The best time to rattle horns on your North Carolina hunting land is during the pre-rut phase, since this is the time when bucks are establishing breeding rights. During the season, it’s best to rattle horns and use grunts sparingly. Mature bucks normally try to circle downwind when they hear a hunter’s rattles or grunts. Be cautious of scent, particularly what you leave behind. Sometimes a buck will come back to your rattling location later to check things out. Scent in your hunting area will make an already cautious animal much harder to hunt.
It’s important to pick the right times to rattle horns and use grunts, and even more importantly, when not to. Sometimes, your initial rattle will spark interest in a buck, but he won’t immediately come to check it out. Many times, you’ll need a great deal of patience after rattling horns to bring a buck within shooting distance. If you get the buck’s attention with the first rattle, hang up the horns and wait. If he’s still within earshot, don’t rattle the horns again as you may draw attention to yourself and spook him. It could take him hours to finally get himself within shooting range.
During pre-rut, you’ll want to adopt a rattling strategy. Once you are in your tree stand and comfortable, start your first rattling sequence. You can start off with three or four soft grunts with your grunt call, wait a couple minutes, then follow up by grinding and twisting a pair of rattling antlers together for about 30 seconds. Wait 30 seconds and then work the antlers together for another 30 seconds. In order to sound as natural as possible, you will want to wait at least two hours before repeating this sequence.
Remember to position your stand upwind of a river, hollow or open field. This can prevent a responding buck from circling downwind of you. Practice your rattles and grunts at home before heading out onto your North Carolina hunting property and make sure you have the sound and sequence in order. Don’t scare a buck with unnatural rattling or grunts!