Whitetail Calling Tactics to Use Before the Rut

With the whitetail rut on the horizon, there are some must-know calling strategies to help coax a long-tined shooter buck into close range

Whitetail Calling Tactics to Use Before the Rut
Many outdoor television show hosts, such as Harold Knight, have fine-tuned their pre-rut whitetail calling strategies to pull shooter bucks into bow range. You can do the same with just a little bit of practice. (Photo courtesy of Knight and Hale)

Make no mistake; hitting the woods with a full arsenal of calling tactics can drastically increase your shot opportunities before the whitetail rut hits. Bowhunting is often a game of yards, sometimes even feet and inches, which is exactly why you need to pack your calls with you every single time you climb into your treestand or step inside of a ground-blind.

At the end of the day, your calls and calling strategies can be the difference between looking up tag-soup recipes and a reason to call your taxidermist. With that being said, let’s take an in-depth look at some proven calling tactics to help get the job done before peak rut.

Early-season Calling Tactics

In most hunting regions, the second or third week of October is when hunters will start seeing some major changes in mature buck behavior, patterns and daily activity. Factors such as increased hunting pressure, cooler temperatures, shortening days and alternating food sources are responsible for these activity and pattern shifts. Bucks will begin rubbing, scraping and sparring more in preparation for the upcoming rut. Choosing the right call and calling tactic is an absolute game-changer during this period.


Utilizing a combination of semi-aggressive grunting and short bursts of light to mid-intensity rattling sequences to simulate the sounds of two bucks sparring is highly effective. Bucks are becoming increasingly more territorial and will often lock antlers and engage in pushing matches to test each other and establish dominance. Sometimes these match-up bouts are extremely brief and not that intense in nature, but they also can turn into serious take-no-prisoner brawls.


The key is to start your calling sequences light to semi-aggressive and assess the current response, behavior and reaction of bucks. If this technique is not producing, gradually build the intensity and level of aggression of your calling to elicit a response. Your ability to accurately evaluate each hunting situation and match your calling tactics accordingly will ultimately determine your overall success during this period.



Late October, Early November Calling Strategies

Toward the end of October and early November, again depending on the region you hunt, mature bucks are really getting fired up, swelled up and ready to get the party started. Scraping and rubbing activity intensifies and dominant bucks are likely to fight like battle-tested gladiators in a UFC match. These lovesick brawlers are experiencing territorial emotions, raging hormones and increased testosterone levels. As a result, this is one of the best times of the entire season to apply aggressive calling strategies specifically designed to provoke agitation and invite confrontation among the biggest bullies in the woods.

Calling tactics that generate deep-toned grunts with serious bass, intense rattling sequences and assertive snort-wheeze vocalizations are money throughout this phase of the season. Hitting bucks with an aggressive series of two to three challenging grunts followed by a hardcore rattling sequence can really crank up the action in a hurry.


If you see a potential shooter out-of-range or traveling the opposite direction, try a loud sequence of grunts ending with an agitated snort-wheeze. I’ve watched bucks stop on a dime, bristle up, change directions and march straight to my stand all stiff-legged and mad with this calling technique.

Without question, the weeks ahead of the whitetail rut is one of the best times of the entire season to take a proactive approach and utilize calling to mess with a buck’s head. The right calling sequence is capable of grabbing a shooter’s attention, striking a nerve, and picking a fight. All of which are capable of pulling him in from a long distance or making him take those extra-few steps needed to close the deal.

Don’t sit idly by on the sideline and wait for something to happen. Instead rely on your calls and custom-matched calling strategies to make it happen on your terms.


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