Calling, rattling, using scents and decoying.... advice wanted


New Member
Hey all!

I am entering my third season of bow hunting here in Northeast Kansas and I continue to love it more every year. I have access to almost any type of setup from field edges, timber stands and food plots. I hunt exclusively from tree stands but do have a ground blind(never put it to use, yet). I try to read everything I can on calling, rattling, scents and decoying but I thought I would ask all of you for some real world advice.

I have had some success with grunting and rattling.....just not sure if I fully understand what I am doing or when I should do it. When in doubt I generally just sit quietly and wait for the deer to come through(this happens more often then not).

What type of products have you had success with? How do you use these products? What time of year do you find success with a particular product? Any advice or experiences you can share with me will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance and good luck this season!
Prerut is when I have had my best luck using grunt tubes and scents. When deer are in the seeking phase they will zone in on these things. I have had great success using both and I only use the generic Tinks 69 product. I have attracted big bucks with it on a heavily hunted public draw in bow only property that runs 300 hunters a weekend through it.

I have not rattled much but have tried it in Texas with some success. Where I normally hunt on our small 80 acres with hunters all around I tend to try to be pretty quiet and hope the neighbors make noise and push deer my way...
Well you sure picked a fine piece of the world to start bow hunting in! I used to hunt Illinois and had great luck rattling in bucks. Not so much in SW Missouri. My impression is you need high density of bucks in an area for rattling to work well. The only bucks I've successfully rattled in SW Missouri were mature bucks. That's good but it's not that easy. They will hang up without a decoy or some kind of visual. When they hang up they will circle and wind you and then they become ghosts. We had some luck having one guy rattle 30 yards behind the shooter. Best to have him on the ground too thrashing around a bit. They can come in fast so be ready.
I also had better luck rattling earlier in the year than most guys...again this was Illinois. Areas that are buck heavy start setting their pecking order pretty early in my experience. I had 2 big bucks fighting under my tree a week before season opened in far northern Illinois. Two more were drawn in before it was over. It was cool!
Be careful of scents. If they can smell the scent they can also smell you. There is no such thing as a cover scent to a deer, only to humans. If you use scents to draw in deer hunt a cross wind.
I use the same line of thinking in calling deer as I do turkey. Sparingly! and if it's a wise old deer and it's not pre rut I rarely call.
Good luck, have fun with it and post your results,

I can ONLY speak to what I have done, in my little corner of the world.

Scent - I have only ever killed one deer for certain using a scent. It followed a scent trail I left and it was simply a curious doe. Not what I was after in particular, but it did get me a deer for the freezer. I seem to do better by trying to be as scent free as possible.

Grunting - I don't use a grunt tube unless I am trying to stop a deer to shoot for the most part. I have had ZERO luck actually grunting to a deer and having it come to me to see what was going on without some other cue. I have had luck using a fawn ball to bring in does before.

Rattling - I only use a small set of rattling antlers that I drop from my stand on the ground and allow them to clank together and crunch some leaves in the process - I want it to sound like some younger bucks sparring and not an all out war. I do this in the pre-rut when bucks are sorting things out. I find it funny how many people rattle, but don;t make any noise on the ground.....are these deer some how suspended above the ground when they fight.....I don't think so.

Decoys - I LOVE to decoy deer on field edges! Again pre-rut is the best time. I use a small piece of white plastic bag to flutter in the breeze on the tail for movement, or at the ears. I use my old 3D foam archery target - don't works. And I don't get the sun glare of the plastic ones. I set it up where deer can see it from a long way and that they have to come past me to get to it. I prefer to use a buck decoy. Doe decoys freak other does out, does just avoid a buck decoy. I have seen bucks come in to fight, I have seen young bucks cower away. I have even had a buck approach me as I was carrying my decoy on my shoulder (during archery season) across a 30 acres cut field to check out the "doe on the move"!

I see and hear far too many hunters sound like a war is going on in the woods between two deer - they grunt like fools and rattle like they are trying to break one antler with another. I think they do far more harm than good - at least in my area. I think deer really like that visual cue as to what is making that noise. If/when I call I keep it soft and try to do nothing more than get the deer to see the visual cue and then come in for a better look. I swear some folks think deer are going to come to a grunt tube or rattling horns like a dog to a training whistle......that has never been my experience.

Below is a sequence I took from my I-phone last year from a box blind with my decoy right behind the blind almost on the steps. The "zoom" doesn't change - and this isn't a huge buck, but you can see he came a long way to check out my decoy.

When I first saw him. The deer come out of the thicket behind him in that low spot all the time.
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About 1/2 way thru my video - which is right at a minute or so from the first pic.
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Just before I lost sight as he was fully behind me. I wasn't going to kill this buck so I had a good time filming him. Keep in mind this is a video so at this point he is only like 20 yards away. This is right at the 2 min 15 sec mark of the video - so he was on a string so to speak and in the wide open. Would a mature buck do this....not sure, but this sure is fun to watch. He lingered for another 2 or 3 minutes before he finally figured out something wasn't right and wandered off.
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The main thing to remember when calling is every buck out there has a different personality. Just like you and I do. Calling will work out best for you during the pre-rut. During the rut it is hard to get a buck to pay attention to anything if they are locked down with a doe but you can call in bucks that are back on the move searching for the next doe to breed.

That being said I start off my calling very light. Light grunts and very light tickling of the horns. Watch the buck you are targeting, usually they will give you a sign that they heard you, ears perk up or can actually turn towards the sound. If you know the buck and know he has shown tendencies towards aggression. If this is the case you can get a little more aggressive with your calling. I don't like to educate deer so I don't push it too hard until I know the time is right. The bucks will tell you when this time is. Rut crazed bucks will more often than not come to some grunting and come in to check out a fight and steal a doe from the fighting bucks. I do not use decoys but do know guys that use them successfully. I always felt they were another way I could screw things up so I avoid using them.

As far as scents go I stick to the basics some doe in heat of whatever brand you choose, maybe some rutting buck urine to go along with it. I have more luck making scrapes than I do just putting some scent out and having the deer come running into it. For me it works more as a place to get a buck to stop and smell the roses while I get my shot off. The one scent I will take to the woods and use religiously now is Evercalm. I was skeptical of it originally but have changed my tune considerably. It is a little pricey but from my test runs with it, it is well worth the money.

A good example of it is my hunt the other night. I put some on my boots and scraped a little off around my tree after I climbed in. I had a doe and a fawn follow my trail from out by my truck all the way into 30 yards from my tree and bed up on my trail, dead down wind of my stand until a few minutes before dark. Another example is a filmed hunt of my sons last night. He used the same tactic with it but he also scraped a little off on some trees around his stand. He saw numerous deer and all came to his ladder stick. Worked around down wind of him and he swears they knew he was there. The video actually proves that. These deer came in licked the stuff off of the trees as well as off of his ladder stick. The calming effect this has on deer is unreal. I am not sponsored by them in any way shape or form and could care less who does or doesn't use but this is my experience with it all in the last three days. Now maybe they will sponsor me and send me a truck load of the stuff so I can afford to use it all

Good luck with your hunt! The best way to learn calling and scent techniques is trial and error. Somethings work better for others and better in different parts of the country. If you have a good amount of bucks they will come to the call until they get educated.
Thanks for the info! I appreciate all the feedback I can get. I am looking forward to trying a few new things out this year.
I wish I would have been in a stand this morning as we had temps in the high 30's and it was 70+ yesterday. Surely they were moving!
I've had the best luck rattling pre-rut, killed a curious buck after rattling in mid-October a few years ago. Haven't had any luck on estrus scents or drags outside of small bucks and does
I haven't had much success with rattling. Where I hunt I've had just a handful of very young bucks respond to blind rattling. Never have used rattling with a buck in sight.

The last buck I shot was brought in by grunt call December 3rd. Well after rut activity in Oklahoma. 6.5 year old buck who popped out 100 yards away. Gave him a few soft grunts while he was just slowly walking and feeding. After a few looks of interest I kept on and brought him in to a 35 yard shot. Non aggressive, looked more curious than anything.

Early October the last two seasons I've had luck grunting and snort wheezing bucks in. Mainly just to, like another post mentioned, test out the waters and see how they were responding.

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I've had great (and consistent) luck with a buck decoy over the yrs. I won't put scent out when I'm hunting, but will doctor up a mock scrape from time to time. And I suspect I see less deer when I call than when I'm silent.
I'm not a great hunter or anything but I have been in the bow hunting woods for almost 30yrs. As said above; the area, population dynamics, and pressure can affect your results.
Nothing early season. Late Oct, then I bring out tricks. Best of luck over years is a doe bleat. Brought in more bucks across the country with it than anything else. Buck grunt comes in second. I still mainly use an old H&S that I've had for 20 years. Outperforms any of the new I try. Very quite and realistic.
Rattling is effective but works at times, then others nothing. If rattling, do it hard and loud for 2-5 min. Don't be shy. And your setup has to be with the deer blocked. I prefer to have a field to my back and a funnel in front of me made my flora or topography or both. Rattle hard and grunt then wait. Bucks show like clockwork at the 30 min mark if they are coming in. I don't do but few times a sit. Best evening buck on the wall came in evening and was one of only two deer seen all afternoon. They tend to circle downwind, hence need for blocking access.
Scents I use less of each year , but do pull them out in a drag rag in middle of rut. Had shooter follow one to my stand last year like on a string.
Problem with most these things, like tree stands, deer are exposed to so many hunters using them, they are much more cautious then 10 yrs ago. Thus I use each trick less each year, and then only on weekdays when pressure is less. Weekend hunting is poor for me usually as everyone now bow or Xbow hunts.