It is easy for many hunters to overlook the doe bleat in light of a grunt call, but it can actually be very useful. There have been plenty of situations where I have been able to bring in bucks and does alike with a doe bleat. Not to say that the grunt is not great, and you will also have plenty of success with rattling, but the bleat will always have a place in my hunting pack.
The best time to use a bleat call to bring in a buck is during the very end of October and most of November, aka late pre-rut and the rut. During the earlier season, a doe bleat will likely bring in more does than bucks. Plus the bleat is an easy call to make with a bleat can or adjustable grunt call.
That being said, let’s dive deeper into the doe bleat to see what it really means and how we can use it to be more successful hunters.
What Does a Doe Bleat Mean?
Does are actually the most vocal of the two sexes. They use the bleat call all year long for multiple reasons. During most of the year, a bleat call is used as a way to communicate with other does, or to find each other again in the woods. Many times, does can get separated in the woods, when this happens they can let out a bleat, and the others will come their way. So it is basically a “HEY stay with me!”.
Fawns can also use the bleat call for a similar purpose. If the fawns get too far from their mother or are scared, they let out what is called a fawn bleat. Ideally, this will bring its mother back but can also bring in surrounding does that are not its mother. The motherly instincts of does will tell them to stay with this fawn until its mother comes back or adopt it as its own, which is necessary when nature takes the mother out.
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When the Bleat Call Is Most Effective
Notice I said, “most of the year” earlier, that is because during the rut the bleat has a totally new meaning. It can still be used to get the attention of other does, but they are all likely being chased by bucks and can not really regroup with the lone doe. So, instead, this bleat call is used to attract bucks when the doe is ready to breed. If she has managed to not be bred already, and she is in estrus, she will let out a bleat to get the attention of the bucks in the area, which brings them in to investigate the seemingly easy score.
So really you can try this call out during all phases of the rut. During the pre-rut, you may bring in a mix of does and bucks, but during the peak rut, you will likely only bring in bucks. Before the rut even takes place, I like to use it in September and early October, just to bring in a doe during bow season. Personally, I think you will have the most success in late November or early December when the second rut is flaring up. Any does still able to breed (which is what you are imitating) will attract a lot of buck attention.
How Do You Use a Doe Bleat?
This is when we can take advantage of a buck’s curiosity. If we let out one or two doe bleats and wait for a few minutes, we may start seeing some deer react to it. This works especially well in the late pre-rut and throughout most of the rut. It can also be a powerful tool in the second rut when there are not as many does in estrus.
This is a lot like blind grunt calling. Blindly grunt calling is a good strategy to use during the peak rut, but if it is not working the bleat call can be our golden ticket. The blind doe bleat can bring in many more deer in the right situation. Plus it is less aggressive than a grunt and is easy to make with a can.
I would recommend using a doe bleat once or twice every so often. You do not want to go crazy with it, but every hour or so it would not hurt to let a few bleats out and see what happens. Not all deer on every property react the same to calls.
I have hunted places where a grunt will bring bucks running in, properties where they could care less, and others where a grunt will send them running away. The same is true when I have tried out bleats, sometimes they bring in a ton of deer, and other times they do not work at all. You just have to try it out and see, but if you are using it reasonably, you cannot really do any harm.
The Types of Bleat Calls
The most common type of bleat call is the doe bleat can. These cans are easy to use, all you have to do is flip it upside down, put your finger on the hole on the bottom, and then flip it back over. The puck inside will make the bleat sound as it slides down. You can also get them on amazon fairly cheap, they even have a bigger version that makes a louder bleat that can be heard farther away.
Other than the cans, many of the grunt tubes on the market can also be adjusted to make a bleat sound. One of the nicest calls is the Extinguisher Deer Call from Deer Society. This is a great call that can be used to make just about any sound you would need, and I will be using it this season. It works by moving a slider on the side which moves a rubber ring up and down the reed, making a higher or lower pitch grunt.
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