Deer are creatures of communication, they communicate with their entire bodies. For instance, deer use their tails, ears, eyes, posture, and vocal communication to interact. Like any other predator and prey relationship, hunters try to mimic deer’s communication to manipulate their behavior in hopes of having a shot opportunity.
One form of imitation that has harnessed results for hunters since the dawn of hunting, is rattling. Rattling is using antlers or some other device to make a series of short, sharp knocking sounds that emulate the clanking of antlers. Tricking deer with a rattling device can be done during the entire season, but is most effective from pre-rut to post-rut. Discover how to rattle in more bucks this deer season with these 5 tips
1. Concentrate on Wind Direction
The single most influential variable when it comes to deer hunting is the wind. Playing the wind dictates plans and tactics in almost every aspect of deer hunting. Rattling in bucks is no different when it comes to maximizing opportunities.
When setting up for a rattling sequence be certain set up downwind. A buck’s natural instinct is to come from down wind. There are few reasons why bucks want to survey the situation with their nose before stepping into a fight.
First, deer wish to learn what deer are fighting. Is it two young bucks or a two mature bucks? Their nose will help them decipher between the two. The second reason deer instinctively come from down wind, when hearing a fight or rattling sequence, is because the buck is trying to sniff out the doe the two bucks are fighting over.
Using scents and lures in combination to a rattling sequence can be a great way to up the ante and improve the realism of a hunter’s efforts. The added scent can help cover human scent and can further deceive a target buck that another mature deer is in its home area. By playing the wind with dominant buck scents and a good rattling sequence can help fool the wisest of old bucks.
Having an undetectable scent is going to exponentially increase a hunter’s chance in any scenario, but especially rattling. When setting up for a rattling sequence, with wind direction in mind, try to have a set up near a field edge where the buck would have to walk in the field and expose itself in order to stay downwind when approaching the ratting call.
2. Choose the Right Tool
What’s the saying? There’s more than one way to catch a rabbit. The same is true when choosing the right tools to rattle in more big bucks. The most popular tools for rattling in more bucks include real antlers, rattle bags, and rattle calls. Each tool can earn a spot in any hunter’s pack for different reasons. Let’s look at what might be best for different types of situations.
Real antlers can clearly be one of the most realistic sounding tools when it comes to rattling in deer. But what’s the best size of antlers to use? The answer is ultimately up to the hunter to decide and can be dictated by the region. In the midwest where there are heavy hitters with massive antlers, it’s safe to use 135-145” class antler set. Using a heavy set of antlers will scare away other immature whitetails, but challenge the dominant buck in the area. The 135-145” range is a safe buffer zone to still trick in mature bucks. Let’s face it, during the rut it’s hard for any buck to ignore the sound of antlers crashing together or locked in an intense confrontation.
However carrying real antlers can be a major inconvenience. Real antlers don’t fit nicely in a bag and can clang together when walking in or from a simple shift of a wind. If that isn’t a major bother real antlers are a great tool to have in your arsenal.
Rattle bags are great to throw in a pocket or bag when heading the woods. The versatility they offer and being lightweight are great attributes when considering what device to choose to rattle in more bucks. Although most rattle bags are made from synthetic pieces or blocks of wood, they still provide a quality sound that makes it hard for bucks to resist.
Although rattle calls are synthetic, they still offer a great sounding call that mimics the sound of real antlers clashing. Who would guess that two pieces of small plastic could harness such big results? A rattle call is extremely easy to use and virtually weightless when compared to real antlers. If hauling around a set of antlers sounds like a major inconvenience, do a simple search for rattle calls and you’ll find more than you need.
3. Know the Right Time
Knowing the importance of wind direction and learning what tool to use are two big steps toward success. But knowing when the best time to bust out a rattling device is crucial. Research suggest that the greatest number of bucks respond to rattling in the morning. Afternoons ranked in second and midday being the worst time. Cool cloudy days with little to no wind are the best days to trick a buck with a fake battle. Less wind allows for deer to locate the rattling sequence and the lower temperatures encourage deer movement. If these conditions don’t align, it might be a good idea to wait for a better day.
4. Don’t be Timid with Rattling Techniques During the Rut
Have you ever seen deer fight during the rut on video or person? Yeah, they go at it. In some instances, they attempt to literally kill each other to show dominance in their area. This leads to why it doesn’t work when hunters rattle during the rut and just tap the antlers hoping some curiously tempered buck comes strolling into the area. It’s the rut, buck’s testosterone levels are peaked and the more aggressive rattling sequence, the better. Some believe, hunters should literally be tired and out of breath after a rattling sequence. The louder a hunter rattles, the more ground the sequence will cover, increasing the odds of being successful. It’s important to note rattling aggressively might spook younger, less mature, bucks that are concerned with getting whooped by a more mature deer. Try rattling for 30 seconds to a minute per sequence every hour during peak rut.
Some hunters rattle from the ground in order to rustle leaves and create more commotion to make the sequence sound as real as possible. When deer truly fight, they thrash through brush, are vocal, and fill the woods with noise. In order to duplicate, hunters should do the same leaving no stone unturned. A helpful tip to avoid painful pinching skin between the antlers is to cut off the brow tines and where gloves. By doing so, it’ll allow for audible rattling and will catch the attention of more bucks.Performing all parts of rattling sequence can be difficult to do solo and leads into the next tip.
Having a hunting buddy is great in general, but when it come to rattling in wise bucks it can be crucial for success. One successful strategy is to have the caller, or rattler, in this case, stage the sequence upwind of the hunter’s location. Once everyone is in their positions, the caller will perform a loud and aggressive rattle sequence grabbing the attention of rutting bucks in the area. In theory, the aggressing buck will come downwind of the caller allowing for the hunter to have more sightings and shot opportunities. It’s crucial for the caller to find something to break up the movement from rattling. Finding a clump of trees with three or four trees growing nearby is a great place to stay concealed while rattling. The two most common reasons a rattling sequence goes awry is that the deer caught the wind or saw the caller.
5. Get a Hunting Buddy
A popular setup when using a caller and shooter duo is to have the shooter in a tree stand while the caller is posted on the ground. Since the caller is on the ground, it enables the caller to thrash branches, rustle leaves, and rattle aggressively. The elevated hunter will have a much better view allowing for more shot opportunities and a better view to get a bead on a whitetail buck.
Tying It Together
Rattling in bucks can be an art form, but when playing the wind, picking the right rattle call, rattling properly during the rut, and effectively setting up a sequence with a hunting partner you’ll be well on your way to rattling in more bucks. There’s one more thing to remember, don’t be so excited to try these tactics that you burn out an area from educating the deer. Try to keep the rattling to a minimum during early season and increase your rattling rate as the season turns from pre-rut to peak rut. The best time for these tips to put a buck in the freezer or on the wall is the rut when their judgment are geared around breeding and being territorial.
Rattling in deer can be a great skill to have in a hunter’s back pocket, but don’t forget there are other ways to deceive a shooter buck.
Photo Credits: Flatline Whitetails
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