The scraggly little buck stood about 100 yards away chewing on fresh shoots of rye grass. He wore his first set of antlers, and they made him look a little lopsided – two points on one side and a gnarly looking spike on the other.
It was the first week of October. I was enjoying the cool air and a sit in the tree after a long hot summer. Fresh venison
would be nice, but the buck didn’t meet Arkansas’ three-point rule. I couldn’t let him ride home in my truck, but I could have a little fun with him.
Pulling a grunt call from my pocket, I gave a few blats. The results were unexpected. The young whitetail bristled, laid his ears back and began a stiff-legged walk toward me. His actions and attitude were typical bull-of-the-woods behavior in early November, but early season youngsters weren’t supposed to do this.
His swagger continued all the way to five steps from the base of my tree where he stopped and appeared puzzled. After milling around for few minutes and munching on a persimmon, he sauntered off.
Flash forward two weeks.
It’s mid-October. Scrapes and rubs are popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain. I’m in the same tree, but a decidedly larger and more mature buck is standing about 100 yards away this time. He has followed a doe and smaller buck into the pasture. Body language says he’s on a mission and very interested in the doe. Again, I pull the grunt tube from my pocket and utter a single “uuurrp.” Again, the results were unexpected. Body language instantly changes. The buck hits code red, high alert. Nose twitching, ears searching, he scans the woods for movement. After a solid minute he trots back to the woods where he entered the field with tail clamped tightly to rump. What’s the deal?
Deer calls have become a popular piece of equipment in recent years and for good reason — they work. Well, they work sometimes. Mid-October through November, during the annual rutting festivities, is usually prime time. However, as the two examples above show, it really depends on the attitude of the deer you’re calling to.
Deer have different personalities. Some are aggressive and some are passive. It also depends on their mood at the moment. If a buck just finished wearing out a pine sapling, and is feeling his oats, he makes a prime candidate for calling. On the other hand, if he just came out on the losing end of a staredown by a bigger buck he probably won’t respond like you want. The aforementioned popularity of grunt calls might also play a role. If you’re the fifth hunter to grunt at a particular buck he may have put two and two together and figured out that grunts with no deer to be seen mean trouble.
So how can you tell? Body language is the best answer, but as shown in the previous paragraphs it’s not always accurate. Sometimes you just don’t know. It’s best to start soft and see what happens. As with most things in hunting, there are few rules carved in stone.
Luck plays a part too, so go ahead and try to talk to the deer. But, you might be surprised at how they reply.