Calling All Deer – Part II

Calling All Deer – Part II

This is part 2 of the Calling All Deer series. Read part one.


Of the three types of calling I refer to, reaction calling may be the hardest to understand and to do. I will deal with it right now and be done with it. Reaction calling is what I am talking about when I call to deer I see and they are not doing what I want them to do…as in walking the wrong direction or even running.

A perfect example would be when I am walking to a stand site and spook a deer. Another is I am on a stand and see a deer at a distance with no obvious indication he is coming closer. Another would be a deer standing and perhaps looking my way, maybe even looking dead at me from a distance.

What I would be trying to do in those instances is convince that deer they should calm down or come my way. To do that, the first call I make must be exactly the right sound. I cannot give an aggressive buck grunt to a doe standing on a field edge and expect her to come toward me. That is not what she wants to hear. What will bring her my way? I am going to give a soft, cohesive, doe grunt. Not a bleat, a grunt. A bleat is plaintive. A grunt is satisfied. No better call for this than the friction call. If I don’t have it, I can do it with the adjustable mouth call. But I have to know how to do it.

If it is a buck, I have to use a call that will interest him. A buck actively tending a doe is true challenge to call. However, I have done it with a wimpy, aggressive buck grunt. I want to sound like a buck that can be whipped but is still interested. At times, the best call is rattling antlers. Quite often, the best call is to shut up.

The point is, think. Use your head don’t just believe the television commercial and start tooting away. I actually get down laughing at some of these TV shows. Blow two times and a herd comes your way. Give me a break.

Among reaction calls is the best of all calls. SILENCE! If you do not know when to shut up and when not to call at all, you are going to have problems. It all comes back to understanding reaction. How are you going to react right now? What is the deer doing? Why is it doing it? What does it most likely want? Now what call matches that? If you were fly fishing for trout, it would be matching the hatch.


The deer is already doing something and it is not what you want it to do. You react to that and try to change their mind. It is your reaction, not the deer’s that gives the name. It requires thought and an understanding of whitetail deer. In the next section, sight calling, I will talk a lot about body language and the importance of understanding what that deer said with his or her body. So, let’s just do that.


Sight calling can be tremendously rewarding even if you don’t take a shot. It is similar to reaction calling only different in that you act instead of react. You make the decision based on what you see, hear and feel. It is a hoot when a deer says something to you with just the flick of an ear and it is fun to see a deer ticked off. It is more fun when they come from 175-yards to 50 and you pop them square in the boiler room.

Scenario: A Doe and fawn are browsing on a field edge and it is mid-morning. The time of day is not too important other than it is not right at daylight and it is not late in the afternoon. You are in a stand 100-yards away. You call, using a soft, doe, cohesive grunt-a come here grunt, I see you, who are you? The deer turn, take a few steps toward you, ears cocked and stop. I know immediately to shut up. If I make one more deer sound, they are gone. I know my best action is no action. Why?

They have quite plainly said to me, “We hear you; we don’t see you and we are coming no closer until you step out.” If I call again, they are going to leave. Yet the first impulse so many hunters would have is to call again. If it were just at daylight or late in the afternoon, I might call again using a different tone. Odds are, that would be ignored.

Next time you are hunting a food plot, start messing with the deer. See what happens when you call the first time. Watch the body language. Look closely at the ears and tail. If the ears swivel and/or the tail flicks quickly, that deer just said something to you. If nothing happens, call again and watch the body language change. When the ears swivel and/or the tail flicks, the deer said, “I hear you.” That is when you shut up. Call again and watch closely.

Scenario: It is early season and a bachelor group of bucks comes into sight. What call do you use? The correct answer is none. You just sit there, cry, and hope they come your way because you cannot call one buck out of a bunch and you cannot call a bunch. You may be able to interest one with a bit of light antler tickling…maybe. But it is too early for either a doe call or a buck call.

How about the buck actively tending the doe I mentioned earlier? Can you make a wimpy buck grunt? Do you even know what I am talking about? It can be done best with an adjustable call such as the Tru Talker. I own several of them and they make a great doe bleat and wimpy buck grunts. I am going to challenge that buck and I want to sound like the playground nerd. I want him ticked off and he will tell me quite plainly, when he is by displaying and tail action. He may even grunt louder and longer than I did, I am going to try to taunt him into coming to whip my butt. Therefore, I must sound like a deer he feels he can whip.

A deer’s tail, ears and hair say far more than their vocal sounds. For a doe, she is almost speechless if she can’t stomp. Compare that to a woman with her hands tied. Are you worried when an old doe blows at you? I love it. I can use that to my advantage if I am doe hunting. Have you ever tried blowing back at one or just giving one or two soft doe grunts? However, don’t blow and foot-stomp together.

The next time you are watching a doe, she stomps her foot, look closely at her head, and in particular, her eyes and ears. Watch the ears swivel. Now look at the deer with her. What are they doing? Do Not call. That doe is quite plainly saying to all the deer near her, “Look at me and then look where I am looking. Do you hear anything? Something is not right. I am going to head bob and try to get it to move. Then, I am going to ignore it and try to fool it.” You see, if you know what she is saying and you do because you can see her, then, you know what how to act. Do nothing. Leave her alone and odds are she will calm down and move off. Then, quite often, come sneaking back to investigate. If at all possible and legal, shoot her. You will be much better off with that deer out of the herd.

The two immutable facts of deer calling are these:

  1. You can do no harm by calling to a deer that is walking away from you and shows no signs of coming back.
  2. You can ruin any chance of killing one by calling when one is doing what you want. If the deer is coming toward you, shut up. Now add to that, never call a deer looking at you no matter how far away it is.

There are hundreds of calls on the market. All of them are useless if you do not know how to use them. By far, the most difficult and most effective is the friction call but as it is with anything, it has its’ limitations. It is impossible to make dominant buck grunts with one. It is superb for a tending grunt. However, I cannot think of a time to make a tending grunt. It is usually the only call I carry in the early season. There is no tending going on in the early season.

The adjustable tube, I use a Tru Talker, is valuable to me during most of the season. I can do anything from doe and fawn bleats to soft grunts and even a moderate buck grunt. I have even called ducks on one. They are the most versatile call I have used.

When I hunt the big deer, usually in Canada or the upper Midwest, I use two deep buck grunts that allow me to really shout. I tape them together so they are easy to use. These are the calls I use to reach across big fields and challenge the big boys. I don’t use them much. That is their only purpose. They reach all the way across the huge fields in Manitoba and that is a looong way.

Without question, the most valuable tool I have in my calling arsenal is somewhat of an understanding of deer body language. Next is understanding when to shut up. Unlike elk and turkeys, deer don’t walk through the woods announcing their presence. They slip through quietly whispering, not shouting. Therefore, we should whisper, not shout. I can make about 10 different deer vocal sounds. However, I only use four or possibly five. I do not roar, I do not sniff-snort-wheeze and all the fancy stuff you read about my goal is to call a deer within shooting range for whatever equipment I am using. I understand that deer become call shy very quickly and unless I am hunting on land that is lightly hunted, usually, I don’t call at all. I firmly believe silence is the best call of all.

Some Things To Remember:

  • Deer don’t shout, they whisper. Call quietly most of the time.
  • Know how to make a bleat and a grunt. A bleat indicates need, especially a doe bleat.
  • A grunt indicates satisfaction and announces presence. A bawl indicates pain. The doe in heat bleat is the same thing as hype hot cow elk call.
  • Never call to a deer looking at you.
  • Never call a deer doing what you want it to.
  • Believe nothing you see on television. We hunt real deer without the ability to edit, cut and splice.
  • Match your calls in volume and tone to the deer you hunt.
  • Understand that the best call is usually no call.
  • Fawn sounds are for does only.
  • The Can is the easiest call to use. It is also the most limited.
  • Know and believe more deer are scared away by calling than are ever called into shooting range.
Deer Hunting - Calling to make a buck angry
I have this buck mad at me. He is plainly telling me that. He is grunting and his hair is standing up in places. That is called displaying. He is with a doe and I have challenged him with a wimpy buck grunt. He may go so far as to come look me up.
Deer Hunting - Calling deer when they are spookedOn the way to a stand, I spook a deer. My reaction is to give one or two soft, calming grunts that say, “I am another deer. Calm down.”
Deer Hunting - Don't call a deer too muchThe biggest mistake I can make is to call at these deer. They are clearly saying, “We heard you but we don’t see you.” Call again and they are gone because it would not be natural.
Deer Hunting - The buck heard the callHe heard me, no question about that. His head says it all. Call again and he is out of here.
Deer Hunting - The buck ignores the callHe is leaving. His tail is down, decision made. Won’t hurt a thing to call but probably won’t help, either. Keep an eye on his tail. Most likely, he will give you another message. The most common reaction to calling is to be ignored. The biggest mistake is to call again.
Deer Hunting - Tine ticklingGroup of bucks in early season. No call is going to peel one off. However, tine tickling might. For some reason, they are more curious about sparring than vocal sounds.

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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.

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