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10 Rules of Whitetail Calling

Looking back over the last 30 bucks I’ve shot, I’m not surprised to find that 11 of them came within bow range only because I called to them.


Looking back over the last 30 bucks I've shot, I'm not surprised to find that 11 of them came within bow range only because I called to them. Think about that. What other method, when properly used, will increase your hunting success rate by 35 percent?

In my case, they all came to a grunt call. This is why I always carry a grunt call when I bowhunt for whitetails; actually, I always carry two, just in case I lose one. That is how much regard I have for the power of these simple tubes. I don't want to be without my call for even one minute. I prefer the grunt, but many serious deer hunters are just as devoted to their rattling antlers and some use the snort-wheeze to lure in dominant bucks. I have my own thoughts on which calls to use, and I'll lay those on the table as I get into my 10 rules of calling whitetail bucks.

1.) Pick the Right Cover When the cover under your stand or around your blind is thin, bucksare more likely to hang up at a distance and look for the deer they heard grunting, bleating or fighting. In general terms, it is usually wise to place your stand near thick cover, as bucks like to walk these edges and whitetails are defined as edge lovers; however, setting up near cover is even more important if you plan to call regularly. Set up near thickets and bucks will come closer to investigate your calls.

2.) Watch Your Calling Distance I have scared deer that were too close when I began calling to them. They didn't stop and stare, they bolted and never looked back. After several such encounters, I now let them walk away to a distance of 100 yards before I call. Even then, it makes the most sense to open up with a few soft grunts and read their body language before taking things up a notch.

In bowhunting situations, deciding whether to call becomes a real dilemma. A buck can be too far to shoot but too close to call. Maintain your patience until a buck is at least 100 yards away or hidden from view; then you have a decent chance to call it back. I have never called a buck from 50 yards to 20 yards-they always became wary and slinked away. They must think, Where is the deer I just heard? But I have called plenty of them from 100 yards to 20 yards.

3.) Rattling Vs. Grunting Use the right type of calling at the proper time. I usually prefer grunting for two reasons. First, a grunt call is more portable than antlers and is much quieter to carry to the tree. Second, I believe a grunt is more common and less startling and intimidating to deer. Even if I were carrying antlers, I would still open up any calling sequence with grunting. This is especially true when calling to deer I can see. When you can see the deer, you can gauge their reaction to your calls and adjust your style accordingly. It makes a lot of sense to start conservatively and work up to calls that are more aggressive.

This is not to say that rattling has no place. It is by far the best method to attract attention on windy days or when calling long distances. Deer can hear the crack of antlers much farther than they can hear a low-pitched, guttural grunt. Also, bucks behave according to their moods, and their moods change rapidly. Sometimes an aggressive call will bring a response when a subtle sound does not. A simple grunt may not get a buck agitated, while a fight among schoolyard bullies is right up his alley. It makes sense to carry both grunt call and antlers and to use them both, the antlers more sparingly and only during the intense portion of the rut.

4.) Use a Loud Grunt Call The best grunt calls are the ones you can blow loud and soft without destroying the tone quality. Many of the grunt calls on the market sound great at low volume but like duck calls when you crank them up. Of course, their manufacturers feel you don't need to blow them loud. I respectfully disagree.

Many times over the past few seasons, I have grunted at passing bucks that never so much as paused or looked my way. These bucks were not call shy; they never heard the call. A grunt call is nearly inaudible beyond 75 yards on a windy day, so it pays to look for one that you can blow loudly.

However, there is always a balance. A few years ago, I called to a giant 185-inch buck that had just stepped into the same woodlot I was guarding below the house. I had been after him all season. He was about 80 to 100 yards away when the excitement of what I was looking at first registered. When he took a step away from me, I let him have it with a loud grunt. I was too excited to be subtle. The buck bolted and never looked back. It was too loud for those close quarters. Now, I always start out at a normal, soft tone and then continue to increase the volume until I am certain the buck has heard me.

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3 Responses to 10 Rules of Whitetail Calling

Jose Bonilla Jr wrote:
December 17, 2012

Great tips. Another call that works great is the primos bleat can. I've called in numerous bucks with the can. I hunt southeast Louisiana and south Mississippi. Use your calls n use them wisely..

Brandon Hughes wrote:
December 01, 2012

'MAD' sounds' hyper growl is that perfect mixture of subtle or loud call. I live in the hill zone of Mississippi and it works like a charm!

Joe Hunter wrote:
November 07, 2010

Good sound advice - grunt calls and rattling result in opportunities you will not have otherwise.