The sounds of a fight can pique the interest of a whitetail buck, having him believe other bucks in his territory are fighting over receptive does. He will investigate and want to assert his dominance.
Do you ever take advantage of this behaviour by replicating the sounds of two bucks in battle?
Where: Select a location that offers semi-open or broken cover. This provides the security a buck demands while permitting you to see approaching deer. In densely wooded cover, open shooting lanes can be a challenge to locate—look for creek bottoms, ridgelines, cutblocks or cutlines. Bucks usually approach from the downwind side, so good visibility in that direction is particularly important.
Establish a ground blind. A buck’s ability to pinpoint the source of a sound is astonishing, and you’ll bring in more deer if you’re at their level than you will from the treetops.
When: Evidence suggests the two weeks before the peak of the rut are most fruitful—competition for does is high and bucks are anxious to find receptive mates. At the peak of rut bucks are generally with does and it can be difficult to pull them away, but once the peak is past, rattling becomes effective again.
How: There are no absolutes, but a rule of thumb is to rattle for a full minute, wait five to ten minutes, then repeat. Start with a gentle rattle that won’t alarm nearby deer, gradually increasing intensity. Don’t limit the upper end; if you’ve ever witnessed two 300-pound deer in a fight you know that they make one heck of a racket!
In addition to grinding and bashing your rattling antlers together, rake them through adjacent vegetation and along the ground to further simulate an actual fight. Stick to this for at least 30 to 40 minutes before moving.
No evidence suggests time of day making a big difference...but using a decoy when rattling does. Decoys help focus an approaching deer’s attention and buys you an extra few seconds. Provided your sight lines are clear, place your decoy 40 metres or so downwind of your blind.
What’s Left: Confidence! It’s often the single biggest impediment when rattling whitetails. Most hunters try rattling at some point but give up too quickly, without having enjoyed much success. Stick with it and stay vigilant—eventually you’ll discover why rattling needs to be part of your whitetail hunting toolbox.