Deer Calls and Scents for the Hunt
Fall is here, and deer hunters all across the country are putting plans into action to fill their tags. It’s a magical time of year, and you want to make the most of it. Time in the deer woods is cherished and invaluable; there is no price tag on experience, lessons learned, or woodsmanship when it comes to deer hunting. There are, however, tips and tactics when it comes to deer hunting, deer scents, and calling deer that will go a long way to filling your tag this fall.
Perhaps the best part of deer season is hunting the rut and its stages. Nothing influences the deer herd more than the annual breeding period, and the time period just before and just after the does come into estrus. The rutting period general falls somewhere near or on hunting seasons in most states, and it makes for some exciting action for sure! Whitetail bucks are at their most vulnerable during this time, and tools like calls and scents can be lethal if you put them into practice during your hunt.
Phases of the Rut
The pre-rut can be an amazing time in the deer woods. Bucks are beginning to move more and more during daylight hours with anticipation of the first estrus doe. Whitetail bucks begin to stake out their territory during this phase, establishing dominance over other bucks and laying claim to areas that does frequent. Pre-rut phase generally starts to heat up sometime in October and early November when bucks start making rubs, and establishing scrapes to make their presence known. Hunters in the field during the pre-rut can put the deer’s anticipation to work during the hunt to seal the deal with the help of calling and scent tactics.
Pre-Rut Calling Tactics
Calling during the pre-rut phase can be tricky. It’s important to take a buck’s temperature and read his body language when calling during the pre-rut. Light calling can be effective during the early stages of the pre-rut, but as the fall season drags on and the peak rut approaches, being more and more aggressive with calling can be amazingly effective. Remember to keep an eye on your downwind side, deer will approach to a call from the downwind if they can.
Vocalizations for the pre-rut
In the early weeks of the pre-rut, be sure and have a doe bleat in your pack. Calls like “The Little Can” by Primos produce a soft doe in estrus bleat that isn’t too aggressive and can be just the ticket to bring in a curious buck. Another effective call that deer hunters should never leave home without is the grunt. A grunt tube that is variable in tone, and able to produce both immature and dominant buck grunts is versatile and effective in many situations. Adding a snort wheeze to a dominant buck grunt can sometimes be just the medicine to put that bruiser buck over the edge and bring him in. Flextone’s all in one Boned Up Deer Call uses a variable reed to effectively produce young buck, mature buck, and doe bleats from the same call.
Rattling during the pre-rut
Another highly effective calling strategy for the pre-rut period is rattling. Depending on the buck to doe ratio in your hunting area, competition for the prime doe feeding and bedding areas can be tough between bucks. The sound of two sparring bucks is an interesting tactic that can be extremely effective. Try different scenarios like the sound of two bucks lightly sparring to a drop down drag out fight, and everything in between. Start lighter and softer, especially in the earlier season.
Rattling is an effective tool for deer hunters in the woods during all phases of the rut, but what works one day might not the next. Keep in mind a buck that has lost fights to a more dominant buck might not be interested in losing again. On the other hand, the dominant buck in the area may not be happy with two subordinate bucks fighting in his territory. Use a call that is quiet in your pack, versatile enough to rattle lightly, but tough enough to take the abuse of loud and aggressive calling. A rattle bag, like the Primos Big Bucks Bag, is a versatile call that is easy to use and quiet to pack in.
Deer live and die by their noses. It only makes sense for whitetail hunters to put scents to work to better their odds on a hunt. During the pre-rut, bucks are busy making and tending scrapes and rubs. Hunters can use this phase of the rut to their advantage by making fake scrapes, or freshening natural scrapes made by a buck in the area.
Using a product like Tinks #69 Doe-in-Rut lure can fire up a buck and get him using the area you are hunting during daylight hours. Take careful consideration of the prevailing wind, not only from your stand, but from the scrape with lure. Ideally, a buck will approach the scrape from downwind while remaining upwind from your hunting position.
During the peak-rut, any buck not with a doe is sure to be looking for a doe to breed. A tactic that is guaranteed to get the attention of any buck cruising by is a scent drag. It’s critical when deploying this tactic to wear scent free rubber boots, and to tuck your pant legs in to avoid laying down foreign scents that would alarm a deer.
To make a scent drag, dip a wick into your favorite doe in estrus lure, like this one from Code Blue. Attach the wick to a short length of cord or line and then to your boot. Drag the scented wick to the stand, effectively making a doe in estrus scent trail right to your stand. Make sure to approach you stand from the upwind side, then hang the wick in a tree upwind of your stand before settling in for your hunt.
By the time the post-rut rolls around, most of the does will have been bred. It will be about a month before the second estrus comes into full swing, and the transition can be tricky. In some ways, the post-rut is more like a pre-rut period between peak-rut and the second rut. The bucks have heard about every call in the book, at volumes and intensity not possible by real deer, but calling can still be effective.
Reading a bucks posture and body language during the post-rut is critical. Avoid blind calling, and cater to a buck you spot by starting soft and taking his temperature. A hot buck looking for action can be coaxed in using grunts and even rattling, but a cautious buck looking to recover lost calories is best hunted with soft bleats or no calling at all.
Deer in the post rut have been pushed around by hunters through two phases of the rut. Late season deer are on edge, and for good reason. Deploying a calming scent like EverCalm by ConQuest is one way to help put deer at ease in your hunting area. Calming scents work by distributing natural deer scents in an area, creating a calming effect that other deer are already nearby and the surroundings are safe.
When you get a chance to pursue your passion of deer hunting this fall, take into consideration the phase of the rut. Put calling and scent tactics to use during your hunts. Using a bucks natural drive to find and breed does during the rut is the key to hunting all phases of the rut, and deciding which calling and scent tactics will be most successful for your hunt.