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by Paul A. Kish

Grunting and bleating for rutting bucks

We are lucky here in Florida that our archery (and many times muzzleloader) season coincides with some great pre-rut and – even full-blown rutting – activity. In my opinion, this makes the hunt much more exciting.

There are a few ways you can optimize your success in this part of the season. I’m talking about using calls to increase your odds of getting a shot at a buck this archery/muzzleloader season.

The fringe benefits of calling while on stand for deer hunting is that it keeps you alert and “in the game.” I find sitting in a stand playing a hand-held poker game to be boring at times (except when the cards are coming my way).

By developing a calling routine, you become a “participant” in the hunt, rather than simply waiting for the dinner bell to ring. As far as the excitement factor goes, calling to whitetails during the rut is as close as I can get to sitting down in front of a gobbling turkey in the spring. When it works, it is awesome! When it doesn’t, well, it’s still fun because you get to make racket. That is a good thing!

I’m not going to go into all the different deer vocalizations for two reasons: space limitations of the magazine, and I won’t pretend to know all of them! What I am going to talk about is the basics of calling deer and what has worked for me in the past during this time of the year.

Grunts – This is probably the most used call in my self-admitted limited deer vocabulary. I think the call itself is fairly unimportant so long as it emits the guttural sound and the reed is not prone to sticking. Don’t ask me how I know the last part, but suffice it to say bucks don’t always react favorably to the squeal of a wood duck!

When I am calling with no deer in sight (blind calling), I generally start off fairly low in volume. Not necessarily a whisper, but not a holler either. There may be a deer close by that you haven’t seen, and you don’t want to blow him out of the woods by shouting at him.

I don’t have a set rhythm or cadence. I just ad-lib and try to “be the deer.” Sometimes I try to sound like a buck that is cruising the area and grunting every third or fourth “step.” These are short in duration (“urrp”) and perhaps 6 or 8 in total. I will repeat this sequence every 10 to 15 minutes while on stand. Why so much? Well, the way I see it, if a buck is walking through the woods at a steady pace (not running) he can cover quite a distance in a short time. If I only call every 30 minutes I’m liable to miss a bunch of deer within earshot of my calling.

These calls are intended to make the resident bucks think that someone is either moving in next door or – at the very least – using their backyard to throw a BBQ. Other times I will try to give off the impression that I’m a buck that is already with a receptive doe. These grunts will be longer in duration (“urrrrrrrp”) and many times I follow them up immediately with a couple of the shorter ones I mentioned earlier (“urrp”).

I am now trying to invoke a response from a buck by making him think that one of “his” does is being courted by an out-of-town stranger. This is kind of like when you were in high school and a feller from a neighboring county came into town and paraded around with one of the local gals from your school. That paints an accurate picture of what we are striving for with this method of calling.

Those are pretty much the two methods of grunting I employ when blind-calling. When calling to a deer that I can see, I change things up slightly. I start off very softly and gauge my next move on the deer’s reaction.

If he doesn’t even look my way, I ramp it up slightly in volume. Trust me, he will let you know when he hears your call. It may only be a slight glance in your direction, or he may turn on a dime and come directly to you.

If it is the latter, great! Put up the call and get your hands on something that will put him in the truck. If he glances your way and then heads off, I will call to him once or twice more and again gauge his reaction.

In the end, if he keeps moving on I will quit calling to him. I’d rather let him go than “booger” him by calling too much. There is always tomorrow, you know. The more you call to deer the more you will learn about what to do and when to do it – just like turkey hunting.

Bleats – I won’t waste a heap of your time on this topic. Do I use bleats in the woods? Yes. How many times have I ever heard a doe make this sound during the rut? Not too many. Having said that, the guys on TV seem to be really fond of making this sound with the little tip-over, can-style bleat calls, so it can’t be all bad, right?

I am 100% committed to remaining active in my hunt, therefore I have a little can-style call in my pack I use sometimes. Normally, it will simply consist of a few bleats (maybe three) followed by some grunts. Maybe one long-ish one and two short ones.

I’m just trying to throw something else out there as “bait” with the bleat calls. I can’t honestly say I have ever called in a buck with just bleats, mainly due to the fact that I never use just bleats.

I have called in and arrowed many deer using the bleat and grunt calls together, though. That is enough for me to continue hauling the little can around.