Bowhunters have known about the effectiveness of antler rattling for years. Unfortunately, so have the trophy bucks we seek to attract. A game plan to dupe rattle-wary whitetails begins with refining technique.
- Start most sequences by calling softly-merely "tickling" the antlers. This will prevent spooking close-in bucks, and it may be all the volume needed on those calm, "pin-drop" mornings and evenings. Conversely, don't be afraid to generate volume when it's really needed, on more blustery days. How loud? It's hard for anyone to duplicate the power and rage generated by two trophy bucks. Go nuts.
- Know where not to call. Best rattling results will come on remote or well-managed tracts, especially those with a quality doe-to-buck ratio, the closer to 1-to-1, the better. Knowing where not to call is almost as crucial. In areas of high doe-to-buck ratios (less competition for breeding) or high hunter pressure (lots of rattling), bucks will likely be leery of the technique. In extreme cases, it may be best to leave the antlers at home. Soft grunt calls or doe/fawn bleats should be the better choice.
- Produce rattling closer to the ground. Whitetails know that whitetails don’t climb trees. Ultra-realistic rattling should occur on the ground, made possible from a treestand by rigging a pair of antlers to a thin camo rope. It's an extreme technique that can bring cagey bucks those last few yards.
- Consider adding a buck decoy to your stand site. Incoming bucks will be looking hard for the "combatants." A deer decoy with a medium-sized (110-inch range) rack just might help lure in — and prevent spooking — incoming bucks of various sizes.
- Create a calling/rattling scenario. Up the realism factor (and prevent boredom) by creating calling "scenarios." As the peak of the rut nears, start your sequence with a few grunt calls, mimicking a buck hounding a doe. Then add a loud antler crash as a "challenger" springs on the scene. Later, after more rattling, adding "grunt-Wheezes" helps mimic tired bucks, exhausted from the struggle. Think emotion.