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How To Use Deer Grunt Calls
Five of the last ten bucks that one deer hunter shot at came within bow range for only one reason; he used a grunt call. In 1997 alone, this deer hunter shot three bucks and every one of them was passing out of range until it heard those guttural tones from his tree. Under the right conditions, grunt calling has the power to increase your chances for success by as much as 50% - during the last four seasons it has done that for this deer hunter. That’s a whopping jump for doing nothing more than carrying an inexpensive tube and blowing through it every once in a while.
Here is a story about Larry who is willing to call blindly. Larry sets up his tree stands in fairly open areas where he can see as much ground as possible. He wants to see as many bucks as possible with the intention of then grunt calling them in. He grunt calls loudly and often, even if he hasn’t seen deer. At least 75% of the shots Larry has taken during the past five years have been at bucks that came in to the grunt call. A lot of deer hunters will make heavy use of grunt calls.
If you’re willing to work tirelessly in the backyard over the summer you can extend your bow’s maximum range by 10 yards. But, by simply using a deer call properly you can extend your maximum reach by at least 100 yards.
When they work and when they don't
You can’t expect mature bucks to come running every time you toot a grunt call or crack a set of antlers together. There are only certain situations when grunt calling will work. Some hunters grunt at every shooter buck that I see passing out of range regardless of the time of the season. On average about 10% actually end up coming within bow range. To further break down the response rate, we will classify calling situations into three categories. First, consider the bucks that are just moseying through the woods. You can turn nearly all of them with a simple grunt, and about about 40 to 50% end up coming all the way in.
The second category could be called “mission impossible”. When a buck is with an obviously hot doe it is near impossible to pull him even one step in your direction. You can usually tell them right away. There’s no chasing, they are simply paired off and moving together. Then there are the third and fourth categories: bucks that are alone but seem to have a destination and bucks that are with does that don’t seem to be in estrous yet. These deer won’t come in immediately, but may come and check you out later. This group has about a 5 to 10% chance of responding. During the rut is very possible to encounter bucks in all four groups in one day.
One morning in early November a deer hunter was hunting a tree stand near a bedding area when he spotted a pretty good buck in the distance. This deer hunter tried grunt calling him over but he had other places in mind and only stopped for a few seconds to look his way. He probably grunt called a total of four times at him – all fairly loud. Within five minutes he had three other bucks that were aged 2 ½ to 4 ½ years within bow range of his tree stand. They converged from different directions and met for a stare down within 30 yards of the tree stand.
They milled around for a few minutes before finally drifting their separate ways again. One of the bucks was too small to shoot and the other two were spared that day because it was early in the rut and this deer hunter didn’t want to stop hunting. Coincidentally, two weeks later he shot one of them from the same tree stand as he followed a doe past.
Almost an hour after the bucks dispersed, the one he had originally grunt called to came sneaking in. He was very alert and obviously looking for the source of the sound. He too turned out to be good but not good enough. That morning was very exciting and very enlightening.
The original buck remembered the grunt call and when his mission was over, whatever it was, he naturally drifted over to check things out. Some bucks that were chasing does come in well after the fact, too. Remember, most things don’t happen fast in a whitetail’s world. An hour is nothing to them. Some deer stand in one place chewing their cuds for a lot longer than that. Stay alert at all times, just because a buck doesn’t come in right away doesn’t mean he isn’t going to come in at all.
Before you start to compare your success rate to other deer hunters and come to the conclusion that this story has been sniffing Fletch-Tite, let's qualify the statistics by saying that in this particular scenario this hunter is hunting areas that receive some hunting pressure by other bowhunters but not a tremendous amount. Some of the deer this deer hunter hunts have surely become educated to the fact that not all grunt calls come from deer, (one of the reasons some deer hunters don’t like blind calling) but the call-leery are in the minority. If you hunt in areas that receive a lot of hunting pressure you’re calling success rates will be lower than this, but they will be better than zero. As little effort as it takes to blow into a grunt call, even a 5% call-in rate is worth the trouble.
How much is too much?
Like anything else you do in the woods; you can go overboard and grunt call too much. The result is educated deer and more difficult hunting. In the example that was presented earlier, when those three bucks came to the grunt calling any one of them, or all of them, could easily have spotted the deer hunter or smelled him and been wary of his tree stand for the rest of the season. In the end the deer hunter ended up shooting one of them later and that never would have happened had he busted me.