Calling all whitetails

It was one of the most memorable moments I’ve ever experienced afield.
Good friend and muskie guru Dick Pearson and I were leisurely poking our way through a Sunset Country bush recently looking for deer. The sky was as blue as a sapphire ring. The air was crisp, cold, and clear. And the sun was brilliant yellow.
It was pure and simply a glorious day to be alive and out in the Northwestern Ontario woods. And it was about to get a whole lot better.
Half-an-hour into our trek, we jumped a nice buck that had let us approach to within 20 yards of where he had been resting. Dick was the first to spot the deer jump up and crash away from us. Then I picked up the sight of a big bushy white tail.
Instinctively, Dick and I didn’t say a word or make a sound. Instead, we crouched down and I hit the low note on my grunt call. The buck stopped in his tracks, turned broadside to us, cupped his ears, and listened for more.
I grunted two or three more times, then sounded the squeaky notes of a doe-in-heat. The beautiful eight-pointer couldn’t stand it. It was bad enough, he must have thought, that another buck had invaded his territory, but this one was escorting a pretty little doe.
He couldn’t allow it to happen.
The buck tiptoed toward us one hesitant step at a time. When he closed half the distance, he stopped, flicked his tail, and cocked his ears once again. It was the signal for me to gently bawl like a lovesick doe.
And then, as if to pour salt on the big boy’s wounds, I grunted a couple more times to suggest I was a buck telling him to stay away from my girl.
The eight-pointer snapped. He was so convinced and visibly upset over the fact another buck had invaded his space, Dick and I could see white clouds of steam puffing from his nostrils and drool dripping from his nose and lips.
After 10 minutes of talking, teasing, and coaxing, the buck walked close enough to us that if our arms had been four times longer, we could have patted him on the back.
You can imagine how wide he opened his eyes, how fast he spun around, and how quickly he left the scene when Dick and I stood up and yelled, “Boo.” The last thing we saw was a snowy white flag bounding over the hill on the horizon.
Unbeknownst to a lot of folks, hunters included, deer are not silent creatures. They are, in fact, one of the most vocal animals in the woods. And they can spit out far more than the donkey-like snort and wheeze that most hunters have heard when an alarmed animal has spotted or winded them.
Indeed, deer appear to enjoy talking with one another.
Much of the communication appears to be contact oriented. “Hello, can you hear me?” and “Can you hear me now?” (especially between does and fawns). Indeed, bleat like a lost fawn and the maternal instincts of every doe in the area will kick into high gear.
That was never more apparent than last fall when Trent Mann and I jumped a big mother whitetail. She squawked at us as she bounded away, but when Trent bleated like a fawn, she immediately hit the brakes, skidded to a screeching halt, and turned around as if to say, “Oh, jeez, I thought you were a hunter.”
Trent continued bawling and pleading so mournfully that eventually the doe walked out from the wood line and stood less than 25 feet from where we were both crouched. We tried not moving a muscle, wondering just how close she would come.
We figured it was close enough when she started stamping her front feet like a horse and kicking the dirt and lichens off the rocks.
Does also can make a noise that sounds very similar to sheep. They “baaaa” like this during the short period they’re in heat, on the make if you will, looking for a man deer.
Bucks, on the other hand, often grunt like a pig—especially when they’re courting a doe or looking for a would-be mistress. Usually, the “tending grunt” of a buck, as it’s called, consists of three or four deep rumbles. This autumn, however, the big boys have been especially noisy.
I recently watched one nice rut-crazed eight-pointer, with his neck swollen at least three times the normal, grunt pig-like—non-stop—as he walked up, over a hill, and clear out of sight.
It is a good job he didn’t have two or more tines sprouting off his main beam or else he would have talked himself into a heap more trouble.
Of course, as duck, turkey, moose, and elk hunters know only too well, you can hit the right notes when you’re talking to the animals and you can hit some sour ones, as well. With deer it is no exception.
Indeed, one of the reasons a big buck will grunt and strike a certain chord is to warn other would-be suitors to steer clear of him. And often, that is exactly what sub-dominant males and unreceptive females do.
So, if you want to talk with the animals, get a tape or go out with a good caller and learn how to speak the language. Because with whitetails, at least, there is a lot they want to say.

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