Based on spending many hours in the woods every fall hunting public land, I have heard my fair share of grunting and rattling from other hunters. More than I probably should have, to be completely honest.
Usually the rattling starts about mid-morning and the grunts are not far behind. In my experience, most hunters on public land use these tactics as a last resort if that morning they didn’t see the movement they had hoped for. It is at times quite comical to hear the various sequences echoing through the woods.
This is usually not the most effective way to use this tactic and definitely not how we go about grunting and rattling on the public land we hunt. In our experience we have found that this “blind” calling is not the most successful. In certain areas of the country like Kansas and Texas it seems that “blind” calling works pretty well, but outside of that the success rates fall drastically. Especially on heavily pressured public land it seems almost all the bucks and especially those big, mature bucks, have heard it all from hunters and are wise to our tactics.
It is also important to note that when “blind calling” you need a foolproof setup. Mature bucks will always swing down wind of where they heard your calling. So, if you don’t have some barrier to prevent them from doing so, they will bust you and be in the next county in a matter of seconds.
It is difficult to find these fool proof locations that also allow flawless entry and exit and that are located in the correct location for “blind” calling to work. In other words, putting all the pieces together on a given property, on a given day, is rare, except in those states mentioned earlier where it seems like the bucks just come running no matter what.
Most of the time “blind” calling on public land just educates more deer to your location. With that being said, a grunt call is almost always in our pocket or around our neck from October through the end of the season.
We always leave the rattling antlers at home as we have found almost zero success using them in the past.
So, how do we use the grunt call if we don’t do any “blind” calling?
We use it in one situation. That situation is when we have spotted a buck from our tree stand and it is clear that he is going to walk by out of range. We are not talking about out of range as in 50 yards instead of 30 yards. That is too close to call to the buck and he will know something is up. We are talking 60-100 yards away depending on how thick the vegetation is.
At this point in time we use the grunt call to try and get his attention, peak his curiosity, and see if he won’t work our way. We usually do a longer 1-2 second grunt, followed by 2 short grunts. You must do this loud enough for the buck to hear it. If he doesn’t hear it the first time, do it louder the next time until he hears it.
You will know when he hears it. They always stop and at least look in your direction. At this point it is important to have some restraint. First, sit still. He is looking your way, so any movement could give yourself away. Second, once it is obvious he has heard us, we typically stop calling to him.
We have found that once he hears us he will make up his mind and come towards us or keep doing what he was doing. Rarely does it do any good to keep calling at him. You will just make him suspicious to human pressure. If he doesn’t come towards you after the first set of calling it is best to stop and let him walk and make a plan to improve your set up to get him at a later date.
This is the only situation where we use a grunt call on public land whitetails. We have had varying success, it mainly just depends on the mood of the buck you are calling to on that particular day.
We continue this technique throughout the year, until the close of the season. We have seen mature bucks respond to the grunt call at all times of the season, not just during the rut.
So, if you are wanting to use a grunt call while hunting public land whitetails we recommend not using the “blind” calling strategy most hunters use and instead wait until you have laid eyes on the buck or know of the bucks presence before calling to him.