Deer Calling Strategies For The Rut

November 12th, 2008 / Posted by
Deer Calling Strategies For The Rut

by Brian Robbins
Breaking The Rut Up Into Three Phases, The Author Walks You Through The Right Calling….COOL DEER FIGHT VIDEO IS EMBEDDED

Every fall is filled by deer hunters dreams of taking a trophy buck during the deer season. Flocking to sporting good stores hunters buy their license. Strolling through the store a deer call is noticed and bought. Not quite sure if it will work or not, it is worn around the neck on opening morning believing that the rut is on and with a few blows of this call every buck in the county will be broadside in your sights in minutes.

This is a great plan, but unfortunately it does not quite work that way. Too many hunters take to the woods with this mindset. After a few unsuccessful attempts with the new toy, the call is discarded. All faith is lost, the rut is over and there are no deer running to get in the way for a clean shot. The call is a joke and the rut is a myth made up by some outdoor writer trying to sell a story to a magazine.

This could not be further from the truth. The rut does occur and deer are vocal creatures. The key is in knowing what stage the rut is in and then using the correct call. A call is merely a tool that will enable you are able to speak in the deer?s language. Using the wrong call during a certain phase of the rut means you are alerting the deer that something is wrong. Use the correct call at the correct time and you will be filling out that deer tag.


The rut is a time when the male deer are actively pursuing does to breed. The buck’s neck swells as testosterone flows through him telling him it is time to pass on his genes. There are three phases of the rut; pre rut, rut and post rut. Each phase is different with its advantages and obstacles in hunting it. Knowing which deer calls to use during the proper phase will enable hunters opportunities to take advantage of the language of deer.
Calls Of The Pre-Rut


During the rut bucks shed their natural paranoia and begin chasing does with reckless abandon. photo by brian robbins

During the rut bucks shed their natural paranoia and begin chasing does with reckless abandon. photo by brian robbins

Chuck Jones of Knight and Hale Game Calls and co-host of “Ultimate Deer and Turkey? says “There is no set time for the rut to occur. When the rut is happening in Ohio it may be weeks before it occurs in Arkansas. The rut tends to run longer in the South compared to the North. It can last as long as a month and a half.” There are generally two ruts that occur in a season. The second starts around 28 days after the first rut. This is when yearling and leftover does coming into their second cycle usually breed.

Pre rut is easy to distinguish form the other stages. The bucks will be working scrape lines for two to three weeks. They will paw at the ground and urinate on their tarsal glands spreading their scent. Does crossing the line will also mark the area with their urine. This is the way deer communicate to each other when it is time to breed.

When calling deer during this time a soft low key approach is best. Gentle bleats from a fawn or doe call would make excellent choices. Aggressive calling with a grunt call is not advised due to the fact that the deer have not reached the aggressive stage yet. Aggressive grunting at this stage is letting the deer know something is wrong and out of place. Soft short grunts are better suited for this stage of the rut.

Jones said the best way to hunt the pre rut is to find a Buck’s Scrape line and hunt it with out disturbing it. This is the time when a deer call like the Knight and Hale EZ Grunter Plus works well. Look for the buck’s travel zone in fence rows and thickets and keep an eye out for buck signs like rubs, scrapes and pellets.
Gruntin’ The Ruttin’ Bucks

During the rut, your strategy should change. At this time, concentrate on the does and you will find the bucks, said Jones. The bucks give up on their scrape lines for the most part and are actively pursuing does. Locate the doe’s food source and bedding area and get in the middle. “Be aware” Jones advised, “That a food source can change daily. Hardwood ridges, concentrating on deer utilizing food sources and hunting over fresh deer signs are also great locations to hunt during the rut. ”



You can "throw" the sound of a call by aiming the grunt tube and covering its sides a little. photo by rob eder

You can throw the sound of a call by aiming the grunt tube and covering its sides a little.

As your strategy and set up has changed so should your calling sounds and techniques. Now is the time to use aggressive grunting. Rattling to simulate a fight also adds to the chance of arousing the curiosity of a buck. The new Rut-N-Buck call on the market from Knight and Hale Game Calls would make an excellent choice to add to your deer call arsenal. The Rut-N-Buck makes the exciting clicking sound that a frustrated buck makes during the rut. This call is a close range call that will drive a nearby buck mad. Using it in conjunction with your other long-range calls can be the trick to brings that wall hanger out of the thick stuff for a shot.

After The Rut 

Post rut is the most difficult time to attempt to take a deer. At this phase the deer have accomplished their goal of breeding and have a new agenda, staying alive. The deer have been hunted and pressured hard during the season. If you wish to take a buck at this phase you will need to move into the thick cover and keep a sharp eye. Honeysuckle and briar thickets make excellent places for deer to hide in. Look for entry paths and set up along them.

As with trying to decide what area to hunt you also need to be as selective on which call to use. A second rut will be coming in and you may need to change your calling tactics on a daily basis. When soft grunting works one day the same routine may fall on deaf ears if a buck is chasing a doe going into late heat.

The best thing to do is play it by ear and use what call seems to fit the situation. Start out soft and if you get no reaction then gradually get more aggressive until you get a reaction form the deer. If you see a lot of fresh scrapes stay on the aggressive side of the calling range.
Things To Remember

One thing to keep in mind is that a deer call will not spook a deer. The sounds that they make are the everyday language. Just like humans deer react to sounds depending on their mood. When one deer may run by you, ignoring you, the next buck may be tearing the up the forest to stand broadside in front of you.
One last bit of advice Jones gives on deer calls is “Most deer that spook from a hunter using a call are not spooked from the call but by the situation. A hunter blowing a deer call in the middle of a field where a deer can see deer are not around and will know something is wrong. In thick woods you stand a better a better chance of drawing on a deer’s curiosity.”

Now with the knowledge about the rut and which calls to use you may just find that trophy buck you have been looking for all your life. Knowing which call to use is just as important as knowing which phase the rut is in. When a hunter will pay attention to the rut and will use proper calling for that phase, the odds of filling out that deer tag will increase.

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