Calling All Deer – Part I

Calling All Deer – Part I

When a hunter buys a deer call, walks into the woods and starts calling, it is about like handing an average person a trumpet and expect him to play, When The Saints Go Marching In. The results will be the same. The intended audience will vanish.

What was the first deer call? Most likely, it was some hunter of centuries ago, blowing across a blade of grass. The sound mimicked a fawn bleat. The first in my memory was a rubber band stretched between to pieces of plastic. You blew across it and like the blade of grass. It mimicked a fawn bleat. I did call in and kill a doe with it. It was a pure accident.

When Dr. Marchinton started doing his research on deer vocalization a sudden deluge of deer calls hit the market. The market, deer hunters, had little or no idea how to use them but that was okay because most of the manufacturers didn’t have a clue, either. Most still do not. Marchinton identified, I believe 13 different deer vocalizations. I know there are more. What they mean is a different story.

The first “research” I did into deer calling came around 1983. I had a Woods Wise friction call. To this day, it is still the most realistic call I have ever used and it works. Unfortunately, it takes two hands to use it properly. The clicking sound it makes mimics the glottal pulse in most deer sounds. No mouth call does that. But is that first deer call to do so? No. Hunters in the Northern Woods, years ago, used the old rattail, plastic comb to do the same thing. They ran their thumbs down the teeth and made a clicking sound.

Why is all this preamble important? You just want to know about calling, right? Trust me, you will be better at calling deer if you understand why you do something. Even to this day, few manufacturers of deer calls know very much about calling or why a call needs to be adjustable. All they know is how to get some great video footage of a huge buck being “called” in and shot. That sells calls, not a glottal pulse.

The first thing I tell someone when I do a calling seminar is to forget elk, predators and turkeys. You do not call deer anything near the way you call elk, predators or turkeys. And right now, let me make it clear, I am no expert when it comes to deer calling. However, I have done a tremendous amount of research and experimenting since that afternoon I spent a ton of money on phone calls to Dr. Marchinton and Dr. Leonard Lee Rue.

The three categories of calling for me are: Blind Calling, Sight Calling and Response Calling. Every vocal sound I make falls into those three categories and each is expected, hopefully, to elicit a specific response. Each response falls into three categories as well. The animal responds, the animal runs away or the animal ignores. By far, the most common is to be ignored. However, the majority of hunters do not know they are being ignored. They assume, usually incorrectly, the deer did not hear them. So, they call louder and get even further ignored. So, they shout.


Arguably the most important tip I may give in the two parts of this series is that fact. Deer don’t shout, they whisper. I would be willing to wager most of you who are reading this may have never heard a deer vocalize. I will also wager many of you have and did not know it. That is why I am spending so much time on this first part instead of saying, “on October 22, make this call.”

If you have a good, common sense foundation about deer vocalization, the actual calling will make much more sense. It is more important to know when not to call, as it is to call. It is even more important to know what call to make. Perhaps the most important thing is to be able to read body language. Deer answer a call as much or more with body language than with vocalization or reaction. If you can see the animal, you can read the body language and that will tell you when to shut up, when to call and what call to make.

So Here we go.

Blind Calling:

The most misused and most harmful of all calling is blind calling. That is simply calling when you see no deer. To me, that is mostly an action resulting from boredom. You are not seeing anything and you are bored so you call. Why is this harmful? Because, as stated, you are not seeing anything. Does it produce a sighting? Yes, occasionally it does. But more often either it produces nothing or it has an adverse effect. Perhaps a deer was about to step into view. You did not know that so you called. If you made wrong call or at times, even the right one, you run the risk of either spooking the animal or alerting them to your position. Neither of those results is positive.

To sit there totting that thing as if you are leading a brass band, will not work. Unfortunately, that is what most often happens. Think about this carefully. If you cannot see the animal, cannot see the body posture, how do you know what call to make.

There is only one sound that I believe will work blind calling and probably not do any harm and that sound is only if you want to kill a doe. The sound to make is a fawn bleat. For that, I suggest the can. Few hunters can do it properly with a mouth call. A fawn bleat or a fawn distress call will seldom if ever attract a buck. Bucks have no interest at all in a fawn. Therefore, they do not respond. Other than that situation, shut up. The fawn bleat is most effective in early bow season. After that, I forget it.

One other mistake I know hunters make while blind calling is what I call practicing failure. They go through their repertoire of calls hoping one will work. Here again the importance of knowing what call to make when is shown.

Therefore, before we go to the other two types of calling, sight calling and response calling, I suppose we had better discus actual sounds. That will lead off part two of Calling all Deer.

This is part 1 of the Calling All Deer series. Read part two.

Deer Hunting - Deer callsThe only calls I use. From the bottom-A Woods Wise friction call, the best there ever was or will be. Middle-A True Talker variable blown call used when rattling. Top-Two very loud, very deep buck grunts used in Canada and on windy days in areas of open fields. I have the calls taped together for ease of use.
Deer Hunting - Calling deerDon’t call deer as you would elk. Deer don’t bugle like this bull. Deer don’t shout, they whisper.
Deer Hunting - Fawn bleatsShe was 100-yards away on a field edge and two very soft fawn bleats brought her into easy bow range, opening morning of the 2011 season. I was home by 7:30. Know what call to make before you make it.

Share This Article

About Author

John Sloan

John Sloan

John L. Sloan, Lebanon, TN began hunting deer in 1954, He killed his first deer, and 8-pt buck in 1956. Since then, he estimates he has killed 300 plus deer, most with a bow. Sloan sold his first hunting article in 1957, and estimates he has had over 7,000 pieces published. He has written for most of the major outdoor publications and served as editor-at-Large for Bow and Arrow Hunting Magazine for many years. He was also the back page columnist for Bowhunt America for many years and currently serves in that capacity for South Pacific Bowhunter.

Leave A Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *