Last fall I had one of the neatest experiences of my bowhunting career, and I wasn’t even holding a bow in my hands. The experience in question also happened to hammer home the crazy effectiveness of rattling up rutting whitetail bucks, and why you need to be carrying a rattling system this fall, but again, my hands during the incident in question last fall held no such system. I wasn’t even hunting. Let me explain.
The date was November 9 and I was sitting in my Minnesota home office, attempting to finish a few feature stories I’d been working on before blasting off for a whitetail rut hunt in north-central Kansas, when my cell phone rang.
On the line was the hushed and excited voice of my buddy Matt, a new deer hunter. He’d never shot a deer and that, I knew, had been his primary goal of the 2016 season.
Matt was whispering into his phone from up in his MN treestand: “Hey Mark, I just had a beauty 10-point buck at 40 yards; I tried bleating to him, I tried grunting…he just ignored me and walked off like he was on a mission. What should I do?”
A strange request, for sure, but hearing the extreme urgency in Matt’s voice I went with it.
Me: “Can you see him now?”
Me: “Do you have a rattling system?”
Me: “How long ago did he walk off?”
Matt: “About 10 minutes.”
Me: “Rattle for a bit, not crazy loud, then put it down quickly, grab your bow and get ready.”
Somehow Matt is keeping me on the line as I instantly hear him rattle; a few seconds later I hear him mouth-grunt, then the unmistakable sound of a bow shot. All this went down in mere seconds. I’m thinking, is this real? Am I being “punked” somehow?
Then some rustling and Matt comes back on the line.
“I just drilled him!” Matt whispers, a bit louder now. “Holy cow…he came in on the run and I stopped him and shot…I just saw him tip over! Should I wait a while or can I go over there? Oh my god.”
Matt’s trembling voice had given me goose bumps, but at this point, my smile had to be as wide as Matt’s eyes. Some well-timed calling had turned the tables yet again.
Me: “No need to wait man, he’s dead as a stone…just watch yourself climbing down, remember to use all the steps… Congrats man! You did it!”
As a crow flies some 20 miles separated my office from Matt’s treestand on that fateful morning… which to this day remains the farthest distance from which I’ve ever helped call in a buck, but I digress.
For this outdoorsman, there is simply nothing more satisfying than calling in a big game animal to point-blank bow range, and the closer, the better. I’ve written before about the amazing effectiveness of calling deer during the peak of the rut, but it still amazes me that a large group of hunters, especially bowhunters, do not take advantage of this deadly tactic, or they limit the types of calls they carry and therefore diminish their overall chances for calling success.
Whenever I’m bowhunting for deer these days it’s rare when I’m not carrying three different calls: A grunt, bleat, and rattling system, and that’s from September right through to early January. The reason is that I’ve used each of these calls to attract unseen bucks to my stand sites across a wide variety of states (and Canadian provinces) during several stages of the rut, and I’ve also used each of the calls to turn and lure bucks passing by my location at a distance, helping lure some of them from hundreds of yards away.
My memory banks are filled with crazy deer-calling adventures, and the list grows larger every year. I consider Kansas to hold some of the best whitetailing the country has to offer, and have hunted the state regularly for the past dozen years or so. But even in Kansas, a good selection of calls has meant all the difference between merely glimpsing a bunch of trophy bucks trotting by my stand sites, and kneeling to tie my tag to a beauty set of heavy-beamed antlers.
My 2016 Kansas hunt was another great example of the effectiveness of calling. The mid-November hunt had been eventful but so far unproductive as I climbed into my stand on the hunt’s cold and blustery final morning, but things would heat up quickly.
Just after daybreak a brace of adult does had filtered through the cedar bedding area I was watching from my Lone Wolf treestand, and not five minutes behind them came a buck. With the does now out of sight the rutty 8-point soon found their scent trail and was quickly bird-dogging away, nose to the ground, well out of range. That’s when I played my last card: A Primos can-style bleat call. At the first pleading bleat the buck showed no reaction but bleat number two seemed to register. The buck paused, then, almost magically, circled back down the hill…ending up just 15 yards away. The broadside shot was the kind you dream about, another Kansas buck that, thanks to some well-timed calling, would ride home in my truck rather than live merely in my memory.
If you’re looking to increase your whitetail success this fall, start by checking out the wide selection of deer calls available from Sportsman’s Guide. While there be sure to add any missing calls to your arsenal, and make some time to practice up this summer, so you can be confident in your abilities to lure bucks this fall, into heart-pounding point-blank range. And that would be a smart call indeed.