If you’ve watched any of the deer hunting shows on television recently, you’ve probably seen a lot of antler rattling.
Indeed, an antler rattle can function as an effective deer call for drawing bucks to your location and assuring a golden shot. To be fair, antler rattling is hardly an effective call if it is the only one in your repertoire: you need bleats, wheezes, snorts, and more if you really want to be a serious deer caller, and you need to know precisely when to use them as well.
With that said, antler rattling is a great call to employ during the rut if you are specifically looking for bucks. Antler rattles are most effective in high-aggression deer populations – usually in spots where the ratio between does and bucks is more or less even – because they can help to attract a defensive buck to your location for a breeding territory dispute.
In areas where does are plentiful and bucks are fewer and further in between, you may have better luck using a different deer call. In such situations, you may draw a young, headstrong buck looking to prove himself in battle, but chances are that he’s not the target you are looking for.
If timing and territory population are in your favor, however, then the simulated sound of a buck battle might be just the ticket for assuring that you get the bucks you are looking for.
If you are just looking to add antler rattles to your deer call arsenal, there are a few things that you should be aware of. First of all, antler calls are significantly less convenient than bleats, snorts, or other deer calls. Where most deer calls can be effectively reproduced by a store-bought call device, by a smartphone app, or even by your own mouth and vocal cords, antler rattles are most effective when made by actual antlers. Hunting companies make rattle bags for a convincing, artificial re-creation of the sound, but actual antlers that you can crash and scrape together is a better bet.
Regardless of what you are using to make your call, there are a number of tips that every expert antler rattler should follow.
First of all, always be aware of the wind direction in relation to your location. If you are into deer hunting enough to want to master rattle calling, chances are you already know how important wind direction and scent control are, but if not, it bears repeating here. A buck will generally try to approach a possible fight from downwind, just so he can assess all possible threats, so make sure he can’t smell you as he approaches.
Secondly, make a realistic crescendo with your rattling. No buck fight begins with two fully-grown male deer dashing out of the woods and crashing into one another, antler to antler, at full speed. Start with a light rattle, then let your rattles get louder, longer, and closer together with time.
If you start bashing the antlers together from the get-go, you lose all the subtlety in what you are doing and will almost certainly scare more deer away than you will attract. In addition, turn your body as you rattle and consider moving a few steps in a different direction.
Deer will notice the moving sounds and will take them as a sign that the battle is genuine.