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Vocalizations and Calling Deer

          A recent very unscientific poll I conducted with some colleagues who are also passionate deer hunters revealed what I had suspected. Of the fifteen hunters I polled I asked one simple question; “Do you ever use calls when deer hunting?” the response was an overwhelming “no”. Frankly I was a bit surprised by this response. The breakdown was, “never” by nine of them, “rarely/sometimes” by four and “often” by two.

One respondent said, “I don’t want them to know I am there at all.” And others followed this by saying, “I am afraid it will scare the deer off.” While I understand their concern, and it is real to them, the science behind their feelings are weak.

Studies indicate that deer are very vocal animals, and communicate often with one another in a complex manner. Calling, also known as grunting is one of the methods they use to communicate. Hunters who employ vocalization on their hunts are actually more likely to stimulate and inquisitive response, or one of aggression by mature bucks.

During the pre-rut and peak of the rut, grunting is a great way to put a mature buck in your sights. As a matter of emphasis, of the dozens of mature bucks I have personally killed, over 95% have been brought in using grunts, and other calls. It may be true that grunting does not work all of the time, in fact it may not work half of the time. But when it does work, it works great! Let’s look at some situations when calling, and how calling will help you during your hunts.

Understanding the different kinds of calls deer make: First, there is no way to fully cover this in this piece, but for hunting purposes there are some basics.

Social Grunt: This is a low, short grunt that is a greeting to other deer. Most hunters have heard this from deer in the past. It is common for groups of deer to use this when gathering. Hunters can employ this grunt when nothing is around to see if it will draw in a deer that is right out of range, or sight. It is also a good one to see how deer will respond to the call.

Aggressive Grunt: This is a much longer and louder grunt than the social grunt. It is not too deep, but definitely a buck grunt. This is the one that I really like to use during the rut. I will blow this one often and loud. It goes like GGRRRRRRUUUUNNNNTTT, GGRRRRRRUUUUNNNNNNTT.  A series of four or five is good. Then I wait a few minutes and if nothing shows up, I do it again, but this time very loud. Using this technique I have called deer over 150 yards right to the base of my tree. I have seen that while they may hear a softer call at those distances, they do not react the same as when it is loud.

Breeding bellow: This is a doe sound, often created by the use of a can type call. It tells nearby bucks she is ready and willing to breed. I will use the breeding bellow, followed by an aggressive grunt to really crank things up.

Snort-Wheeze: the most aggressive call. It challenges bucks to a fight, this is really best used when a mature buck is in sight and he is not responding to other calls. A challenge snort wheeze will often be the turning point.

During a hunt, a good method to use when deciding to call deer is to let light get up pretty well before starting. Too many times I have grunted right at first light and had bucks run right under my tree and I could not see them well enough to get a good shot or to determine their age. Begin with the social grunt. A cadence of four or five with a pause of a minute or two and repeat. After this I wait fifteen minutes and will call for the duration of the hunt every ten to fifteen minutes. It is my personal belief that it does not scare deer away, if anything it puts them at ease, relaying that there are other deer in the area.

If you have not used vocalizations to call deer you are missing a great opportunity to put a mature buck in your sights. Give it a try, and you will be surprised at the response. Like was said earlier, it does not work all of the time but when it does, it is exciting and exhilarating.