Some hunters think that calling whitetailed deer is basically limited to grunting and antler rattling during the rut, but this couldn't be further from the truth. The variety of deer calls available is much more extensive than that, and deer calling can be a productive way to hunt bucks or does from opening day to the last sunset of the season.
|The best bet would be to find a deer calling pack that includes both a doe bleat can and a buck grunt tube.|
Early Season Whitetails
Early archery or muzzleloader seasons are all about hunting food sources. The stirrings of the rut are still many weeks away, so both bucks and does are only concerned with where their next meal is coming from. But this doesn't mean that they won't respond to a call.
Doe and fawn bleats are usually the most productive sounds to replicate at this time. If you are looking for venison for the freezer, they can be very effective for calling in adult does. They can also lure in a curious buck.
Calling Deer During Pre-Rut and Rut
Doe bleats can be just as effective at calling in does at this time as during the early season, but it is also now that the effectiveness of these calls on bucks really takes a sharp upward turn. Bucks are now on the prowl for receptive does, and that's exactly the sound you are making.
It is during this period that buck grunts and antler rattling are also most effective. Grunts can be used to "blind call" unseen bucks. Try short and rhythmic seeking/trailing/tending grunts. Grunting can also be very effective at bringing in a buck that you can see that is just out of range. Start with a long, medium-soft grunt to catch his attention. If he doesn't respond, crank up the volume until he turns your way. The buck "snort-wheeze" can also be dynamite at this time, as it is an aggressive sound that can attract a dominant buck.
When rattling, start out with some light tine-tickling, in case there's a buck bedded nearby. If nothing comes in, turn up the intensity. Try to picture two big bucks tearing up the real estate. It's nearly impossible for one human to overdue the commotion that two dominant bucks can create, so let loose, but have your gun or bow at the ready.
Deer Calling During Post-Rut/Secondary Rut/Late Season
Not surprisingly, the doe bleat continues to be an effective call at this time, in the same ways as early season. But grunting and light rattling can also still be effective at luring in a buck if there's a secondary rut in your area, usually a month after the peak rut.
Some of these calls are best used in combinations of two or more at a time for maximum realism, such as rattling and grunting together. However, with the exception of serious rattling, generally the best advice is not to overdo any calling, as it's not natural and can do more harm than good.