When most people think of hunting whitetails they envision sitting on stand, waiting on deer to come to them. This is one way to go about it, but if you’re hunting deer anytime near the rut in your area, rattling can be a total blast! The last couple of years I’ve spent my Thanksgiving on the Powder River in Montana rattling in buck after buck. In fact last year I rattled in over 30 bucks, and had an absolute wonderful time.
When it comes to rattling you can just go out and hit some horns together, but to be extremely effective you want to think it through before heading out. I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of luck rattling in a variety of states and have come up with 7 big mistakes that are often made, but could be avoided:
1.Leave Setup Too Early – A set of rattling antlers can carry sound over a great distance. Because of this, bucks may come running from a long way off so you want to be sure you are giving the bucks time to get to you. The last thing you want to do is do all that work and finally attract the attention of a big buck, and leave the scene before they arrive.
2.Forget To Add Realism – When bucks fight, it’s usually a blown out big fight. It’s not two bucks just gently hitting their antlers together. Sticks are breaking, grass is flying and noise is being made- usually it’s an all out brawl and can be heard from a distance. This is exactly what you want your setup to mimic. Run around, make noise, break branches and cause a ruckus. I like to scrape the rattling antlers on the trees, break branches, and run around like a real fight is happening.
3.Not Using Terrain To Your Advantage – When you’re rattling one important aspect to keep in mind is wind direction. When most bucks hear the antlers, their first reaction is to get downwind and use their nose to their advantage. If you can find terrain that will stop this it will be extremely helpful. I like to use either steep ravines or rivers to cut deer off. This will force them to come straight on and allow you to see them before they can smell you.
4.Not using shooting sticks – It is important to be rock solid on any shot, but shooting sticks can be extremely helpful when you’re rattling because it allows you to keep your gun up and in the ready position for a long amount of time. You may have a buck slowly circling in or even a second buck coming behind so you want to keep your movement to a minimum, but always be ready. I’ve found shooting sticks are a great way to do this.
5.Sitting Down – Make sure you stay standing after any rattling sequence if you’re in high grass or heavy cover. You don’t want to get too low where you can’t see bucks coming in even though you may be hidden. You can sit or get hidden if the cover is low or if you have a high point where you can see, but as a rule I prefer to stay standing and keep some back cover behind me to break up my silhouette.
6.Time of the Year – Rattling is most effective during the rut to pre-rut stage, but I’ve also found it can be effective later in the season. Bucks are curious and when they hear a fight they usually want to come check it out. Just don’t do this too early in the season or you will scare most of them off. I wouldn’t recommend trying rattling during early Sept or Oct as most bucks are not fighting at that time, and it would seem unnatural for a deer to hear this going on.
7.Don’t Rattle Too Much – Most fights don’t last for 15 minutes straight. They are short bursts followed by grunts, branches braking, etc. Don’t just hit the horns together over and over without a break. The best thing you can do is visualize what a real fight would sound like and how long it would last and try to emulate this.
Melissa Bachman is an incredibly hardcore and intense hunter – perhaps one of the more passionate hunters you will ever meet.
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