There are all sorts of deer hunters out there. Some do nothing more than enter the woods each year to sit in the same old tree stand theyve used for many seasons while relying on nothing more than luck to cross paths with a deer they consider to be a shooter.
Others go all out by putting tons of effort into their hunting. They spend countless hours cultivating food plots and scouting their hunting grounds for the perfect stand location.
When its time to actually hunt, they are methodical about staying scent free and, once theyve climbed into the stand, they utilize all sorts of tactics for pulling deer to them. Im referring to things like rattling to mimic the sound of two bucks sparring and various vocalizations from the deer world by use of a grunt call.
It was way back in my high school days that grunt tubes first became popular. Outdoorsmen in general have always been suckers for anything that promised to increase their success rate in the field, and back then I was convinced that these so called deer calls were nothing more than a gimmick.
Boy, was I wrong.
In those days, I had no idea that deer actually have their own language. I hadnt ever really given much thought to it before, but it all just seemed kind of hokey to me. Imagine my surprise when I learned that I was the real idiot and that deer do in fact talk amongst themselves.
Today, that fact is common knowledge within the hunting community. But more often than not, hunters make the wrong sounds at the wrong time with the wrong amount of volume and end up shooing more deer away from their hunting setup than actually aiding their efforts.
Before you use calls to talk to deer, you just might want to have a little understanding of the language.
To no ones surprise, deer dont have the ability speak words. They instead use things such as pitch, tone, volume and tempo to form variations of the somewhat deep, guttural vocalizations that theyre capable of. Just as with humans, the males or bucks tend to have a much lower voice than the doe.
Lets take a look at the primary vocalizations that every hunter needs to know by heart. All of them are quite easy to perform with most of the calls that are on the market today. Some of them are made specifically for buck or doe sounds while others are adjustable and can sound like both.
• The basic grunt: Whether performed by a buck or doe, this is their way of simply saying, Here I am. Come on in. Just as when were talking to other people, the volume can have a huge effect on the response that you get and grunting too loudly will usually alarm them that something isnt right.
Instead, keep it soft. Remember that a deers hearing is far and away better than ours and the slightest sounds can be heard by them from a great distance. When imitating a buck, make one or two easy, soft grunts in succession that dont sound the least bit aggressive.
For a doe grunt, youll want to space them out a bit more with a slightly longer pause between them. A good rule of thumb is to limit the string of grunts to no more than three.
• The contact call: This is the does way of gathering her clan when theyve become separated, and its often used after the group has been alarmed and sent running in various directions.
To copy it, make a couple of fairly loud calls somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 seconds apart, then wait.
• The doe bleat: Like the basic doe grunt, the bleat is another way for a doe to make contact with other deer, but many biologists believe it to be a sound thats easily recognizable by her own fawns, whether it is an attempt to keep them together or as a way of reassuring them shes near.
Bleats are a higher-pitched sound than grunts and theyre mimicked by making anywhere from one to three soft calls with brief pauses between them. Each bleat is usually only one to two seconds long.
The rest of the deer sounds Ill cover are ones that only occur in relation to the rut or breeding period. Using any of these at other times is a surefire way to send the deer scurrying into the next county, so youll want to be sure that your timing is right before trying them.
The estrus bleat: Any time a buck hears one of these, its guaranteed to draw his interest. Thats because this is a does way of telling them that shes nearing the point that shell be open to their advances. Although the sound itself is the same as a does regular bleat, the estrus bleat is louder and drags out much longer.
To perform it, youll want a continuous bleat of anywhere from three to five seconds that tails off at the end. Its fairly common for hunters to do a couple of them in a row with a brief pause between them, but theres nothing wrong with limiting it to just one. T
• The buck bawl: One of the strangest sounds that bucks make, this sounds very much like a moan and thats somewhat fitting. What he means by it is, Im a lonely boy and sure would like a little companionship.
To re-create it properly, youll need to get your hands involved. Cup them around the exit end of your grunt call, opening and closing them as you blow into the call for about three seconds.
This is usually a moderately loud call but the tones will change as your hands open and shut. This is because what youre actually doing is creating a sound chamber with your hands that allows the moaning noise to be made.
• The breeding bellow: When a doe is finally ready to accept a bucks advances and breed, this is how she lets him know. This vocalization is pretty loud, sounding like a couple of back-to-back estrus bleats followed immediately by a does version of the bawl.
When attempting to pull this one off, youll again need to make a chamber with your hands. Make the call a couple of times and then put it down.
• The tending grunt: Like the males of most every species, bucks can get downright jealous when they think another guy is making time with their girl. Thats why the tending grunt is a great way to call the big boys in during the rut. This call is nothing more than a long series of soft, short grunts that bucks will make as theyre trotting behind a hot doe. In essence, hes telling her, Slow down, sweetheart. Ive got plans for us!
Pulling this one off is easy. Just make anywhere from eight to a dozen or more soft, short grunts in a row.
The biggest thing to remember about using calls for deer is that, just like when youre turkey hunting, youve got to resist the urge to call too much. When using any of the deer sounds that Ive talked about here, the safest bet is to always allow a good 20 minutes between calling sessions. Anything more than that and theyll be onto what youre trying to do.
Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter- @BHarveyOutdoors