Dynamics of whitetail rut and “calling” scenarios
Content Provided By: Brian Stephens, StickemArchery.com Pro Staff
Dynamics of the Whitetail Rut
There are several behaviors associated with the whitetail “rut”. The first sign of rutting behavior is often sparring among bucks. Sparring may take place between bucks of equal stature or between a dominant and subordinate or immature buck. Initially, these are usually short-lived, low intensity, pushing and shoving matches. These sparring scenarios may help establish the dominance hierarchy among males. As the peak of the breeding season approaches, sparring matches may give way to full-blown antler fights. These generally take place between bucks of similar hierarchical status.
Two other behaviors associated with the rut are “rubbing” and “making scrapes.” Both serve as scent signposts for olfactory and, perhaps, visual communication. You can start to see signs of rubbing not long after velvet is dried and/or shed, but continues throughout the rutting period. A rub is initially made by a buck rubbing his antlers and forehead (for scent deposition) on a shrub or small tree. Once created, a rub may be used by several bucks or does. Generally, bucks begin “making scrapes” several weeks after the first rubs appear. This “scrapping” activity increases as the breeding season peaks and then declines throughout the remainder of the rutting period. A scrape is made by a buck pawing a spot of ground, usually to bare soil, and rub-urinating in that soil. Scent from the forehead, preorbital gland or mouth is often deposited on the broken branch.
A common belief is that cooler weather is responsible for the increased rutting activity at this time; however, photo-period is the primary contributor. During this two to three week period, most does come into estrous for the first time of the season. Does are receptive for around 24 hours. If they are not bred during this time frame, they generally recycle in three to four weeks. A doe will recycle several times; however, failure to conceive during the first or second estrous period may indicate an improper buck to doe ratio. As the peak of the rut approaches, there is an increase in bucks chasing does (usually before she is receptive) and bucks tending does (usually during a doe’s receptive period). Most antler fights occur during this period when they do occur. Your number of mature bucks and the buck to doe ratio can have impact on how much fighting you will see or will actually occur. Frequency of antler fights declines after the peak of the rut.
Calling During the Whitetail Rut
Let’s do some deer talk’n as it relates to the behaviors of whitetails described above. It is that time to get out the rattle bag, horns and calls. You may already have some deer in pre-rut or even chasing does. We have all seen in the field or on a TV show how effective calling can be during the Pre-Rut, Rut and Post Rut. Based on that let me ask you how effective has it been for you over the years? For me I have had varied success and have asked myself what is driving this?
- Am I calling correctly?
- Am I using the right call for the right scenario?
I do believe that there is a strategy to calling. This includes 1) when to call, 2) how loud to call, 3) when not to call, and 4) which calls to use. Let’s go through some of these scenarios:
Pre – Rut- deer are becoming more aggressive and beginning to let other bucks know they are in the area via scrapes and rubs as described above. When you are seeing this kind of “sign” using a grunt call and some light rattling can be effective. Factors to consider during this time are the number of dominant bucks, buck to doe ratio, and the amount of sign you are seeing. If you do not have a large number of dominant bucks too aggressive of calling can some bucks not come in to investigate due to being afraid of getting their butts kicked. Also consider that if you do call in a scenario where you do not have a lot of mature deer then using grunt call sequences that are not overly aggressive or “deep”. Consider using a young buck sounds to entice the bucks you do have to come in and demonstrate dominance. This may give you a better chance of getting a shot on the most mature you have on the property.
Rut/Chasing- During this magical time you can get very aggressive with your calls that would include rattling, doe in estrus calls, and grunt calls. There are a number of calls you can use for doe in estrus that include Primos Lil Can, Primos Long Can, and others. Additionally, you can use rattling horns or rattle bags such as these Flextone Battle Bag. There are a number of calling sequences you can execute during this time that include the following:
- Roar (introduced by Primos) – which is an aggressive call where a buck is defending a hot doe. He is saying ” Hey Get Out of Here”
- Communication Grunt – deeper single note type of grunt vocalizations saying “Hey I Am Over Here”
- Tending Grunt - many times made by smaller or younger bucks chasing does. Often the Mature Buck is watching and waiting for that moment to move in
- Snort Wheeze – Vocalization between two bucks being very aggressive towards each other
The use of decoys during this time can also produce great results. There are a number of good decoys on the market such as the Primos Scarface (seen below) and Harry. Using a decoy on the edge of a field so that buck can see it as they are cruising. Face the decoy towards you because that buck is going to come in behind the decoy. This gives you time to draw your bow and get ready for shot. Make sure you spray your decoy down with a scent eliminator such as Dead Down Wind or Scent Away Sprays. Then adding some type of doe in estrus doe scent can help bring that buck in.
Rut/Breeding – During this time it can be tough hunting b/c many of the mature bucks are locked down with that buck. Where she goes he goes. He is not likely to break away from her so calling may produce limited results. You may consider hunting over those food sources near cover to catch him on her tail as she goes to get something to eat.
Post Rut- During this time you will have bucks back on the move to play clean up for any does that have come into estrus late. Hunting over food sources with some estrus bleats may help produce some positive results. Heavy rattling may produce some results but consider during this time these bucks may be worn down and less willing to get into a fight. If you have not put in your food plot then do as soon as possible. Depending on your hunting scenario or food plot size you may consider doing a small food plot that uses a contact seed that will quickly germinate and produce results. Seeds such as Biologic “Hot Spot” can be very effective in these scenarios to provide a highly nutritional food source during the winter to help draw in does and thus bucks on these does.
More on the Calls referenced above….
The Original Flexible Game Call maker has teamed up with Michael Waddell and the whole Bone Collector Brotherhood to create possibly the most innovative deer call to enter the woods. To put it bluntly, we put THE WHOLE HERD IN ONE CALL. The Buck Collector produces all known vocalizations as well as wheeze sounds through one killer deer call. No matter what deer vocalization you need to produce, the Buck Collector will do it simply by squeezing the labeled buttons while you blow. The call even has an integrated snort wheeze that amplifies the sound as it travels through the exhaust chamber.
The flextone® deer calls developed by Tom Wiley feature a patented combination of hard and soft parts that mimic the rigid voice box and soft, flexible neck and mouth tissues of a game animal. This design produces an enhanced control of volume and tone, giving you a fuller range of vocalizations and a more natural sound. The All-N-One Deer Call also features buttons that show the user where to squeeze the call, (F) for fawn, (D) for doe, (YB) for young buck or just blow without squeezing for a mature buck. The opposite end also has a (Vol) button for volume control. Now you have the flexibility to produce a full range of vocalizations with one deer call. The flextone® All-N-One Deer Call will, with just the squeeze of a button, accurately produce a fawn bleat or distress, a doe bleat or grunt, as well as a young buck or a mature buck grunt. Not only will you appreciate the natural sounds this call makes but also the sounds it does not make if accidentally coming in contact with your gun or bow. (Model ftd)
The Flextone Battle Bag is the ultimate fighting machine. The flexible/stretchable bag makes it easy to mesh the synthetic fighting sticks together and gives you more volume than other bags. The design also keeps the sticks from making unwanted noise when entering your hunting area.
The Primos Up ROAR Deer Call® truly is a “Triple Threat”. It combines 3 of the most effective calls to bring deer in close. It has 2 chambers, an Aggressive Grunt and an Estrus™ Bleat, topped off with a Wheeze tube to challenge bucks to a fight. The Grunt chamber reproduces a deep, resonating aggressive grunt that is made by bucks during the rut. The Bleat chamber reproduces a loud Estrus™ Bleat made by receptive does. When using these calls in combination you can sound like a buck chasing a hot doe. This will make other bucks jealous and come running to see what’s causing the Up ROAR®.
Watch this Video From Spook Spann on Rattling Tips
Originally posted 2010-11-08 18:00:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter