Shake, Rattle, and Heads will Roll (the basics)

When bow hunting, getting that special deer in range is one of the biggest challenges that hunters face but fortunately ladies, we can use the male testosterone to our advantage. Most of the ladies know (and I think the facts are out there) that when men are chasing women, certain common sense characteristics are thrown out the window and anyone challenging the dominant male will be met with a response. The same applies to bucks and does and during certain times of the year there will be deer we have never seen before present themselves to us because their common sense has been overpowered by hormones.


One of the easiest and most entertaining methods of bringing a deer in close is rattling. This is essentially creating the noise of two bucks clashing antlers that can be heard by other deer in the area. Usually the sound of clashing antlers will echo through the woods and hopefully spark interest in nearby bucks of a fight or challenge and bring them running to come stake out their territory for their chosen doe or area. Some hunters swear by it, others haven’t had much luck, but as with many tools and tricks we all use in the hunting world it’s worth a try.


There are various types of rattling tools available to use including rattle bags, rattling systems, fake antlers, and of course real antlers or sheds, all that provide the same basic effect. As with anything, everyone has their preference and reasons why one is better than the other, so the only tip I can offer when choosing your choice of rattling equipment is to make sure you are comfortable using it and determine if you will be rattling mostly by yourself in tree stands (rattle bags and some rattle systems are compact and easy to carry and some can be used with one hand) or if you will be teamed up and have the space for antlers. Rattling while bow hunting alone is a great challenge because of how quick a buck can come in and the range of shot for your bow; plan your method of rattling, weapon of choice, and location choice carefully for best results.


The best time to start using a rattling method is during the rut when bucks are chasing doe looking for potential mates for breeding. A more specific time is when you see mature, dominant bucks chasing doe, but depending on the population of deer in your area and when rut begins it will be up to you to determine when the time is right. (If you’re not sure just try some rattling mid-season and give it a shot; trial and error will help in the long run). If you do have bucks chasing doe then it’s time to play the wind and elevation game and these two factors can make or break your success. Although some bucks will come in running with little regard to wind, more mature bucks might sneak in and try to get downwind of you to get a good smell on possible fighting deer and this is where your elevation will help. If possible try to be elevated in either a tree stand, tripod, or even atop a hilly landscape where you have good views around you and can see a buck attempting to get stealthy on you. Be sure you have good visuals all around you while still being concealed; rattling in an extremely dense area without any lanes to see will only get you busted by a deer that will spot you before you spot him.


Personally I rattle blind and with visuals because you truly never know what is around, but there are mixed opinions on whether or not you should rattle when there are no deer in the area or if you should only rattle to bring a buck you can see in closer. I hunt mostly low fence areas so I am a big believer in rattling blind because there is no guarantee what kind of deer might have wandered into the area seeking a prime doe. There are also numerous guidelines and opinions about how long rattling sequences should be and the time lapse between the sequences. I will typically rattle 20 – 60 seconds starting with one loud crack (signaling the initial hit of the bucks) followed by some soft tickling and increase in volume with some grinding. If nothing shows after 5-20 minutes I will try another session. You can fine-tune your sequences and time lapses between them based on your surroundings, deer population, and time of rut. Depending on how deep in the rut the deer are will determine how long I wait; sometimes it can take quite a while for a suspicious and cautious deer to make their way into range, other times you will have an over eager buck come running full sprint, on high-alert looking for the fight and you don’t want to get busted. However, don’t ‘over-rattle’ because this will indicate an unauthentic sound to surrounding deer that will make them suspicious; a few sequences in an area are enough before moving on or trying another day.


Although rattling can bring in mature bucks, it’s important to note that performing this technique creates movement that can get you busted. Try to use just your hands with as little movement as possible instead of a full body motion or if possible buddy up and ensure that the ‘rattler’ is hidden from view. Other things to consider and use while rattling are grunts (since fighting deer will usually be grunting), hoof stomps, and the sound of breaking branches; these will enhance your sequence and create a more realistic effect, but will also create more movement so keep your eyes open and scanning the entire time during a rattling sequence. One of the best tips I can give to learn good rattling techniques is to watch and listen to actual bucks fighting to simulate the sounds. If you don’t have the opportunity to witness this live, search the internet or hunting channels for some buck fighting action and then mimic their sounds and sequences.


As with any technique, weather, deer population, terrain, wind, peak of rut, and even hunter overpopulation in the area can and will affect your success rate. Trial and error in your hunting area will be one of the best techniques and you might just surprise yourself with a great buck you never knew was in your area; bucks, like men on a mission, will leave their comfort zone to impress a doe or stand their ground…we just need to take advantage of it.


Finally, rattling is a great passion of my fellow Queen, Jody; one of her MOST favorite things to do; I know she will probably chime in with some awesome stories and even more tips on this technique from her successes and failures.


Nov 29, 2012 | Category: Blog | Comments: 1


One comment on “Shake, Rattle, and Heads will Roll (the basics)

  1. Ed Burks

    Now I have a logo/theme for that gun/bow rack I am making for y’all. I just need to get back in the shop and finish it. Working for Tyco does not give me much free time. But I’ll get there.

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