Whitetail bucks are territorial animals. Bucks will spar for dominance and the right to breed. Long
before the rut, bucks determine who is the king of the forest. A mature buck might have a ten-mile
territory that he defends against rival bucks. Smaller bucks will share the same turf as the big boys
but they know their rank in the heard. Smaller bucks will run if a bigger buck shows any aggressive
jestures. Bucks are buddy's most of the year except during the rut when testosterone levels rise they
turn against each other. Each year we hear stories about bucks that get locked up while fighting. Two
of my hunting partners have come across huge bucks with antlers locked. Big whitetails fight more than
most people think. They can and often do fight to the death. When a buck hears the sounds of antlers
clashing they are instinctively attracted to it.
How to rattle?
To rattle in a buck you should sound like two bucks fighting. The first thing you'll need is a fresh
set of rattling horns. I like to use fresh sheds that are 140" class or larger. I don't like to use
small spindly antlers because the sound doesn't travel very far. Bring the antlers together with some
power then grind and twist them together. Don't be afraid to make some noise. Each buck fight is different
some are short clashes. A few fights are only pushing matches. Some fights might last for hours it depends
on the bucks involved. Don't keep smashing the horns together; deer aren't rams that just clash horns.
Try to picture two bucks getting ready to fight. They circle each other with their ears back. They grunt
at each other then one let's out a snort wheeze. They clash antlers with tremendous force; they try to push
each other down so they can gore their rival. They push and toss each other around. Antlers clang, limbs
break and hooves pound the ground. This is what you must see in your head each time you rattle in order
to sound like two huge bucks brawling.
When to rattle?
Rattling can work during the entire rut. The best time is definitely during the pre-rut. During
the pre-rut bucks are very frustrated because the does aren't ready to breed. The bucks are checking
their scrapes and rub lines. Bucks in pre-rut are just looking for trouble. During the rut a lot of bucks
are preoccupied with does. Bucks that are with does will not come to your rattling. Even though the odds
are against you during the peak of the rut you can still call in some big deer, their always seems to be
a buck looking for a hot doe and your calling can trigger an aggressive response at this time. The post
rut period can be really good; bucks still want to breed but most of the breeding is over. Mornings seem
to be the best time to call in a buck but rattling can work all day, rattling in the evening can also
be productive. My conclusion is, rattle during the entire rut. Rattling may not bring deer closer to you
all the time but it won't scare deer away.
Where to rattle
Rattling works the best where the buck to doe ratio is equal. You will have a greater response if there
are a lot of mature bucks where you hunt. The smaller the deer population in your area the less chance
you will have in bringing in bucks. If you're hunting in remote areas with few deer you can still bring
in some monster bucks, you will just have to work a little harder. I wouldn't recommend rattling where
there is a lot of hunters this could be dangerous.
The rattling set up
If you do your homework and scout out some big buck hideouts then I would recommend setting up some tree
stands. Get in to your stand early and start rattling when it's legal shooting light. Rattle for about
a minute then wait 20 minutes and rattle again. Stay in your stand and rattle when you feel like it.
Some bucks come running to the horns while others sneak in down wind. Some deer will circle you,
so be alert. Use your grunt call all the time, bucks that are tending a doe will grunt frequently.
Using deer scents would also increase your odds.
If you hunt new areas and don't have time to scout for stand sites hears a trick that I've used over
the years. Hike through the woods at a good pace looking for deer sign as you go. When you spot some
descent sign find a spot and start your rattling sequences. If you don't see anything in about 45 minutes
put your horns in your pack and find a new spot. Try to cover a lot of territory; this will increase your
odds of calling in a big buck. Use your vehicle to cover more ground. Keep at it, like any other style
of hunting you don't get results every day. Be ready at all times, you could call in a buck the first time
you rattle or the 40th time.
Two Montana whitetials locked from fighting.
Erik Dailey rattles in a buck on the new Public Land Whitetials video.
A young buck showing an agressive posture, responding to grunt calls.
Erik rattled in this 10 pointer on video in the 99 season.
Tom Blais rattled in this big eight pointer late in the 98 season.
Erik rattled in and took this Montana eight pointer.
Chuck Harriman rattles in a small buck using the gorilla rattling method.