The stars were shimmering on a clear mid-November morning when Brad Harris climbed into his treestand on a wooded hilltop. He spotted a few does at daylight, but no bucks. He made a series of six grunts with a mouth call, followed by a sequence with a rattle box, and ended with a few more grunts. No response.
About 30 minutes later, Harris repeated the grunt-rattle sequence. Still, no takers. At about 7:40 a.m., he went through the gambit a third time and immediately heard a deer running in his direction. The buck stopped 60 yards off, paused for a few seconds, and trotted within 20 yards of Harris, who promptly arrowed it. The typical 10-point scored 176.
“I have taken my biggest bucks by calling blind,” says Harris. “Calling from a stand is like fishing, only you are casting sound instead of lures. I generally call every 20 to 30 minutes throughout the day.”
Harris casts three loud doe bleats or grunts. He sends the sound in all directions by emitting one grunt or bleat to his left, another in front of him, and the third to the right.
“I make a nice, short, monotone sound,” says Harris. “I don’t want to sound like a distressed deer. I’ll follow doe bleats with grunts when bucks are actively seeking does.”
Hale says he never calls blind when he hunts a specific trophy buck because he believes it may send the buck in the opposite direction or give away his position. Another downside is that other deer may respond to the calling first and bust him, which would surely put off a big buck.
“If I’m in an area just hunting for any deer, I’ll call blind and be happy to take my chances with whatever comes along,” says Hale. “But if I know there’s a particular big buck around, I won’t call to him unless I see him passing by out of range.”
When calling a buck that is in sight but out of range, respond to the buck’s reactions. That’s what Keith Burgess did while bowhunting Mississippi’s rifle season in late November, early rut in that part of the South.
Burgess was hunting in fairly open woods and saw a dandy 8-point buck about 100 yards away. He wanted to bring the buck closer for a sure shot, so he called with doe bleats. The buck started toward him, but then hung-up behind thick cover.
“I tried bleating again and he wouldn’t budge,” says Burgess. “So I gave him a series of short, choppy, tending grunts, and he came right in. I dropped him at 50 yards.”
Harris pointed out that one of the more common mistakes made by hunters is to stop calling once you get a buck’s attention for fear the animal will spot you. When he sees a buck moving out of range, he emits a single, soft grunt or bleat, which he calls a contact call. If the buck gives no indication it heard anything, Harris calls louder, using as much volume as necessary to stop the buck.
“As soon as the buck stops, I immediately call softly to reassure him that he heard a deer,” says Harris. “If you don’t reassure him, he’ll keep on going and you’ll lose him.”
Next: Mouth And Hand Calls, Calling Setups, Prime-Time Calling