October 23, 2015
As the October 31st arrival of Halloween approaches, the best white-tailed deer hunting of the year is finally close at hand.
Because with the appearance of the pre-rut in late October – and then the early to mid November peak rut shortly after that – bruiser bucks will soon be cruising around the local woods, looking for love and at times, spoiling for a fight.
Which brings one of deer hunting's most enjoyable techniques into play front and center, the act of luring in a rut-crazed buck stoned on testosterone to a close position in front of a hunter's treestand, all by banging together a set of antlers in a horn-rattling sequence.
Now a standard part of deer hunting strategy and lore, the modern practice of horn rattling got its start in Texas more than 80 years ago thanks to the efforts of the late Robert "Bob" Ramsey of Hunt, Texas, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 91.
Ramsey, who credited Native Americans and long-ago vaqueros with the first antler-rattling efforts as far back as the 1800s, first tried the technique in 1932 after an impromptu lesson from a neighboring Uvalde County, Texas, rancher named Sam Barkley.
After Barkley instructed the youthful Ramsey on how to clash together a set of deer antlers in an attempt to lure in a buck, the young Ramsey slipped deep into the 5,000-acre family farm in the Texas Hill Country where he promptly tried the technique in a pecan tree bottom along the Nueces River.
"I started rattling and heard some clattering," said Ramsey. "A deer came running down the hill looking all around him for the fight. When he was about 40 yards away, I shot him with a Winchester Model 95 30-06 lever-action rifle."
Since then, aside from the modernization of firearms and hunting gear, not much else has changed since antler rattling remains a great way to lure in a rutting buck more than eight decades later.
So much so that the practice is tried and true in 2015, even in front of Outdoor Channel television cameras recording various show hosts and hunting personalities putting the technique to good use this fall.
With that in mind – and with the 2015 rut quickly approaching in most deer hunting venues – here are some favored whitetail rattling tips from a number of Outdoor Channel television hunting personalities:
Lee Lakosky, Crush with Lee & Tiffany: "We don't do a ton of rattling on our farms in Iowa, but when we do, there are a few things that have worked for us in the past," said Lakosky. "During the rut, every few hours we will blind rattle since there may be bucks cruising for does and that might get their curiosity peaked (so that they) come in (to investigate).
"But we try not to over use that tactic (since) you can also educate your younger deer," he added.
When Lakosky and his wife, Tiffany, see a mature Iowa giant that they want to tag – in order to record yet another adrenaline laced "Big Buck Down!" moment – Lee cautions that timing is a huge key.
"If we see a bigger buck, we always wait until they are well past us before we hit the horns," he said. "They can pinpoint that sound almost immediately and you don't want to be stuck in a position (where) you can't get a shot (off) since they are looking at you. I always make sure I'm 100 percent ready (before I rattle) in case a shot presents itself."
Though the when-and-when rattling strategies may vary from one TV host to another, the overall tactic of banging head bones together is used by most to bring bucks into range. (Bill Winke photo)
Michael Hunsucker, Heartland Bowhunter: "Rattling can be extremely effective based on the situation and the time of year," said Hunsucker. "Typically during the seeking phase of the rut (late October into early November), the bucks are the most receptive to rattling.
"This is a time when the very first few does are coming into heat and the bucks are fighting over those does," he added. "It can be a good way to attract attention of a buck and draw him into bow range.
Hunsucker said to keep in mind that the wind is of paramount importance when a hunter is setting up for a rattling sequence.
"It’s important to play the wind and be careful when rattling blind because bucks will always be looking for the sources of the noise and will try to circle down wind," said the Outdoor Channel hunting personality.
Hunsucker adds that rattling, a deadly tactic in its own right, becomes even more so when a hunter has another trick up his or her camouflaged sleeve.
"Rattling paired with a decoy can be extremely effective if you catch a big buck in the right mood," he said. "You can get his attention with the (antler) noise, then confirm his hearing the fight with the visual (detection) of the decoy. And sometimes, that will get him to circle right in to the decoy, just down-wind and in bow range."
Shawn Luchtel, Heartland Bowhunter: "During a rattling sequence, I typically rattle for about one to two minutes minutes maximum while staying completely alert in case a buck is closing in," said Luchtel. "I'll pause for a minute or two, then proceed with another brief rattling sequence before stopping (all together). Depending on deer movement during that hunt, I might do this two or three times per sit."
Gregg Ritz, Hunt Masters: "Don’t over rattle," said Ritz. "Start softly by tickling the tines together before working into a more aggressive scenario. (And) don’t be afraid to rattle outside the rut as deer are curious animals."
David Morris, The Bucks of Tecomate: "Try to set up with good downwind visibility," said Morris, the co-host of the Tecomate show and the founder of North American Whitetail magazine. "Bucks nearly always approach (a rattling sequence) from well downwind. And remember to have patience! I make sure that I give it at least 10 to 15 minutes for each rattling set-up."
Kandi Kisky, Whitetail Freaks: "My best rattling tip is to make sure that your setup makes it nearly impossible for anything to circle you downwind," said Kisky. "I do that by having my treestand set up against a creek, a ditch or a barbed wire fence."
Mark Drury, THIRTEEN: "My favorite whitetail tip for rattling is to make sure that you see the animal before you call (or rattle) to him," said Drury. "If he is straight upwind or close to it, I will go ahead and attempt a calling (or rattling) sequence. If he's anywhere close to my downwind side, I never call (or rattle) to that animal."
Brent Chapman, Major League Fishing: "For rattling, I like to use the Knight and Hale Rack Pack rattling system," said Chapman. "I've had good luck with it in late October and throughout nearly all of November."
David Holder, Raised Hunting: "Never rattle when they (bucks) are looking your way," said Holder. "Wait until they start to turn away and (then) hit the horns again. And always have a quick and easy place to hang the horns since they may come (in) quick."
While antler rattling doesn't always work – and isn't the end all method for deer hunting success – it is a trick that every deer hunter needs to have in his or her deer hunting arsenal this fall.
So give these rattling tips and techniques from various Outdoor Channel show hosts a try this fall and see if they don't help you out in your local corner of the whitetail woods.
As in helping you to fill a deer tag with succulent venison from a bruiser whitetail that is headed for the freezer.
And maybe with a little luck, help you tag a set of trophy antlers heading for the den wall.