How To Use Deer Grunt Calls

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Buck Harvest
When hunting larger tracts of land you can afford to call more often, upping your chances at a mature buck. Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

Anytime you call attention to yourself in the woods you take a risk. The buck that responds is going to come in looking for the source of the sound, and don’t forget that source is you. In other words, he’s looking for you. They get old by learning to play the cat and mouse game very well.

Calling deer definitely presents a tradeoff. The more you call, the more deer you will educate. It is that simple. In the process you may also take a buck you like, but you run the very real risk of educating him first and never seeing him again. Or, he may respond to your deer calls by circling downwind through thick cover or behind some terrain and you may never even know you educated the biggest buck in the woods.

There are successful deer hunters who call every half hour, but they hunt big pieces of property with little hunting pressure. They can move around a lot and keep their tree stands in areas with fresh deer. If you hunt a small property, you can’t afford to draw that kind of attention to your best tree stands.

The fear of educating bucks is why some deer hunters only call to deer that they have already seen. It is a kind of last resort strategy. If he’s a shooter some deer hunters will do anything they can to bring him within range. Since you can see the deer you have better control over the situation. But, if he’s not a shooter some deer hunters won’t make a sound. It’s just never a good idea to educate deer even if they aren’t deer you want to shoot.

Rattling vs. Grunting

Grunting at a buck that’s headed away from your stand can turn him around, or it can scare him off. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

This section is based on opinions and the overall desire not to carry the kitchen sink into the woods each day. These ways are probably not the best way. Now that that has been said, not everyone will carry rattling antlers. They’re cumbersome and they clank around. Since some deer hunters don’t do any blind calling, some figure they have just as much chance of calling a buck in with the grunt call as they do with antlers. Besides, grunt calling is much less aggressive and is less likely to scare a buck off. It will also work during any part of the season.

Sure, there are probably some bucks out there that will come to antlers that won’t come to a grunt call, but some deer hunters are not convinced it is worth the hassle of carrying the antlers. You can try rattling bags and boxes, but you loose the one inherent advantage that rattling possesses. Rattling is louder than grunting – or least it can be when using antlers – so the sound carries farther through the woods. Volume is an advantage if the buck is a long ways off or if the wind is blowing. Some will select grunt calls that don’t loose tone when I blow them hard, so they can reach many of these deer anyway.

Calling Techniques

Rattling antlers do have on distinct advantage over grunt calls – they’re louder. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Using a modern grunt call is easy. They are so well made that it takes almost no experience to produce lifelike trophy buck noises. Some deer hunters have never believed that you have to do anything fancy to attract a buck with a grunt call. You will call in just as many bucks with a simple three to five-grunt sequence as you will with any of the more trendy techniques. Some follow the advice of Lohman’s Brad Harris, “Keep things simple. Volume and rhythm are the keys to good calling.”

When selecting a grunt call I look for two things, lots of range and a guttural tone. By range, that means the call should produce proper tones whether blown loudly or softly. Some deer calls “blow down” when you put a lot of force into the call. Thesed eer calls are fine for close-range work but limit your ability to reach out to more distant targets. A good grunt call will take a volume of air similar to what you expel when coughing without locking up.

A good grunt call won’t lose its deep tone when blown loudly, allowing you to grunt at bucks further away or in windy conditions. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Some deer hunters will choose slightly more guttural calls because they sound good to them. Here is a story about a deer hunter that 10 years ago when he was hunting a ridge overlooking a small hog lot. Anyone who’s been around hogs much knows that they oink deep and guttural. Every time a pig sounded off this deer hunters brain immediately equated it to a buck grunt – at a couple hundred yards they sound almost identical. The lesson was reinforced a few days later when a 2 ½ year old buck came past his tree stand grunting. The sound was so guttural it sounded like he would upchuck at any moment. But, that’s mostly personal taste; other sounds will work too.

Real buck grunts run the gamut of tone and duration. Some are so distinctive you can recognize the author by his grunt without ever seeing him. Some bucks sound like a chainsaw starting up when they grunt. It can sometimes sound more like a roar or bugle and last for about six to eight seconds. The timber will echo with that awful sound every time the deer will cut loose. You might figure that the deer sometimes might be some kind of world-beater to carry on like that. More than likely if you ever find the deer that is grunting in this matter it will probably be a mature buck.

All deer hunters will have a slightly different opinion when it comes to grunt calls. You just need to practice and find out what works best for you and will get you that trophy buck!

The point is this: there is no such thing as the perfect tone for a grunt call. Some deer hunters believe they should sound like an immature buck so as not to intimidate anyone. Well, there are also a lot of immature bucks that sounded pretty tough and there are a lot of stud bucks that sounded a bit wimpy. Focus on volume and a good raspy tone and you will call in as many bucks as anyone.

Nothing you carry short of the tree stand and the bow have the power to increase your odds more than a simple grunt call. If you aren’t making full use of this important tool you’re not taking your fair share of trophy bucks.

Rattling Techniques

Stan Potts, of central Illinois, loves to rattle and has called in some monster bucks through the years. In fact, Stan's personal best, a huge 11 pointer that netted 195 5/8 points as a typical, was rattled-up back in 1983, at a time when few deer hunters outside of Texas were calling deer. Here are Stan's tips for rattling from a tree stand.

  • Smack the horns together hard when you start a sequence just to get the attention of any bucks within hearing range.
  • Rattle for about 1 1/2 minutes and then quickly hang the horns up and grab your bow.
  • Wait 15 minutes and then rattle for another 30 seconds. Stan then waits another hour before starting another sequence.
  • Rattle at intervals all day long while you're on stand, and keep a grunt call handy to call to bucks that hang up out of range.

High Tech Calling Lessons

Hunting video company Stoney-Wolf Productions is offering a fun way to learn big game calling. They sell a CD that allows you to listen to lessons and then compare your calls to those of actual animals or veteran game callers. Your computer needs a sound card, speakers and a microphone (nearly all modern computers have these). Your call is compared via visual spectrograph to that of the experts and you are scored based on similarity of sound and sequence. It’s a fun learning system that teaches grunt calls, bleat calls and rattling sequences as well as the calls of other big game animals.



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