Almost every whitetail hunter has a deer call on them when they head into the wild. Somewhere in a backpack, deep in a coat pocket, or even hung around their neck is a grunt tube, bleat call, rattling call and sometimes all three. It’s almost as essential as camo and scent spray because it’s been proven to work time and time again.
For something so uniquely agreed upon by hunters it seems many think a few blasts should bring in all the booners in the woods on a string. When it doesn’t, they figure there are no deer in the area and it’s probably time to pack it in until later. Knowing how and when to use that call you bought can be just as deadly and put as many deer on the ground as the sharpest broad head or most accurate rifle.
If you have little to no experience with deer calls you might be wondering what to put in your bag of tricks. Most hunters will use a grunt tube, a can or tube that will make a doe bleat, and a call that will imitate two bucks fighting with their antlers by making a rattling sound. Here we break it down and give you an overview of each.
Grunt Tube – This imitates the grunt a buck will make to vocalize with other deer. This is a great tool and the most widely used, but as the hunting season changes so should your calling style. Use soft, subtle calls in the early season and ramp it up to challenging aggressive calls during the rut. Follow that aggression by taking your foot off the gas and work back to softer calls in the late season when bucks might be wary to investigate a larger sounding buck that may have knocked him around a few weeks earlier.
Doe Bleats – Whether you’re looking to balance your buck to doe ratio, or just fill the freezer a doe bleat call is great to have all season long. Imitating doe vocalizations, or bleats by using a can call which is a small cylinder you turn upside down then back over or tube you blow your air through can be helpful most times of the season. Doe bleats can help to draw curious does into range given their nature to be grouped together. During the rut, a doe bleat can be downright deadly for a rutting buck because he’s inclined to check out a possible mate he hears from a distance. Like a grunt tube call, start soft in the early season getting more aggressive as the rut approaches and finally arrives using the call about every 25 minutes.
Fawn Bleats – Possibly the most underused call in the deer woods is the high-pitched fawn bleat or fawn bawl. Useful for bringing in concerned does to a future member of the herd in distress this tactic can also bring in any bucks that may be trailing that concerned doe into range as well.
Rattling – The sound of two bucks fighting for the right to breed a doe could be argued as the soundtrack of the rut. Heard from farther and clearer in the woods, it tells any other willing bachelor there’s an opportunity worth fighting for so go and check it out. Whether you’re using a set of antlers or a rattling bag always be sure to look for any nearby deer before calling so as not to get busted by your movement. Start softly for a minute or so, look for any deer that may have come in, then be more aggressive to be heard from all corners of the woods.
Learning to speak deer can be challenging but very rewarding by expanding your hunting skills and helping to fill your tag. Remember, calling deer is situation based so change your calling style and strategy to match the time of the season and the behavior of the deer. If the deer is coming your way don’t keep calling, let them come. If they are close enough to see you or not see another deer when they would hear your call, hold off. If they start to take off its hail-Mary time so throw what you’ve got at them in the hope it will pique their curiosity and come back to you. Finally, when calling always remember to check your downwind side as bucks especially will go there to smell the deer they think they hear.