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Decode Deer Language

Utilize this high-impact transitional guide to help you choose the most productive call and strategy for your hunting situation.

Without question, there are so many different whitetail calls available today that things can get a little confusing. Hunters can choose from calls that simulate grunts, bleats, bawls, snort-wheezes, rattling and just about every deer vocalization known to man. The trick is learning to correctly diagnose the current whitetail transitional period and match your calls accordingly. Let’s take a look at some cutting-edge calling and hunting tactics that will enable you to coax more top-heavy monsters beneath your tree stand this season.

Early Pre-Rut Transition
During the early segments of the pre-rut period, whitetail bucks will generally be following a predictable feeding to bedding pattern. In some states where archery season opens extremely early, you might even find bucks still traveling together in age-class bachelor groups. With the rut still months ahead, the big boys are primarily focused on feeding, bedding and visiting cool watering holes throughout the day, which means they could care less about the does.

However, by no means should you ever think about leaving your deer calls at home during the early pre-rut phase of the season. In fact, selecting the right call and hunting strategy will dramatically increase your chances of punching a buck tag well before the rut. Remember, with bow hunting, a few yards can be the difference between sweet success and another story about the big one that got away. This is exactly why high-impact calling and hunting techniques are so crucial at this stage of the game.

Make The Right Call
When hunting the early pre-rut transition, try to exploit the curious nature of whitetail bucks with your calls. Hitting tall-tined shooters with a series of soft social buck grunts can be a real game changer. These non-threatening vocalizations will make bachelor groups of bucks come in closer to investigate and checkout the new guy on the block. You can also add a new degree of realism to the situation by combining these calling sequences with deadly scent application tactics. Spraying buck urine from Code Blue near your setup and inside cleared-shooting lanes will convince a shooter that what he is hearing is the real deal.     

Throughout this transition, a versatile call like the Knight & Hale Death Chamber is the perfect tool for the job. This call can easily be adjusted to go from deep-throated aggressive vocalizations to soft and subtle grunts by simply turning the dial. For the most part, one to three social grunts with a few second delay between each call will be just what the doctor ordered. Calling to bucks that are presently out-of-range or traveling in the opposite direction of your stand will create shot opportunities that previously did not exist.

Mid Pre-Rut Transition
As the season progresses, whitetail behavior and daily activity will undergo some noticeable changes. Factors such as hunting pressure, dropping temperatures, shortening days and alternating food sources are responsible for these transitional shifts. Feeding to bedding pattern setups can still be productive, but you have to adjust stand locations to match the current or preferred food sources.

During this 2nd transition, you will start seeing a slight increase in rubbing and scraping activity. Bucks will also engage in nonviolent sparring matches for practice and to determine individual status. These sessions are usually brief and not that aggressive, but they will often grab the attention of other males. It’s not uncommon for nearby bucks that hear the commotion to approach and even jump in the middle of these pushing and sparring matches.

Make The Right Call
Consequently, the 2nd transitional period is the ideal time to utilize your deer calls and mimic the natural sounds of two bucks in a playful scuffle. A combination of grunting and short bursts of light rattling can be all it takes to pull a mature buck into close range. For this calling sequence, an authentic sounding grunt tube and rattling call is basically all you need. This past season, I had a great deal of success with the new Da’ Bone grunt call and Da’ Bonehead rattling system from Knight & Hale.

When used together, these two calls sound exactly like the real thing and are capable of reeling a massive-racked shooter straight in on a string. The DA’Bone grunt call has dynamic range and volume that can reach bucks from great distances without sounding fake or unnatural. The DA’Bonehead rattling system is ultra-light, super compact and will fool any buck within earshot. Plus, the smaller size and low profile of the call will help you minimize movement during operation without sacrificing volume.

Late Pre-Rut Transition
Toward the end of the mid pre-rut transition, mature bucks will switch their focus from feeding over to breeding. During the late pre-rut period, rubbing and scraping activity will peak as the big boys become increasingly more territorial. It’s one of the best times of the entire season to call aggressively and utilize scent-application strategies to enrage a dominant buck. Setups overlooking fresh rub and scrape-lines can deadly throughout this brief transition.

Make The Right Call
As mentioned earlier, aggressive calling tactics that include deep-toned grunts, intense rattling and assertive snort-wheeze vocalizations can be lethal. My go to calls during this transition would have to be Knight & Hale’s Death Chamber and Da’ Bonehead rattling system. The Death Chamber gives you the ability to generate echoing grunts and challenging snort-wheezes without switching calls. Calling consisting of two to three grunts and a snort-wheeze followed by a hardcore rattling sequence can crank-up the action in a hurry!

Making mock scrapes with Code Blue’s Grave Digger and Rack Rub Gel is a scent-application tactic that can really enhance your calling strategies. Another high-impact technique is to hang a Drop-Time scent dispenser over an existing scrape and condition the buck to visit the area during your hunting times. The Drop-Time allows you to select exactly when the unit will release scent, which helps stack the cards in your favor.

The Primary Rut Transition
Once the actual breeding phase of the rut kicks into full swing, it’s 100% about the does for lovesick brawlers with heavy mass and extra-long tines. Setups overlooking popular doe hang-outs such as current food sources, bedding areas and travel corridors that connect these key locations can be hard to beat. Correctly matching your calling and scent applications strategies to this transition is extremely important.

Make The Right Call
When the majority of does are hitting their first estrous cycle, it’s time to adjust your calling and hunting techniques. Switching over to tending grunts and pleading estrous doe bleats on the Death Chamber from Knight & Hale will absolutely drive dominant bucks crazy. If you want to turn-up the heat a little more, try pulling a Code Blue Whitetail Double Drag Line with buck urine and Standing Estrous scent past your stand. Attacking a buck’s ears and nose is undoubtedly the quickest way to get him from the woods to your wall during the primary rut transition.   

At the end of the day, learning how to correctly match your calls and hunting strategies with each transitional period will dramatically increase your shot-to-hunt ratios. If you really want more close encounters with massive racked wall-hangers, then you better take steps to make sure you’re utilizing the right call and hunting techniques for each phase of the season. Good luck and good hunting!