By Ron Spomer
For us, whitetail hunters summer dreaming usually revolves around the upcoming season. But we should do more than dream. We should prepare.
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Most us us know we should stay out of a buck’s core area. Leave him alone and let him feel secure. But we also know we should get stands hung early enough to let them blend into the environment. And many of us want to operate trail cams, maybe manage food plots. What else can we do to prepare for the soon-to-be-here season?
How about learning to rattle?
Rattling up whitetails has been around since at least the 1960s. Savvy Native American hunters were known to use the tactic, but it took modern hunters considerable time to try it, and then most gave up because it didn’t work. But others had fantastic success with it. So what’s the secret?
Timing and a balanced buck-doe ratio. The reason many of us early adopters failed at rattling (outside of Texas) in the last third of the 20th century was that whitetail populations were heavily skewed to a low buck-to-doe ratio. When you’re the male with an average of six or ten females all demanding your attention during a two-week rut period, you’re too busy to attend any fights!
These days most state Fish & Game agencies have balanced their state’s herds nicely. Most of us now hunt where there might be only 2 or 3 does for every buck. In select areas, there’s closer to a 1:1 ratio! That makes for extreme competition and a lot of buck-to-buck interaction. When the fall tussles begin, there are plenty of boys eager to join in.
With sex ratios this good, your only remaining challenges are timing and technique. This video covers the technique pretty well, but let’s investigate the timing. When is the proper time to rattle and when is the best time?
Over the decades I’ve discovered that my best luck comes about a week before the first doe comes into estrus. Across most of North America, that’s the first week in November. This bleeds over into the first day or two of the chase period simply because so many deer are moving and so many bucks chasing. Anyone left behind is fired up and likely to respond to any indication of another doe in the vicinity, and the sounds of two bucks fighting suggest just that.
Once breeding begins, most bucks are too busy to attend any fights. But this doesn’t mean you should forget rattling. Smaller bucks who can’t collect and hold a doe of their own still wander and respond to rattling, so if you’re just looking for venison, rattle away. Heck, you might even pick up a bruiser just off one conquest and shopping for his next. As noted in the video, I haven’t noticed that rattling ever spooks deer, so why not try it?
I’ve read that post rut rattling is not only good but often deadlier than pre-rut rattling. This hasn’t been my experience, but again, if you’re still out there, why not give it a try? The idea is that bucks are still full of testosterone and — with eligible does in shorter supply — more eager to find one. On the flip side, I’ve noticed that hard-charging, hard-breeding older bucks are worn down and often too tired to continue breeding.
Regardless, rattling never hurts, so why not give it a try? Heck, you can even try rattling in the early season as soon as antlers have hardened. Bucks are then sparring, testing out the new armament. I wouldn’t hit it hard then, but lighter rattling can sure work.
If stand hunting is getting boring, hit the ground and rattle up some company.
About Ron Spomer Outdoors
Ron Spomer has been hunting for 50 years and writing about it for 40. While gathering data for thousands of articles published in more than a hundred magazine titles and several books, this former Dakota farm boy has pursued game on six continents. Spomer is a recognized authority on optics, firearms, ballistics, outdoor photography, conservation and hunting for everything from quail to brown bears. To learn more, visit RonSpomerOutdoors.com. Follow him on Youtube .