As avid deer hunters, we’ll take all the help we can get when it comes to bagging a trophy buck. And experienced deer hunters know that one of the most effective tools in the arsenal is the deer call — which can be especially advantageous when a buck is in sight and we’re looking to draw him in closer for the kill.
But which deer call is best to use in different deer-hunting scenarios? Read on for our rundown on the four main types of deer calls — and our guidance on when to leverage them to bring home the buck:
The Grunt Deer Call
Whitetails use a range of sounds to communicate with fellow deer, and the grunt — which bucks employ to assert their dominance over does or other bucks in the area — is one of the most popular and effective whitetail sounds for hunters to imitate. This is especially true during the rut, when bucks are likely to take the vocalization as a sign that another buck has found a doe that is looking to breed. Bucks also regularly employ the grunt at other times during the rut, such as when they’re rubbing trees, making scrapes or fighting.
- Grunt calls can be effective for luring bucks to the area when none are in sight. When employing such blind calls, we advise loudly delivering two to three consecutive grunts every half-hour or so, with your notes varying from long to short.
- When a buck is in sight but out of shooting range, a soft grunt can be an effective way to draw him in closer. For these calls, deliver quick bursts when the buck is facing in the opposite direction. It’s critical to lay off of these calls when the buck is facing toward you though — as this is a near certain way to give away your position. Once you’ve caught the buck’s attention and he starts moving your way, slowly put the call away and start getting ready to take your shot.
The Rattle Deer Call
Perhaps the second most utilized deer call after the grunt, the rattle simulates the sound of bucks fighting during the rut by mimicking the sound of colliding racks.
The key to using the rattle call effectively is knowing the current phase of the rut. During the pre-rut, when young bucks are feeling out their position in the chain of dominance, light sparring is common — so light rattling is likely to prove most effective in drawing in a potential shooter. When the peak of rut season arrives, bucks tend to be more aggressive in their fighting over does, calling for hunters to employ heavier rattling with their calls to imitate more intense face-offs. After the rut, fighting between bucks becomes much less common — but rattling can still draw the interest of bucks, as some are still fighting to vie for late-budding does that are just coming into heat.
Pro tip: Whatever the phase of season, be careful not to overdo the rattle call, as this can sound unnatural. If a dominant buck is nearby, give a few short rattles (with higher or lower intensity based on the phase of the rut) to see if he might be in the mood to come your way to exhibit his dominance. When no bucks are in sight, try mixing in other calls (such as grunts) between your rattling sequences, then sit back and wait to see if you’ve lured that big buck in.
The Bleat Deer Call
Imitating the communications of does and fawns, this call emits a drawn-out sound similar to a cow’s moo. When it’s employed in combination with a grunt call during the rut, it can be used to lure a mature buck into shooting range by convincing him that a rival buck is chasing one of his in-heat does. The bleat call can also be helpful when used on its own, as it can be effective in attracting does — who could bring trailing bucks into shooting range along with them.
Pro tip: When using a bleat-grunt combo to lure in a buck, start with a few bleats, wait a few seconds, then deliver another bleat followed by a grunt call. This will give the impression of another buck defending a doe, which will often entice the buck you’re targeting to come within shooting range.
The Snort Wheeze Deer Call
This call mimics the dominance vocalization of a mature buck who’s agitated and aggressively seeking to intimidate his nearby subordinates. Consisting of two quick, intense bursts of air trailed by a long, drawn-out one, it’s a sound that’s not very commonly heard in the wild — and as such, it’s not a call that’s meant for everyday use by hunters, either. But when used selectively at the right time, generally just before or during the rut, it can help a hunter capitalize on a bad-ass buck’s territorial instincts to draw him in. And when it does work, the buck it delivers tends to be a trophy.
Pro tip: Use this call as a last resort when other call types have proven ineffective. When you’re dealing with a short-tempered, highly territorial buck who is out of range and simply isn’t responding to a grunt or rattle call, this call could bring him storming straight to your setup looking to show his rival who’s boss.