What is Antler Rattling?
Rattling is something you either have confidence in or completely lack confidence in. Among those who believe in rattling, there is a difference of opinion on technique. Some hunters like just tickling the antlers together and then gradually working up the intensity. They believe that loud, "in-your-face" rattling only spooks deer. Their understanding is that rattling softly with smaller antlers simulates smaller bucks sparring and that dominant bucks will come in more readily to what they think as an easy challenge.
On the other hand, some hunters carry the biggest set of antlers they can find, and don't buy into the notion that loud antlers spook nearby deer. In Fact, if they're close enough to get spooked, they probably have already busted the hunter and wont even respond to any rattling at all. They believe that any deer within earshot might be enticed by reaching out a bit further. So, the louder they rattle the more possibility there is of a deer hearing it.
None the less, rattling is an effective whitetail hunting tactic. But, you do have to give it a chance for it to work. You can rattle ten different areas without any response, or you can have a buck charging in on the first rattle. A lot depends on a deer's mood, the time of year, and just how comfortable they are with their surroundings. For older more mature bucks, you may want to rattle where there is plenty of cover, and not much open area that the buck has to cross. It also helps if you have some sign that there is even a big buck in that area.
Another factor is the wind. A good rattling site would be where a buck cannot sneak around you to catch your scent. At least not without being spotted. Bucks are cautious about crossing open fields and clearings, so putting these at your back is effective. But be careful, because even though big bucks like to avoid the open areas when coming in to the sound of rattling, they occasionally break that rule.
Once the weather cools down and the bucks are actively tending scrapes, rattling can be very effective.
Tree stands work well if two hunters work together, especially in extremely heavy cover. The person rattling should set up a short distance away on the ground, while the shooter is in the stand spotting deer that would not be visible from the ground. It sometimes is the best technique for luring a big buck from heavy cover.
The mistake hunters make is that they use rattling as a last resort, and usually after the prime activity periods are over. In late October and through November, bucks might respond to rattling at any time of day, with the best time being the first two hours and the last hour of daylight. This is when bucks are most likely to be sparring and would expect to hear that sound.
While some hunter use synthetic antler to rattle, I believe in using the real thing. Freshly sawed off antlers seem to work better than shed antlers. The shed antler have a dull sound from being exposed to the elements for so long. Maybe the deer really doesn't notice, but if it doesn't sound right to me, it probably doesn't sound right to the buck either.
It is a good idea to cut the antlers from the pedicle to give a you better grip. Then remove the brow tines to keep from hurting your hands during a heated rattling session. Filing off any sharp edges and burrs will help as well. Then, drill a hole through each antler base and thread a 24" rope through the holes to carry your antlers.
The grunting is done with a grunt tube like the " Hunters Specialties True Talker ". Don't grunt too much, just short bursts varying every 2-10 seconds.
The hoof sounds can be made by thumping the bases of the rattling antlers. The breaking of branches is pretty self-explainitory.
As for the rattling, a typical sequence will consist of ticking the tips together with light contact at the beginning, then go to a heavier clanging and grinding for several minutes and end by pulling the antlers apart with a grinding sound. Make sure the antler tips are turned down for the best results while rattling. Remember that two bucks do not stand in one position and bang their antlers together when fightening. There is a lot of pushing and shoving going on, and all of that makes a lot of ruckus.
Make sure to watch what's going on around you, deer could show up at any time. Scan the area after each rattling sequence with your naked eyes and binoculars. If nothing is happening after 5 - 10 minutes, try another rattling sequence. At the end of that sequence, scan the area again for 15 - 20 minutes. Two rattling sequences is usually plenty in one location.
Remember, you cannot expect rattling to work every time. Like any other hunting tactic, it will work better some days than others, but in order for it to work at all you have to give it a try.
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