict can work throughout the course of a hunting season. Early in the season, bucks are less aggressive and more curious. As the phases of the rut start, bucks begin to build aggression as they search for does and defend any of those they have already found in heat. This is when to rattle for whitetails if you want to call in dominant bucks. To start, there are two different options when it comes to rattling deer calls.

Options for Rattling in Bucks

Basically, rattling comes down to making a loud crashing sound to mimic two bucks connecting horns. Most anything can be banged together to create a similar sound, but the difference between getting a buck interested and spooking him is a good deer call. Rattling for whitetails has to sound authentic and loud enough in order for it to work. When it comes to rattling deer calls, you have two options.

Synthetic Antlers 

Even though real deer antlers for rattling are as close as you can come to the sounds of bucks fighting, synthetic antlers are not that far off and have several advantages. Synthetic antlers are anything other than real antlers used as deer calls for rattling. These can include rattle bags, replica antlers and smaller rattling systems like the Knight and Hale’s Pack Rack Rattling System. The advantages to synthetic antlers are, that in most cases, they produce good quality sounds but are more versatile in the woods than a set of real antlers.


Real Antlers

You can use antlers from previous bucks you have harvested, scavenge for them after the season by shed hunting or you can purchase them. Different size antlers offer different sounds and can be more or less productive in different circumstances. Generally speaking, use large antler sets for the rut and stick to small antlers in the pre-rut and earlier in the season.

If however, you want to avoid painful holes and gashes in your hands and fingers, take a look at your other options…



Basic Rattling Techniques for Bucks

Rattling in bucks with either real or synthetic antlers can get as simple or as complex as you want. However, there are a few basic techniques to understand when rattling in bucks during the rut.

  1. Wind Direction. Even in the heat of the rut, a mature buck is likely to approach your rattling call from downwind. Make sure you know the wind direction, have proper scent control and plan your setup appropriately or the calling is worthless.
  1. Build Momentum. Start your rattling session off slow and quiet for two reasons. One, you do not want to spook any nearby bucks and two most buck sparring sessions do not start fast and furious but rather build up to a fierce brawl.
  1. Realism Wins. As you go through rattling scenarios, use grunt calls and other deer calls to up the realism factor. Also, rotate your body as you are calling and scrape the ground to imitate the impression of bucks moving around.

  1. Be Reasonable. Stick to calling sessions that start off slow and quietly and last for about a minute. Wait about five minutes and come back with a louder and more aggressive rattling session for about two to four minutes. Spread out rattling sessions about every hour so bucks have time to approach.
  1. Stay Committed. If you are hunting the rut on a property that holds bucks, then stay committed to rattling. The best time to rattle for whitetails is from daybreak to mid-morning, but it is worth rattling on and off throughout the day. More than likely a passing buck will end up within earshot and sneak in to investigate.

Successfully Rattling in Bucks

Calling in bucks depends on several factors. The first is timing. The optimal time for using rattling as a deer call is at the end of pre-rut and up to the peak breeding period of the rut in your area. Once a mature whitetail pairs with a hot doe, he will stay with her for several days and deer calls like rattling will be unlikely to draw him away. This is why as peak breeding hits, rattling is less effective than the days and weeks leading up to that time.

Breeding cycles contribute to how successful you are at rattling in bucks, but hunting pressure is another factor that contributes to bringing in bucks. The more pressure in an area the less likely a buck, especially a mature buck, is to come into a rattling session. In these situations, rattling may be more effective the week before the woods fill with hunters who are out for peak rut action or in states that open gun season during this time of the year.

By far your location has the biggest impact on how successful rattling will be. Obviously, if there are no bucks where you are hunting then any deer calls including rattling will be a waste of time. But location is more than hunting where there are bucks. The doe-to-buck ratio has a big impact on how well rattling will be, regardless of the time of year or hunting pressure. Rattling in areas with high doe numbers and fewer mature bucks make rattling inefficient. In areas with a high doe population, bucks do not have to compete as aggressively for breeding rights, which takes rattling out of the picture. This is one scenario when to grunt for deer or try other calls such as a doe bleat instead.

Bonus rattling tip for deer hunting the rut – Target active scrapes for rattling. Areas like these have obvious rut signals for the area meaning bucks are looking for a challenge. If you are limited to spots and your hunting areas do not have any scrapes yet, make mock scrapes loaded up with Code Blue® Screamin’ Heat Estrous.

Rattling in bucks during the rut is one exciting way to close the distance on a mature whitetail. With rattling deer calls and a good understanding of the basics, chances are you might be able to entice that shooter buck close enough.

1 reply
  1. Kristian Hosford
    Kristian Hosford says:

    I have found a rattle bag works well. I have carried one for years and are inexpensive also less bulky than real. Gradually getting into a simulated sparring match or brawl and staying hard at it from daybreak until 8:00/9:00 am has been successful with added random deep tone grunts and weeze. The bucks that I have seen come in to these situations are very aggressive such to the point of sounding like a bull moose charging in thru the trees at times. Where I live in Maine it has depended what end of the state I’m in and what week in November to use this tactic. Usually up north it seems to start good a week earlier than the far south end of the state. The tail end of the first week into the third for up north and second to third week for the south starts good.


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