One October morning in South Dakota, I saw a 150-class buck duck into a ditch with a doe. I clicked my rattling horns four times. The big boy charged 10 yards out of the cover, stamped his foot and looked for the interlopers before he ducked back into the cover with his girl. I clicked them again, harder and louder. He bolted out and ran 40 yards closer, but he was still 50 yards out of bow range. While I didn’t get him, at least I had a chance and a fun close encounter. The point: You have nothing to lose by calling to any rutting buck you see; sometimes a few horn clacks or grunts are all it takes.
If you were a horny buck which sound would you run to? The clatter of antlers, a deep-throated buck grunt or the meeaaa, meeaaa of a hot doe. You won’t hear the estrus bleat very often if ever in the woods (I’ve heard it only a few times in all my years of hunting) but it’s worth a shot in the rut. The bleat is easiest to make on a can call; just turn it up and back down to fill the woods with sexy bleats that might bring a 10-pointer running. Stranger things have happened.
Let’s say one morning soon you hear loud, deep-pitched grunts resonating from a thicket or draw. Get ready! Chances are a buck has cornered a doe and he’s courting her with “gargling grunts” (biologists call them tending grunts). If the gal is not ready to stand and breed, she’ll bust out of there with the crazed boy hot on her heels. They might come past you if you’re lucky, or circle back into bow range. Stop the buck with a grunt—draw before you call—and shoot if you can.
Whether rattling or “blind grunting” (no buck in sight), set up against thick cover and with the sun at your back. You’ll be hidden in the shadows, and if a buck responds it will be easy to see when sunlight glints off his antlers or hide. Better yet, you’ll trick a buck into thinking deer are fighting, tending or breeding does in brush 50 to 100 yards behind you. That forces him to keep looking, listening and, most importantly, moving your way and into bow range.