Calling In A Deer - The Expert's Guide | Great Days Outdoors

Calling In A Deer – The Expert’s Guide

For generations, the pursuit of deer has been both a time-honored tradition and a thrilling challenge for hunters. The heart-pounding moments of silence in the woods, the rustle of leaves underfoot, and the anticipation of a prized buck emerging into view create a unique and memorable experience. Yet, as any seasoned hunter will attest, successfully calling in a deer requires more than just luck—it demands knowledge, skill, and the understanding of deer behavior.

In this article, we will delve into the art of calling deer, exploring the various calls and techniques that can help you become a more effective and ethical hunter this season. Whether you’re a novice eager to learn the basics or a seasoned hunter looking to refine your skills, our guide will equip you with the expertise needed to “talk the talk” in the deer woods.

Knowing When To Call At A Deer

Knowing when to call at a deer is a crucial skill for any hunter, as it can greatly increase your chances of a successful hunt. Effective deer calling involves mimicking the sounds that deer make to communicate with each other, such as grunts, bleats, and rattling antlers. However, it’s equally important to understand when and why to use these calls to attract or lure in deer. Here are some key factors to consider when deciding when to call at a deer:

Researching Local Deer Behavior And Rut Timings

Rut timing is a critical factor that greatly influences the effectiveness of calling strategies in deer hunting. The rut, or mating season, is a pivotal period when bucks undergo significant behavioral changes in their pursuit of does (female deer). Understanding how rut timing impacts calling tactics is essential for hunters looking to enhance their success. 

During the pre-rut phase, which typically occurs in early fall, bucks are still in bachelor groups and not actively chasing does. Consequently, deer are less responsive to rut-related calls like grunts and rattling, but soft social grunts can be useful for location purposes. 


The peak rut phase, taking place in late fall in most areas, but the early winter in a lot of the Deep South, is the most productive time for deer calling. Bucks are actively seeking does in estrus, making them highly responsive to various calls, including estrous doe bleats, aggressive buck grunts, and rattling antlers. This is when calling can be most effective. 

calling in a deer doe
Rut timing guides deer calling strategies, emphasizing the importance of aligning your approach with the specific rut phase to maximize your hunting success.

As the rut transitions into the post-rut phase, bucks may be less aggressive due to fatigue. Adjusting your calling strategy to include tending grunts and doe bleats, along with considering food sources, can be more successful during this period. Additionally, some regions experience a second rut during late winter to early spring, where some does come back into estrus. While similar to the peak rut, it’s generally less intense and requires adaptability in your calling tactics.

In essence, rut timing guides deer calling strategies, emphasizing the importance of aligning your approach with the specific rut phase to maximize your hunting success.

Selecting Appropriate Hunting Locations

Selecting the right hunting location when attempting to call deer is a pivotal aspect of a successful hunt. Your choice of hunting spots can significantly influence the effectiveness of your deer-calling strategy. 

To make the most of your hunting experience, start by scouting the area before your trip. Look for signs of deer activity, like tracks, droppings, rubs, and scrapes, which can offer insights into their habits and preferred travel routes. Focus on areas with fresh deer sign, such as recent tracks or active scrapes, as these indicate that deer are actively using the area. A call can draw deer in for a closer look, but it’s useless if used in an area that doesn’t hold deer.

Always consider wind direction, positioning yourself downwind of where you expect deer to approach to avoid alerting them with your scent. It’s also vital to choose locations with cover and concealment. A deer that investigates a call only to see, hear, or smell a hunter will not be likely to fall for your ruse.


Types Of Deer Calls And How To Use Them

Deer calls mimic a wide variety of sounds that deer make to communicate with each other, such as grunts, bleats, and rattling antlers. Understanding the various types of deer calls and how to use them effectively is crucial for a successful hunt.

Grunt Calls

Grunt calls find their prime utility during the rut, which is the deer mating season when bucks actively seek does for mating. Grunt calls come in various forms, such as handheld calls, mouth calls, and electronic calls, each offering slightly different user experiences to cater to hunters’ preferences and hunting conditions.

The primary purpose of grunt calls is to communicate with deer, mimicking the sounds that bucks naturally produce. These calls serve multiple roles, including expressing interest in a doe, maintaining contact with a doe, or asserting dominance over other bucks. For hunters, the key application of grunt calls is to attract bucks. During the rut, when bucks are actively searching for does in estrus, the sound of a grunt can stir a buck’s curiosity or trigger a competitive response, drawing them closer to the source of the call.

grunt call

When using grunt calls, timing is crucial. They are most effective during the rut, which occurs in the fall, although the exact timing varies by geographic location. To effectively mimic buck behavior, hunters should start with soft, subtle grunts and then gradually increase the volume and frequency of the calls. Inserting short pauses between grunts can enhance the realism of the calling sequence. Observation is critical as well; if a nearby buck appears interested in the calls, it may approach cautiously, so hunters need to exercise patience and avoid overcalling, which can spook deer. 

Doe Bleat Calls

Doe bleat calls are designed to replicate the vocalizations of female deer, particularly does and fawns. These calls aim to mimic the high-pitched, whining sounds that female deer produce in various situations. Doe bleat calls are crafted with precision to closely resemble the tonal quality and pitch of real doe vocalizations.

The primary purpose of using a doe bleat call is to attract bucks, especially during the rut, the deer mating season. Bucks are highly motivated to locate receptive does, and the sound of a doe bleat can signal the presence of a potential mate. Additionally, these calls can serve the purpose of reassurance, particularly when mimicking the sounds of does or fawns in distress. By replicating the vocalizations of a doe, these calls can have a calming and comforting effect on other deer in the vicinity.

doe bleat calling in a deer

They are most effective during the rut when bucks are actively seeking does in estrus, but they can be used throughout the hunting season. Starting with soft, subtle bleats and gradually increasing the volume and frequency is a common strategy. Paired with estrous doe scents, these doe estrous calls can be extremely effective.

Snort Wheeze Calls

Snort-wheeze calls are designed to mimic a specific and distinctive vocalization produced by dominant bucks during confrontations. The goal is to create a sound that closely resembles the aggression and authority conveyed by a buck’s snort-wheeze. These calls serve two primary purposes: provoking an aggressive response and attracting dominant bucks. Bucks employ snort-wheezes to challenge rival bucks, asserting their dominance and warning them away from receptive does.

snort wheeze call

By simulating this sound, hunters aim to garner the attention of dominant bucks in the area, prompting them to investigate and potentially confront the source of the perceived challenge. It’s important to use snort-wheeze calls strategically, especially due to their confrontational nature, as some bucks may be deterred or become wary if they sense a potential challenge.

Rattling Antlers

Rattling antlers are primarily used to replicate the sound of two bucks engaged in combat by clashing their antlers together. This technique, known as rattling, is employed to attract the interest of curious or competitive bucks, making it an essential part of a hunter’s strategy. The sound created by rattling antlers can range from subtle clicks to loud clashes, depending on the force and intensity applied.

calling in a deer rattling antlers

By mimicking the sounds of bucks in conflict, hunters aim to provoke a competitive response or curiosity from nearby bucks, enticing them to investigate the source of the noise. Combining rattling with doe estrous scent and an estrous can call can enhance its appeal, creating a convincing scenario of competing bucks vying for a receptive doe. 

Calling In A Deer: Advanced Techniques And Tips

Advanced deer-calling techniques can significantly elevate the hunting game for experienced hunters. These techniques demand a deeper understanding of deer behavior and more advanced calling skills. First, consider sequence calling, where you combine various calls in a specific order to create a more convincing scenario, such as soft doe bleats followed by buck grunts and rattling to simulate a receptive doe with competing bucks.

Another advanced technique is calling while still-hunting, which involves moving quietly through the woods and intermittently using deer calls. It’s especially effective for locating actively moving bucks during the rut. Creating mock scrapes and licking branches, using grunt snort-wheeze combos, adjusting call intensity to match the situation, and incorporating challenge calling can all be effective strategies. Additionally, scent trails and decoy use can enhance your calling setup. However, it’s essential to stay patient and adaptable, as advanced calling often requires more time and practice to master.

Final Thoughts On Deer Calling

When using deer calls, remember to start subtly and gradually increase the intensity and frequency of your calls. It’s essential to pay attention to your surroundings and the behavior of nearby deer to gauge their response. Also, practice patience and be prepared for periods of silence, as deer may not always respond immediately. Adapt your calling strategy based on the specific rut phase, weather conditions, and your observations of deer behavior in your hunting location. Mastery of these different types of deer calls and their proper use can greatly enhance your chances of a successful deer hunting experience.

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