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Diaphragms for Bucks?

PhotoBy H. "Bumper" Bauer

-- Here in Pennsylvania we are blessed in a way because our fall turkey and archery deer seasons are open at the same time. On any given day when hunting with a bow there is the possibility of tagging both a buck and a turkey.

I am about to share an astounding chain of events with you that I stumbled upon one fall morning while bowhunting deer with my son.

It was the 1999 archery season and my son, Patrick, and I were planning to hunt a farm near our camp where we had been watching several nice bucks since late June. Pat wanted to hunt an area near where we thought they might be bedding between an overgrown apple orchard and a large stand of oaks. I had chosen to try for a turkey with my bow that morning and opted to hunt a deep hollow to his left.

We were in the woods long before dawn with hopes that one of us would have a successful hunt. By 9 a.m., we had not seen any movement and my light calls had not produced any action from the turkeys. I decided to still-hunt through the hollow toward Pat's position with hopes that I could push something his way.

I had only gone 150 yards or so toward Pat when I spotted him moving toward me along the field's edge near the orchard. As we were standing there quietly discussing our next move, we both caught movement in the orchard. Standing no more than 50 yards away and watching us was an exceptionally wide 6-point buck and a doe. I think that they saw us at the same time we saw them because, in an instant, the buck ran off to the right while the doe ran to the left.

The wind had been in our favor, so I quickly decided to try a trick that had been taught to me many years ago by my grandfather when we spooked deer out in front of us. I placed a diaphragm turkey call into my mouth and began to produce some feeding and contentment calls, such as a flock of turkeys would use while moving through the woods feeding.

This method has worked for me to calm nervous deer, which may have heard me but not yet seen or scented me, because it is a natural sound in the woods they hear daily. The technique will work as long as you stand still. In most cases, the deer will return to their normal routines.

It did not seem that it was going to work this time, though, because we could still hear the deer moving away from us. At this point, I decided to go for broke and try something that I had been secretly playing around with for a few seasons.

The call I was using was a single-reed diaphragm, and I knew that I could produce some fairly good deer panic squeals on it as I had done so several times in the past while bored on stand to see what kind of reaction it would get from passing does. Usually the deer's reaction when it worked was instantaneous. As expected, the doe reacted to my call. However, I was going to get a big surprise - the call proved to be effective on the buck.

I had no sooner started producing the panic squeals when Pat and I heard something hurriedly moving across the dry leaves toward us from the direction the buck had taken. I whispered, "If that's the buck, take the shot," as dropped to my knees behind my son. As the buck stepped to the side of a large tree I continuing calling.

Within minutes that buck had hurried back to where we had spooked it and was standing broadside to us no more than 25 yards away. Its head was moving back and forth as it looked for the doe it had been with. The buck stood there completely oblivious to anything around it, focusing its attention on what he believed to be the doe calling to him. Pat's arrow found the mark, and the buck dropped right where it stood.

Quite the joke was made out of this after the harvest by my son, who excitedly said he never would have believed it if he had not seen it. He didn't know that Dad could call bucks. Well, Dad didn't know either until that morning.

Since that experience, I always carry a diaphragm call in my pocket when I'm in the woods. I have called in and taken not only deer but also red and gray fox, coyotes and could have harvested a bobcat had it been legal to do so. Many sounds may be produced with the single-reed diaphragm call with practice, from the excited squeal of a rabbit to a high-pitched bleat of a hurt or panicked doe or fawn.

From experience I have learned that for the panic squeal to work on a buck it must be used during archery season and the buck MUST be with a doe or does. The call seems to work on their curiosity; deer are very curious animals, and unless frightened badly by something recognized as a threat, they often will seek out the source of the sound to locate and identify it.

The best way I can describe the sound of this call is to compare it to the dying call from a cottontail rabbit, only with the tones drawn out longer and slower at first then increasing in cadence toward the end. When using it you must put emotion into the call as if you were a young fawn or doe being attacked by a coyote. The panic has to be there in order for it to be successful.

A suggestion might be to locate a pre-recorded fawn panic bleat from some of the predator call manufacturers and practice with it until you have it perfected. Some who have heard it say it also sounds somewhat like the high-pitched call of a red-tailed hawk.

This is yet another proven trick that should be added to your deer hunting arsenal. Like rattling and grunting, calling deer with a diaphragm can be effective when used under the proper circumstances.

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