Many hunters are afraid to try new things and “rattling” is one tactic that intimidates some.
Guess what, rattling does work. If you’ve tried it with no success, you probably try it in the wrong area or at the wrong time.
Contrary to what some think, rattling can work throughout the season—you just have to be careful how loud and aggressive you are about it at certain times.
It makes me laugh when I watch some hunting videos that instruct hunters how to rattle. Half the time they’re made by some guy who hunts game farms in Texas. And this guy will tell you, “to rattle up a buck”, you have to take your antlers and smack them together as hard as you can. Rattle for three minutes, stop, rake the brush over here, grunt three times, kick the leaves over there, click your antlers together again, and then rattle for another two minutes.”
Give me a break. I’ve witnessed a ton of bucks sparring and dozens of larger bucks in “knock-down drag-out” confrontations, and you know what, they all sounded different.
Experiment and find a sequence that works good for you. Think in “your mind” what you think two bucks should sound like at that time of year.
Early season until the first part of October, bucks respond to the sound differently than they will a few weeks from now. They respond because they are curious rather than because they want to be aggressive.
Early season, rather than smacking your antlers together as hard as you can, just tickle them together. Imitate two brother bucks sparring, not two breeding class bucks fighting over a doe.
Using some softer social buck vocalizations can add to the realism and help sell your rattling.
To rattle, as most people know it, you need to have some factors in your favour. Time of the season is important. As I said, rattling can work for you early and late season. But, rattling as most people think of rattling, where you smack your antlers together and bucks come running in to defend territory and breeding status, you need to do at the right time. Now you’re imitating a fight, not a friendly sparring session.
My best luck rattling happens the last two weeks of October through the first week or so of November. As the rut varies when it happens each year, so will your luck rattling.
Buck-to-doe is another factor you need in your favour for rattling to work well. The more bucks you have, the more competition there is, and the better rattling works. If a buck has seven does to himself here, what difference does it make to him if there’s two bucks fighting over the hill for more does. He has his work cut out for him already.
A ratio as close to 50:50 as possible is what you want. There needs to be competition among the bucks.
Which is best—a rattling bag, synthetic antlers, or real bone? There are pros and cons with each. In my fanny pack, I always carry a Woods Wise Rattler Bag. A bag is easy to use with very little movement. With real or synthetic antlers, more movement is required when using them.
The bag also is much easier to carry.
Many people think a whitetail can hear a pin drop at 200 yards. Actually, if you can hear it, a whitetail can hear it only a little bit better than you. However, their cone shaped ears, that they can direct like radar, do enable them to pin-point sounds much better and separate sounds superior to us.
Where I find myself using my Rattler Bag the most is when I’ve got a buck swinging my position out of range and he either doesn’t hear, or doesn’t react to my calling. Then, the sound of rattling reaches out there much further than a call.
My favourite synthetic antlers are called Battle Racks and they are actually two full racks rather than two separate antlers. They also feature a “BoneCore,” which is created by a revolutionary process that produces a core of air cells just like there is in real antler bone.
Synthetic antlers are easy to obtain and, next to real antlers, probably sound the best.
In my opinion, fresh and real antlers sound the best although they don’t necessarily work the best. I’ve had positive results from using bags, synthetics, and real bone. I probably use my Rattler Bag more than either of the other two just because it’s easy to carry and always with me.
But if I’m going out and my sole purpose is to rattle in a buck, I usually use the real thing.
Use other stimuli in conjunction with rattling. What makes a situation seem real to you? The more senses you appease, the more the condition seems real. Use other calls, scent, or decoys, or possibly all three in conjunction with your rattling. I like to place out two Feather Flex bedded decoys—one small buck and the other a doe.
I place some Special Golden Estrus on a Pro-Wick and put it in close proximity to the doe decoy. Or, sometimes I prefer to use a scent called Mega Tarsal Plus and place it near the buck decoy.
The decoy and the scent give the buck something to key in on and bring him closer. Many times, especially with older bucks, they seem to have a “buffer zone.” They come into the rattling but swing downwind about 80 yards or so and wait for conformation from their nose. Using the scent or the decoys gives them something to catch their attention and a reason to come closer.
Because whitetail are curious animals, many times you may have does and fawns come to the sound of your rattling. Very seldom, unless I’ve been seen, has rattling spooked deer from me.
If you’ve never tried it, you may be surprised how well it can work. Don’t be afraid to give it a try.