Jigging For Bucks

To complete your calling routine, add the simplest and most obvious sounds of all.

Jigging requires only a long cord, a heavy stick, and plenty of dry leaves on the ground.

It has happened more than once: I'm sitting in a quiet woods, devoid of deer movement. The world is standing still. Then a deer, let's say a doe, comes walking through the dry leaves, stopping to browse and sniff.

Suddenly, a buck appears and trots over to check out the doe, and soon another buck hustles in to investigate the commotion. One minute the woods are dead; the next they're alive with deer. The deer have not bleated or grunted, nor have I.

The only apparent sound that could have generated that action was the doe's walking and snuffling in the dry leaves; a sound that carries far in a quiet woods. I believe that subtle sound is enough to divert a buck, or even pull him out of his bed, especially during the rut. The sounds of a buck chasing a doe are even louder, of course, and no self-respecting rutting buck can resist the temptation to investigate.

In recent years, I've pondered ways to simulate the sounds of running deer and have come up with a technique I call "jigging for bucks." It's still in the experimental stage, but I have drawn some smaller bucks within easy bow range.

To make jigging work, you need two conditions: 1) A forest floor covered with dry leaves, a common scenario in Nov-ember whitetail woods; 2) A relatively calm day. Few deer will hear your jigging on windy days.

For equipment, you need a rope. If your pull-up rope is long enough to reach the ground, you're in business. Otherwise, carry a separate rope for jigging. A lightweight cord will do. To avoid attracting attention, use one of drab color.

This is my latest version of the jigging stick. The handle adds a third thump and serves as a handy cord holder.

To complete the equipment list, make a jigging stick. In a pinch I've used a branch two to three feet long and at least an inch in diameter. The stick has to be heavy enough to make a thud when dropped from a foot or two off the ground. Tie your rope one-third of the way from one end so it will make a double thud as one end first hits the ground, followed by the other.

Last fall, when I made a spontaneous decision to do some jigging, I tied my rope to my carbon-fiber pack tripod. It made plenty of racket.

More recently I've built a jigging stick from a heavy wood dowel. At first it was just a straight 1 1/4-inch diameter dowel, 24 inches long. I've since modified it by adding a perpendicular handle seven inches long, similar to a policeman's nightstick.

With this final design, I attach the rope to the end of the short section to produce the most realistic sounds. When I drop the stick, one end thumps to the ground first, followed by the full length of the stick, and then by the handle section as it tips over. That yields three thumps of varying amplitude -- much like the hooves of deer chasing through the woods.

Also, with the rope tied to the end of the short section I can make very discreet, subtle thumping noises with just a short tug on the rope. The handle section rises and hits the ground with little effort or motion on my part.

By rustling some leaves and bouncing the jigging stick off downed limbs or bushes, you can simulate a lot of deer activity. If you complement your jigging with some rattling, a few tending grunts, and a couple of bleats, you can mimic a real party. Rutting bucks love parties.

With a heavy, straight stick, the long end hits first, followed by the entire length to create two thumps.

Obviously, you must be cautious about moving too much while jigging. I tie the rope to the right side of my treestand seat (I'm right handed) so I can reach down and manipulate the jigging stick inconspicuously. And I don't jig when deer are close; they'll pinpoint my location instantly. I jig only when there's no chance of being spotted.

As you would with any calling, allow plenty of time for deer to come in. A buck might come running to join the chase, but he's just as likely to sneak in cautiously.

During every phase of the rut, bucks are always looking for other deer, and they have a strong desire to be near the action. By simulating a chase, you appeal to that desire.

Of course, jigging is just like rattling, grunting, or bleating with a can call. It doesn't always work. It's simply another weapon in your arsenal. But if deer in your neck of the woods are getting wise to the same old routines, try jigging for bucks.

One last thing -- keep your bow close at hand!

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