Rattling Whitetails

In a comprehensive three year study by researchers from the University of Georgia and Texas A&M-Kingsville, deer responded in 65 percent of 171 rattling sessions. In 73 percent of the responses bucks came to loud, long rattling. Loud, long rattling worked best in the pre-rut; loud, short rattling worked best during the peak rut; long quiet rattling worked best in post rut, when slightly more mature (3.5+ year old) bucks responded.

Prior to and during the rut bucks rub on trees, thrash brush and participate in sparring to establish dominance. Dominant bucks encountering each other, especially if an estrus doe is nearby, may fight for breeding rights. The sounds of any of these activities (rubbing, thrashing, sparring, fighting) may attract other bucks in the area, particularly dominants. Subdominants that have previously been beaten in a fight may immediately leave the area.

I have rattled bucks from as far away as a half mile using loud, long sequences. It took the bucks an average of twenty minutes to come in from downwind. I have also had bucks forty yards away run all the way to my stand, and I brought the bucks back when they began to leave. However, I found that if a buck doesn't find a deer when it responds to rattling it may not respond to rattling in the same location more than twice. Don't rattle the same buck from the same stand twice on successive days. If he comes in but you didn't get him wait three to four days before trying again.

In a comprehensive three year study by researchers from the University of Georgia and Texas A&M-Kingsville, deer responded in 65 percent of 171 rattling sessions. In 73 percent of the responses bucks came to loud, long rattling. Loud, long rattling worked best in the pre-rut; loud, short rattling worked best during the peak rut; long quiet rattling worked best in post rut, when slightly more mature (3.5+ year old) bucks responded.

The highest number of responses occurred during peak rut, when most bucks were active. Middle aged 3.5-4.5 year old bucks responded best for the entire rut. During the prerut 1.5-2.5 year old bucks responded best. Older bucks responded equally well during the pre-rut and post-rut, but, less during peak rut (probably because they were with or searching for does). Bucks responded more deliberately and slowly during post-rut. Bucks usually responded during the first of three 10 minute rattling sessions.

The best responses occurred when wind speed was lowest; responses decreased as wind speed increased. The highest response rates also occurred when cloud cover was about 75 percent; lowest rates occurred when skies were clear. Two thirds of the bucks were first spotted downwind. Morning sessions produced the highest number of responses, but older bucks responded more in the afternoon. Obviously the Security Factors of wind speed and available amount of light have a lot to with buck movement and response to rattling, calling and scents. My own studies show that throughout the rut more dominant bucks were seen in the evening than in the morning. This suggests that the best time to rattle for any age buck may be in the morning, but older bucks may respond best in the evening.

The researchers determined that the best time to rattle for mature bucks was during the post-rut. The researchers believed that young bucks were bunched up at that time and were more interested in feeding than fighting. Mature bucks remain aggressive well after the primary breeding period has ended. The researchers believed that the second best time to rattle mature bucks was during the pre-rut. Even though bucks may be bunched up at this time, it is usually the dominant buck that responds.

Because the test deer were radio collared the rattler was able to set up within 200-300 yards of the bucks location to be sure the deer could hear the rattling. Twenty-five percent of the bucks during this study responded after the third 1-3 minute rattling sequence, a full 20 minutes into the session. As a result of this it was recommended that hunters who rattle wait 30 minutes before giving up or moving to a new location. During the study trophy bucks responded 75 percent of the time, while 50 percent of the smaller bucks responded to rattling. When responding to rattling 65 percent of the bucks made their final approach from downwind. However, the study showed that the rattler saw only about half the bucks that responded.

T.R.'s Tips: Rattling

Rattling is most effective in areas with high buck to doe ratios. It is also effective in areas with high numbers of dominant bucks with limited habitat in urban areas; in the marginal habitat of prairie river bottoms; and on property managed for trophy quality.

Bucks respond to rattling out of curiosity and dominance, they want to find out which bucks are fighting and if there is an estrus doe with them. Rattle near areas bucks regularly use; buck feeding/sparring areas, buck bedrooms, doe feeding and staging areas, and dominance areas of rubs and scrapes.

Rattling works any time during the rut, but works best during the peak of the rut, when bucks are most aggressive.

Rattling works best in the morning when bucks are still searching for does or heading for bedding areas, and is less effective during midday when bucks are bedded. Older dominant bucks may respond in the evening.

Rattling, like calling and using scents, works best when Security Factors are low. Deer prefer to move during low light conditions and low wind speeds, and when few hunters are afield.

Bucks that respond to rattling are intent on discovering the source, which leaves you vulnerable to discovery. Take precautions to conceal or disguise unnatural sights, scents, sounds and yourself from deer.

Rattling is most effective where you have a chance of seeing the buck before it discovers you. Use treestands in dense or brushy habitat. Natural cover or blinds can be used in open country to conceal you and your movements.

Hang a second set of antlers from your treestand. When bucks get close these antlers can be jerked and rattled, keeping movement to a minimum and away from you.

Thrashing brush and rubbing trees near buck high use areas also attracts bucks, especially mule deer that express dominance by thrashing.

Rustling leaves and pounding the ground with a stick or rattling racks, and grunting and blowing add realism to the sound of rattling and thrashing.

Wary bucks responding to rattling or calls generally approach from downwind. Use buck in rut, tarsal, forehead, doe urine or estrus scents to add realism and bring bucks into range after being attracted by rattling and calls. Use products to eliminate/suppress human and unnatural odors.

A buck or doe decoy added to rattling, calls and scents provides the final visual stimulus to bring in reluctant bucks and distract their attention from your position.

Patience is an asset in rattling. Bucks may respond from as far as 1/2 mile in calm weather in open country, and may take up to a half hour to come in. Rattle every 10-15 minutes to keep the buck interested.

If bucks are not nearby the initial contact of the antlers should be loud to get their attention. When bucks are nearby rattle softer.

Larger antlers and some imitation racks work best because their sound carries farther. Be sure to use racks with a neutral color so they aren't noticed by the deer.

During the pre-rut use long, loud rattling sequences to attract wide ranging bucks.

During peak rut, when the bucks are active, use short, loud rattling sequences. Long rattling sequences make you prone to discovery.

During post-rut use quiet, long rattling sequences. Bucks are not as aggressive after the rut and don't travel as much, give them time to respond.

After bringing the racks together roll your wrists and grind them together, simulating two bucks pushing and shoving each other for 1-3 minutes. Then stop and listen for a buck's approach for 3-5 minutes before beginning again.

If a buck shows up but won't come into range rattle softly while it can't see you, or use a grunt call to coax it into range.

If the buck starts to leave before you get a shot, or won't hold, still use a grunt call to stop it.

If you don't get a response when you rattle, wait a half hour and try again, then move a 1/4-1/2 mile away and try.

Before leaving the stand site check the area thoroughly, especially if you have been watching a deer. More than one buck may have responded and be nearby.

Don't try to rattle the same buck from the same site on successive days. If the buck comes in and you don't get a shot wait a couple of days before rattling from that site gain.

Try not to rattle to the same buck more than three times if it doesn't see a decoy or a deer when it comes in. If bucks don't see a deer when they respond to rattling they learn that something is wrong.

0
Your rating: None