How you choose your words and communicate with others can directly impact everything from your love life and career to your overall personal well-being and quality of living. This also holds true in the world of whitetails since deer rely on specific vocalizations to communicate, procreate, socially-interact and to survive on a daily basis.
As a hunter, if you know how to speak their language, then you'll ultimately be able to generate more close encounters and shot opportunities with top-heavy bucks this season.
The trick is to not only pick the right type of call, but to learn how to correctly match your calling strategies with specific hunting situations and whitetail behavior. In other words, you basically have to allow current deer activity to dictate when, where and more importantly how you call. On that note, let's take an inside look at some high-impact calling strategies and rut-hunting tactics that will help you coax some swelled-up bruisers right under your treestand throughout each phase of the whitetail rut.
Rubbing and Scraping Behavior
Without question, general whitetail behavior, habits, patterns and daily activity will undergo some major changes as the season progresses. Factors such as increased hunting pressure, cooler temperatures, shortening days and alternating food sources are responsible for many of these sudden behavioral shifts that occur from late pre-rut on through the actual breeding period of the rut.
During this transitional phase, things are basically on the verge of shaking loose and you can almost feel the tension in the air. As a result, you'll typically start seeing increased rubbing and scraping activity in the woods. Bucks will also become extremely anxious, territorial and short-tempered by nature. In other words, it doesn't take much to walk on the fighting side of a bone-headed brawler, especially if you know how to touch the right nerve.
Rubbing/Scraping Calling Tactics and Hunting Strategies
When bucks first start showing signs of being confrontational, try setting up along established rub and scrape lines. Add dominant buck urine and tarsal scents to existing scrapes to help trigger an aggressive response. With this type of setup, utilize a grunt tube to produce a short series of agitated grunts to help pull a potential shooter into view.
If the action is slow, I will try to make something happen by using this calling sequence periodically throughout the hunt. A deadly combination of scents and sounds that emulate an intruder buck is sometimes all it takes to turn things around.
In most cases, a mature buck's body language will tell you exactly what he needs to hear. For example, a buck that immediately stops or shows signs of agitation after a single grunt can be a sucker for more aggressive calling techniques.
These signs can include his neck hair bristling up, pawing the ground with his hooves, or violently rubbing trees and even urinating frequently. If you see this type of response, a series of challenge grunts in a deep tone followed by an assertive snort wheeze will often push him over the edge.
Cruising and Checking Behavior
Just before the peak of the breeding period, it's not uncommon to see mature bucks cruising popular doe hang-outs such as feeding and bedding areas. They're basically monitoring the field and looking for the first available estrous does. You will also notice a lot of younger bucks starting to harass and chase does that are not quite ready to breed yet. These testosterone fueled basket-racked bucks really don't have a clue about what's going on, but they're fired-up and ready to roll nonetheless.
At this segment of the season, dominant bucks that are active and on the prowl are extremely vulnerable for once. This is especially true, if you're hunting an area that has multiple bucks cruising and patrolling it simultaneously. Mature bucks that participate in most of the breeding during the primary rut have very little patience or tolerance for other males. During this unique and brief period, mature bucks are probably the most responsive and receptive to aggressive calling techniques.
Cruising/Checking Calling Tactics and Hunting Strategies
Ambush points that overlook doe high-traffic areas such as feeding, bedding and traveling zones can be red hot under these conditions. These types of setups coupled with double drag-lines that leave behind a fresh trail of both doe and buck urine scent can also be deadly.
As for calling techniques, don't be afraid to hit bucks with just about everything you have in your arsenal. Whitetails are very vocal during this phase of the season and calling can definitely create more shot opportunities.
Once again, a series of deep-toned challenging grunts and snort-wheezing can do a number on dominant bucks. However, combining these vocalizations with short rattling sequences is a strategy that is capable of pulling-in an absolute monster.
Ideal hunting conditions are scenarios where you have a few estrous does available and multiple mature bucks within close proximity of one another. Increased competition and a limited availability of does that are ready to breed are exactly why rattling and aggressive calling techniques are so effective.
Chasing and Breeding Behavior
Once the actual breeding phase of the rut kicks into full swing, it becomes 100-percent about the does for lovesick bucks with swollen necks and raging hormones. During the peak of the rut, you will begin observing mature bucks tending, chasing and even breeding does.
This is generally when you start seeing a lot of deer being hit along busy roadways and interstates. When things are really coming unhinged and getting chaotic in your neck of the woods, it's primetime to switch-up your game plan and techniques.
Chasing/Breeding Calling Tactics and Hunting Strategies
When the majority of does are hitting their estrous cycle, you really need to adapt and adjust to the current breeding behavior and activity. Targeting thick pockets of cover away from high-traffic areas and utilizing doe estrous scents in combination with your calling can be deadly.
Mature bucks will often push receptive does into protected areas like thickets in order to avoid interruptions by other males and predators. Rut-hunting hotspots like these and major travel corridors that connect such areas should definitely not be overlooked during the peak of the breeding period.
Switching over to tending grunts and pleading estrous doe bleats will absolutely drive dominant bucks crazy. These types of calling sequences directly mimic the sounds of a receptive doe being pursued and ultimately taken by another male. It's a great way to strike a jealous chord with a single buck that's lonely and looking for love in all the wrong places. Attacking a mature buck's ears and nose is undoubtedly one of the quickest ways to get him from the woods to your wall during the primary rut.
In order to achieve consistent success during each phase of the rut, it's extremely important to recognize current deer behavior and to match both your calling and hunting strategies accordingly. Diagnosing the correct transitional cycle of the rut along with a particular buck's mood, temperament, body language, and reaction to your calling can make or break your next hunt.
Right now is the perfect time to unleash your calling arsenal and get inside of his head. Don't be afraid to crank-up the heat, make some noise, and utilize your calls to shake, rattle, and roll!