FIVE COMMON MISTAKES IN CALLING DEER
By Bill Miller
Obviously, the goal in calling deer is to bring them to you, not chase them away. Yet that’s exactly what you’ll do if you make these common mistakes.
- Start Too Loud — What if someone snuck into your room as you slept and snapped on the television as loud as it would go? What would your reaction be? You’d jump out of your skin and get out of the room as fast as possible.
That’s how a buck feels if you sneak undetected into your stand carefully positioned near his bedding area and start grunting and smashing your rattling antler’s as hard as you can! You’ll shock him into bolting out the back door, perhaps never to be seen again.
Whether grunting, bleating or rattling, every sequence should begin with soft calls. That way any unseen, close deer won’t be spooked by the sudden loud noise. Make soft calls then give it a couple of minutes to see if you get any initial reaction from deer in the immediate area. If not, it’s probably safe to step up the volume to attract the attention of more distant deer.
- Call Too Often — While deer are more vocal than most hunters think, they don’t constantly make noise. When they make either passive or aggressive sounds, they generally do it for a reason. Put your calls into sequences and give ample time for deer to respond.
Another reason not to over call is because wild animals, including deer, are adept at pinpointing the source of any sound. When you see a deer standing still, but its ears are turning in every direction, it’s trying to determine exactly where a sound came from. By calling just enough to get a deer’s attention, but not let it figure out exactly where you’re at, you play on the animal’s curiosity. It may move closer seeking the source of the sound it can no longer hear.
- Rely on Calling Alone — Calling is best used in combination with other attractants. Using decoys and scents in combination with calling sets up the most realistic situation for the approaching deer. You’re appealing to multiple senses – sound, sight, and smell. If you are set up near a food source, then you’re even appealing to its sense of taste in a way. The more of a deer’s senses you can convince “everything is cool,” the better chance you have of pulling that deer into range.
- Don’t Practice Enough — While the deer’s vocabulary might not be as big or complex as the turkey’s or the duck’s, you should practice your deer calling just as much as any other type of game calling. Practicing with a CD or a game calling app on your phone will help you learn to properly make the sounds as well as when to use which kind of sound.
For example, bucks make several sounds like the sniff and the snort wheeze that are intended to threaten other bucks and warn them off before a fight breaks out. If you sniff or snort wheeze at a smaller, subordinate buck chances are he’ll hightail it. If you wheeze like an old matriarchal doe, you might put all the deer in earshot on alert.
- Never Really Fight — There are two kinds of rattling. Tickling the tips of the horns together imitates bucks sparring. All bucks spar any time they are in hard horn. It’s a social thing far more than competition. Sparring should play a part in your calling strategy, but as the rut is about to heat up dominant bucks will out and out fight. This is when they have the epic battles you see in YouTube videos.
When bucks like this fight, it’s a real knock-down-drag-’em-out brawl, and there’s a lot more to it than just butting antlers. The bucks push, shove, grunt, kick, break brush, bawl, gasp, and paw the ground. If you want to rattle in a dominant buck at this prime time of year, then you’re best to mimic the whole fight. Working with a partner is a great idea in this type of calling. One of you concentrates on making all the fight sounds as realistic as possible, while the other stays alert to shoot the buck you hope comes to check out the brawl.