By Bob Humphrey
Deer hunting often consists of long hours waiting patiently for something to happen. There are ways to make them happen, and one of the best is by rattling. It won’t always work, but when it does, results can be dynamic and exciting. Here are a few tips to doing so more effectively.
Deer hunters know the importance of wind, and it applies to rattling as well. A buck will often circle downwind of the sound, trying to scent check before venturing into the open. One way to overcome this is to pair up and place the shooter downwind of the rattler. When trying to slip in on the rattler the unsuspecting buck may blunder into the shooter’s lap.
Another way is to position yourself so any approaching deer will have to expose themselves if circling downwind. You can also use cover and terrain to make circling downwind difficult for any approaching deer.
Early in the fall deer will spar and joust, but don’t do much serious fighting. You should imitate that with light tickling. As rut activity and fighting increase, amp up the intensity, volume and frequency. You can rattle any time of day, but better odds lie in rattling when deer are already on their feet, at dawn and dusk. Research has also shown that mornings tend to be more productive than afternoons.
The first time is not always a charm when it comes to rattling. Too often hunters try once, then give up when nothing happens. My personal experience has been that you’ll see more deer after the second or third rattling bout. There’s no specific formula, but rattling about every 20 minutes is a good guideline.
It may take several bouts to lure a deer in; and they may come sneaking. Just as often however, they may come on the run. Be prepared to shuck your antlers (in a safe and quiet manner) and grab your gun or bow in a hurry. They may depart just as quickly as they arrive, particularly if they spot or smell you.
You may also need to be good at field judging, particularly if your outfitter or you have minimums. Practice by looking at deer, or at least pictures. Learn what a mature buck looks like, and what characteristics make for higher antler scores. And never judge a buck that is going away. They always look bigger, and you’ll be more likely to rush the shot.