Can you really call a whitetail deer?
Calling deer is really not as hard as you might think. Deer are very curious by nature. Especially the younger bucks. Yearling bucks are ousted from there birth area as mother natures way of making sure there is no inter-breeding among the herd. So, usually the little crotch horn or six-pointer you see is relatively new to the area. Like any new arrival, he is looking for some company. So anything that sounds like another deer grunt will most likely spark the young buck's interest.
I have seen young bucks come running at the sound of a grunt call. I once called a six-pointer within bow range 3 times in a row. Each time letting him get just a little farther away before calling him back again. He finally became disinterested and moved on.
Older bucks aren't always quite as easy to coax in with a grunt call. Your best chance is usually during the pre-rut or rutting season when he is in competition for the attention of one of the local females. Either by using a doe bleat to gain his attention because he is actively searching for breedable does, or a buck grunt which has him thinking that another buck is invading his personal space.
Remember, deer are social animals and like to be in the company of their own kind. Does can be called sometimes just because they like being with other does. The same can be said for younger bucks.
Do some deer react differently to calling than other deer?
Absolutely! In fact, some don't react at all to the grunt call. I have had deer that act as if they don't even hear the grunt call. I've grunted to bucks walking just 50 yards from me without them so much as lifting there heads to acknowledge the calls. But, in the same respect, I've called deer that literally came running in so fast that they caught me by surprise, leaving me handcuffed and not ready for any kind of play on them.
I have also had deer spook and run off immediately upon hearing the grunt call. Usually smaller bucks and does. The younger bucks are intimidated sometimes by the grunting in anticipation of getting their butt kicked by a more mature buck. Does will also spook sometimes when not entirely ready for breeding and not wanting to be pestered by a persistent rutting buck.
I guess it's safe to say that you will get some kind of reaction from calling deer, it just might not be the reaction you were hoping for.
Mature Buck vs. Young Buck
There are some distinct differences between calling young bucks and calling older, more mature, bucks. Like the differences between teenage boys and mature men. Like teenage boys, young bucks haven't really learned the ways of the world yet, and act as such. They are quick to make bad decisions because they just can't help themselves. They have the young buck curiosity and are easily fooled by the call. They often rush in without any thought or investigation.
In my experience of calling deer, younger bucks usually will come to the grunt call in a straight line from wherever it is that they heard the calling. Sometimes that means even with the wind, which doesn't allow them to smell the hunter that is calling them. One year I called in over a dozen different small bucks which, to their benefit, I passed on. Each caring very little about anything other than getting to whatever made the grunt call.
Big bucks very seldom make those kind of mistakes, unless he is so rapped up in rutting activity that he has literally lost his mind. In my opinion, most of the time, a mature buck will come into a grunt call from downwind. Especially, in a situation where he has heard the deer call but hasn't seen any deer that might have made it.
While bow hunting the edge of a field one evening, I grunted a big racked 10-point into the field from the woods 300 yards directly across from my stand. He ran the length of the field toward me as if I was pulling him by a string. I thought that if he kept coming as hard as he was he might run past before I would be able to get an arrow in him. Then like a dog reaching the end of his chain, he came to a sudden stop about 50 yards out. He paced about, looking around for what buck might have invaded his territory. I grunted again. He looked in the direction of the grunt call seeming anxious to find out what this was all about. But, being older and wiser, he knew better than to just rush over to investigate. He made a big circle to get his nose into the wind. I knew that if he did I would be had by his superior nose. I grunted again trying to get him to commit and make a mistake. After not seeing anything in the field and not wanting to take the chance of leaving the security of the field. He decided to turn and slowly walk back to the safety of the woods where he had come from.
Does calling deer need to be loud?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that there are situations when even the sensitive ears of a deer have trouble hearing softer sounds. High wind conditions or heavy rain can limit what a deer can hear... so you my have to call louder to get their attention.
Having said that, under normal conditions a deer has no problem hearing a nice soft call. If fact, many hunters are of the thought that softer is better. I tend to go with my gut feeling at the time and what I have observed of actual bucks grunting. I have heard bucks grunting while walking through the woods as a man might whistle while on a casual hike.
There is a "tending grunt" where a buck is hot on the scent in search of a doe who may be just minutes ahead of him. The tending grunt is more pronounced and definitely louder than the casual walking grunt.
Then, there are more aggressive grunts a buck will make while chasing a doe that is in his sights as he tries to corral her to accept him for breeding. These grunts can be extremely loud and constant. Mimicking any of these grunts at the right time in the season can produce results.
I also like using louder grunts when trying to attract a buck into the area. I want to make sure they can hear it from a long ways away. When I can actually see the buck I calm the grunts down so as not to be detected.
I like to use louder doe bleats to attract a buck that might be in the area, then I switch to a grunt or soft bleat when I have located a buck.
Is there a difference between grunt call makes and models when calling deer?
Like anything you buy, some are better than others. For the most part, all deer grunts will attract deer. Because deer are naturally social and curious they might come to a call just because it sounds similar to a grunt. I have found that bigger bucks are a bit harder to trick with a call. I like a grunt call that is a bit more "gutteral" or lower toned and sounds more like a mature whitetail buck like the Hunter Specialties, "True Talker". The True talker also allows you to change from bleats to grunts with just a touch of your finger. Some hunters pick a grunt call that is hands free to keep there movement to a minimum fearing detection by a buck. Other hunters simply buy the latest call on the market because everyone else is using it.
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Calling deer is a great way to increase your chances of seeing deer during the season and is a fun way to attract a nice buck into range. If you haven't tried it, you may be missing out on your chance to talk with the whitetails.
The Art Of Whitetail Deception
Written for deer hunters of various skill levels, this book covers all aspects of attracting bucks by rattling, calling, and decoying. Maps outlining various hunting setups, scientific studies on rattling, recommendations for different types of decoys, and more make this the most complete volume available on the subject.