By Kevin Reese
Corsicana Daily Sun
I’ve seen guys do some pretty silly things to catch the eye of a beautiful girl. Bucks aren’t much different. During the rut, even big boys rarely seen in daylight are often caught in open expanses as they court does and compete for the right to breed under the sun’s golden hues.
Hunting the rut can be quite exhilarating! Imagine a string of does heading into your location. Your heart skips several beats; any deer can cause that, even a yearling. You watch them for a bit while your nerves settle. Not long after, you catch movement down the tree line. A young 8-point buck ventures out with his nose to the ground as he trots the scented trail made moments earlier. He closes the gap and begins nosing the does when movement catches your eye again.
Another buck emerges; he’s quite the stud! The mainframe 10-pointer pours himself into the field with his nose to the ground. He catches sight of the 8-pointer and stops. He stands stoically at a distance leering at the younger buck; quite a majestic and no less intimidating pose; even I take notice; this guy’s not happy!
He saunters up to the group of deer, sidesteps a few paces as he sizes up the young 8-pointer, then charges! Antlers crash as they begin a ritual fight for the right. Muscles flex and twitch, antlers entwine, eyes are full front as they drive forward and low against each other. The violence quickly subsides as the young buck realizes he’s no match for the 10-pointer!
Challenges, sparring and fights are a normal part of the rut and can occur at all times during the day. Whether you are hunting the rut with a rifle or a bow you have rules to follow… and break to up your odds of success.
During the rut, rattling is a great way to catch the attention of bucks welcoming an opportunity to find out what has infiltrated their territory. Reading magazine articles and browsing the internet offers a wealth of rattling rules to live by; forget you ever read the vast majority of them!
Here’s the truth, ready or not. To quote Wyatt Earp, “Get to fightin’ or get out of the way!” During the rut, bang those antlers together loud and often when you don’t know whether a buck is close or not! If you don’t know where bucks are, you also don’t know if they are passing by or not! Many “experts” suggest rattling runs anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds every 20 minutes or so. I don’t buy what they’re selling and here’s why.
A buck can wander quite a ways in 20 minutes. When you’re rattling, bucks either don’t hear you, are coming, or don’t care. Remove “don’t hear you” from the equation and you’re left with a buck’s decision to either investigate or ignore you; you’ve reduced those odds stacked against from 66-percent to 50-percent; it’s that easy!
You could include some grunts or bleats in between. I prefer a younger buck grunt to catch the attention of a buck anxious to demonstrate dominance. Mature buck grunts can cause a good buck to think twice about coming in and head the other direction.
You can also rake a tree with your antlers but I don’t suggest doing that in the middle of a rattling session. A buck isn’t going to stop fighting to mess with a tree. Raking your antlers is likely best done in isolation or intermittently between rattling runs. Do space rattling, raking and calling out but there is no need to follow any 20 minute rule. When you feel like it’s time to make a little noise, get to work. Having broken you of some silly rules, I do have a couple you should follow.
First, if you do know bucks are close, passing by or hear you, call or rattle sparingly. You are simply trying to maintain the buck’s attention without giving away your exact location. If you notice a buck ignoring your calling or rattling, a snort-wheeze call may just do the trick.
Second, “Be the deer!” Some inflection in your calling is just as important as rattling as if you were recreating a fight! If you get caught, so what! You live another day to hunt and walk away a bit smarter than your last adventure.
Hunting is as much about learning as it is about all the other side benefits of our pursuits like memories, stewardship, table fare and knowing we make a difference in our nation’s conservation efforts.
Hunt hard, hunt often.
Kevin may be reached for questions, comments or suggestions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.