Okay, so you bought a call, now what? You have two choices: use it or lose it. If you bought a call, the only way you are going to know how effective it truly can be is if you learn how to use it and learn from your mistakes when you use it. Everyone hits a bad note now and then and scares off a deer. That is just part of the learning curve. You will learn more from your failures than you will from your successes. It is just like anything else: the more you use it, the more proficient you will become at it. Get yourself a quality CD or DVD and listen and learn how to reproduce the sounds that deer make from the professionals.
Some calls are so simple, like a can call, and all you have to do is turn them over and they produce a perfect doe bleat. Unlike waterfowl calls, deer calls are extremely affordable and very user-friendly. Most cost fewer than $25.00, and are found at sporting goods stores everywhere. Rattling bags and rattling horns are designed to imitate the sounds of two bucks sparring in the woods. Whether you choose a can call, a mouth call, or rattling antlers, if you are not going to use them, then just leave them in the truck. They will just get in the way.
There are four basic sounds that every hunter should know how to make. A doe bleat, a snort/wheeze, a grunt, and a growl. By mastering these four sounds, you will become a much more effective hunter in the woods. Each of these calls has a time and purpose. A bleat is the sound a doe makes throughout the year, but in particular during the rut. The wheeze is a defensive sound that is supposed to intimidate other animals. The grunt is the basic “what’s up?” sound in the deer world. It is a greeting call. Finally, the growl is a sound of dominance that bucks make during the rut to get the attention of a hot doe.
When to call is a question that is up for debate. For me, I like to wake them up early, right before dawn, with some soft grunts and soft bleats. This can often get older bucks up and moving, especially during the rut. They can interpret this sound as a young buck trying to move in on his hot does. Remember: these are soft, tender grunts.
When using your deer call, do not use your call more than once every 15 minutes, and preferably no more than once every 30 minutes, to maximize your opportunities. You want to give the deer the opportunity to respond to your call. If you see a buck and he does not respond to your call, stop calling; he might not be interested in what you have to say. If you do not stop calling, you might very well educate him to your sounds.
When calling, you always want to have an arrow nocked up and your release ready to go. You never know when a big buck is going to hear your call and come charging in your direction. This is especially true when you are using a rattling bag or antlers. They interpret these sounds as a threat to their personal space.
A highly effective sound that can be used in conjunction with rattling is the snort/wheeze. This is a very aggressive sound, and it will often put a rutting buck into full fight mode.
Another effective tool that can help you bring that bruiser buck into bow range is a decoy. Where and how you place your deer decoy may determine how successful you are, and which sex and size deer respond to the decoy. For your own safety, when using a decoy, wrap the decoy in blaze orange when you are carrying it in and out of the woods. Also, disassemble the decoy as much as possible when carrying it. Many of today’s decoys have legs and a head that can fit in the belly of the decoy. Failure to disassemble could result in someone shooting you as you are carrying your decoy.
After you have set up your decoy, make sure that you spray the decoy completely with a cover scent. You need to avoid getting any human or unnatural scent on the decoy. Remember a deer’s nose if far more powerful than ours. It is helpful to wear gloves when carrying and positioning the decoy to eliminate human scent. It is important to place your decoy in a high-use area where you have previously seen deer, such as feeding, bedding, and trail areas. Your decoy set-up should match the terrain that it is in. For example, you do not want to put a bedding decoy in the middle of a soybean field.
You should place your decoys on the upwind from where you expect the deer to appear, as bucks like to approach other deer from downwind side of cover if they can. It allows them to feel more secure in their approach. You should place a doe decoy with its tail side toward you. Bucks often approach does from the rear or side, and this will present you with a quartering away shot. When using a buck decoy, position it with its head toward you. Bucks generally approach another buck cautiously from the front.
You should never place the decoy in a direct line between you and where you expect the deer to come from, as the deer may see you. Instead, place the decoy off to one side of your stand to distract the deer’s attention from your position. To help get the buck’s attention on the decoy, tape a small piece of white plastic or white feather to the tail area. You can also tape feathers to the ear area, as well. They will blow in the wind and give the appearance that the decoy is moving. To keep the buck’s attention focused on the decoy, place a few drops of deer urine on it, doe in estrous for doe decoys, buck in rut for buck decoys. More sure that you use the correct scents with your decoys, otherwise the deer will know that something is wrong. Use buck or doe scents, and calling or rattling to create the illusion of another deer in the area, and to initially attract bucks to the decoy.
Will decoys and calls work every time you use them? No. Nothing is effective every time. However, if they help you kill that once-in-a-lifetime buck, they are worth every penny you spent, and all the time you put in to learning how to properly use them.