Three Whitetail Deer Calls You Must Know How to Use
Ask any deer hunter, whether novice or experienced, which three whitetail deer calls they believe are the most essential calls to master, and you are likely to get a great variety of responses.
As well, reasons why one call may work better than another for any given hunter can be as diverse as the hunter’s ability to successfully mimic the nuances of a given call, the weather in a particular area of the country (which can dictate when rut begins and how long it lasts) and even the interest level of local bucks given other nearby diversions.
Having said this, we still feel strongly that these three essential whitetail deer calls are “must know” calls to add to your hunter’s arsenal, especially if you are a novice whitetail hunter who is just starting to learn the ropes to bag a successful kill!
Call 1: How Do You Use the "Grunt" Deer Call?
What makes this deer call so essential for hunting success is the seasons of rut season itself. Once the rut season unfolds to its peak, a buck may be responsive to just about any call that even hints at the presence of a breeding-ready doe.
But earlier or later in rut season, using a grunt call, which is at its core a social call, may arouse the interest of bucks for additional reasons beyond simply the chance to breed.
Here, it can be helpful to understand the ebb and flow of a typical deer rut season. As Antler King describes, depending on the weather and hunter opinion, the argument can be made that a full rut season cycle includes up to five sub-seasons within it:
- Early Pre-rut - In this early phase, bucks are rubbing their antlers and practice-sparring with other bucks. They may chase a doe or two, but mostly this activity is likely to occur after sundown. Here, a social grunt call may elicit a response where more aggressive calls might not.
- Late Pre-rut - In this late pre-rut phase, the does are finally starting to come into their own as being ready to breed. As the does go into heat, the bucks go crazy. Mature bucks are now out and about to designate "their" doe and ward off challengers.
- Peak rut - During peak rut season, the phrase of the day is "make a fawn." If a mature buck has chosen a doe who is late to enter heat, he won't be moving far from her side. Here, a social grunt call will play to your advantage because it may attract a doe who is entering heat....and she will bring all eligible bucks right along with her!
- Peak Rut wind-down - During the wind-down of peak rut season, now that dominant mature bucks and does have paired and mated, subordinate males and challengers are on the serious prowl for mates.
- Late Rut - The youngest does and bucks will pair during this final phase of a traditional rut season. As well, successful mature bucks are now intent on eating and packing on the pounds in earnest to survive the winter that approaches. They may feed as often as every four hours, so you can still attract them with a social grunt where a breeding-challenge type grunt might not arouse any response.
Call 2: How Do You Use the "Antler Rattle/Sparring" Deer Call?
To you, the sound of antlers rattling says, “oh good, my prey is close by.” To a buck deer, the sound of antlers rattling says, “a potential challenger is close by whom I can practice sparring with.”
In rut season, practice sparring is absolutely essential to ensure success in meeting, guarding and then mating with a doe. There will be hot competition that goes on 24 hours per day, seven days per week until the does pass out of their heat cycle. So any buck who wants a serious shot at rut season success is going to make sure to engage in several practice sparring rounds before things get real.
Why is practice sparring so essential? During sparring, according to Knight and Hale, all of the following goals can be accomplished:
- Strengthening each buck's relevant muscle groups (neck and shoulder muscles in particular) to give the buck the stamina to win "real" sparring matches that will follow later on in rut season.
- Establish which bucks are dominant in that particular local area (outlining a breeding season pecking order for the bucks).
- Allow the bucks to gain personal confidence and also pick up new sparring tactics to use with challenging bucks during the real sparring matches.
The key element of issuing an effective antler ratting/sparring deer call is to remember what the real sound of antlers rattling would say to an eager aspiring buck and how it would sound.
For instance, continuous rattling would not sound realistic to a nearby buck, because during a real sparring match (practice or the real deal) there would be an exchange of spars followed by brief pauses, and the spar impacts might sound a bit different depending on where the bucks’ antlers meet mid-spar.
Here, it can really help to watch and listen to real buck sparring matches so you can pick up the flow of how a real-life sparring match will sound and see what is going on between the two sparring bucks. This will help you to much more accurately mimic the sound of two bucks sparring with whatever tool or aid you decide to use.
VIDEO: This fabulous video features The Sportsman’s Channel’s Stan Pots explaining in detail how to issue an antler rattle/sparring deer call that will sound authentic to nearby bucks. He also goes into detail on the importance of beginning with a single loud spar sound and then achieving adequate volume throughout the “match” to be heard above the ambient noise the buck himself may be making.
Call 3: How Do You Use the "Snort & Wheeze" Deer Call?
This third call is about as aggressive as it gets during rut season. As Wide Open Spaces explains, bucks snort and wheeze to attract a doe in heat or to issue a challenge to another nearby buck.
If you are still new to the art of whitetail deer hunting, this is also a call you can learn to replicate without the aid of tools fairly easily. You can just use your nose, teeth and tongue to replicate the sounds of the snorting followed by the drawn-out wheeze.
In real life, first, the single buck will snort a handful of times (usually three times at most) and then he will let out what sounds like an indrawn breath but is really a wheezing out breath. If a doe arrives, he will then proceed to court and claim her and (if she is not yet in heat) guard her until she is ready to mate. If a challenging buck appears, the issuing buck will spar to establish dominance.
As a side note, this call is so aggressive in its nature that it will likely work best at the height of rut season only. During peak rut season, you can even get a retreating buck to turn around and return to your area if he hears you make a snort and wheeze call!
VIDEO: You can watch this great video of Wide Open Spaces staff explaining how to replicate this call without the aid of tools. The video also shares footage of a buck making the snort and wheeze call, and then footage of staff making the call followed with a wild buck’s response. It is pretty fascinating to watch how well this call works!
What Are the Best Tools for Producing Whitetail Deer Calls?
Expert deer hunters are often easily able to mimic a wide range of whitetail deer calls without any tools or aids at all. But if you are still relatively new to deer hunting, a good call tool can really come in handy, especially since there is a lot more to learn and be aware of when you are out and hot on the trail of a buck!
It can be a huge confidence builder to use these tools and aids and see that they really do work! Deer psychology is not rocket science – it is simple science based on a buck’s primal instincts to mate and pass along his genes to the next generation.
As you get one or two deer hunting seasons under your belt, and you begin picking out your favorite calls, locations, equipment and techniques, you will be able to more fully tune in to your role as a “pretend buck deer” to lure real bucks within range.