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Big Buck Central

Big Buck 411 Blog


By Mike Handley

Aaron BurkeIt’s one thing to throw a hail-Mary rattling sequence at a buck you can see walking out of your life, quite another to clash the antler cymbals when you’ve just clocked in for the day. I see it as reactive and proactive rattling -- the former when you’re willing to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” if it’ll bring that deer back, and the latter when you no longer equate the action to passing gas in a crowded elevator.

Whether employed out of desperation or as standard operating procedure, the clash of antlers -- real or synthetic -- can lure the bull of the woods into knee-knocking range. People with names embroidered on their camo shirts say the technique is most effective during the pre-rut (the couple of weeks leading up to show time). That might be true, but I’ve seen it work throughout the season.


Aaron Burke of North Carolina is glad he took his rattling antlers to Knox County, Ohio, back in 2003. That was his first out-of-state hunting trip.

When Aaron was about 20 feet aloft on the third morning, the neighboring landowners were combining corn. The harvesting was so loud that he couldn’t hear much of anything else. But then the machinery ground to a halt.

Somewhere between 8:00 and 8:15, he heard a buck grunt – a sound that he’d have missed entirely had it been half an hour earlier. And had it not been cold, Aaron might not have seen the animal’s breath.

The 17-pointer with 6 2/8-inch bases strolled to within 50 yards before turning and heading away from the slack-jawed hunter. Desperate, Aaron reached for his rattling antlers and brought them together with such force as to shatter the stillness. A few minutes later, he heard the deer returning.

When it materialized, every hair was standing.

“It was in a pretty foul mood,” Aaron recalls. “That buck was definitely looking for its rivals.”

The second time it left Aaron, it was carrying an arrow.


When Nebraska outfitter Tim Puhalla awoke on Oct. 18, 2008, he decided he’d like to see the sunrise while sitting in a tree. The year’s first clients weren’t arriving for two weeks.

He was aloft by 6:30, watching a wooded draw that emptied into the neighboring landowner’s unpicked soybean field. Three prominent trails, leading from the beans to cedar-studded bedding areas were within sight.

Although it was still dark, Tim tickled the 8-point sheds he’d found on that very property in the spring. He followed that with a couple of grunts. It was his way of helping any nearby bucks to decide which path to take out of the bean buffet.

He repeated the sequence about 20 minutes later, and then did it again shortly after sunrise. The last time, he was quick to hang the antlers and free his hands.

“I’ve been caught too many times,” he said. “The bucks respond to rattling here, and they don’t waste any time.”

Almost immediately, Tim heard the splash of what he figured must be a very large deer – that or either two animals – crossing the nearby creek. A moment later, a lone deer sailed over the barbed wire divider and landed 30 yards from him.

“I knew immediately it was a shooter,” he said. “I had just enough time to grab my bow. It wasn’t bristled up, but the buck definitely came in with some authority.”

It left by way of Tim’s Silverado. “Shooter” was an understatement; it wound up as Nebraska’s No. 3 Typical by bow.

Note: If you’d like a crack at a beefy buck in a state where tags may be purchased over the counter, give Tim a call at (402) 520-0006.

Post Rating


don smothers
# don smothers
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 9:42 AM
great story,i'm going to pike county illinois this november & i'll be sure to take my rattling antlers.
# jonnyo
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 11:36 AM
I bow and riffle hunt nebraska sandhills - last year was the 1st time bucks responded to a rattle during bow season (before and after riffle) allowing me to harvest my biggest bow 12pt (5 x 7 - g2 triple) proactive rattling best then grunting, but reactive also works under the right conditions. I've got a scar face to add to my set-up this year and I can't wait - GOOD LUCK to my fellow hunters
william kirby
# william kirby
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 12:50 PM
I am not a bow hunter yet but my son and I plan to take it up as soon as we can afford it. I enjoyed this article it shows you don't have to have high tech items to get deer. I can"t hardly wait to go hunting this year neither can my grand sons.
Jay Gillespie
# Jay Gillespie
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 4:20 PM
Grteat story! Those of us in TX love to hit the horns.
George Bookout
# George Bookout
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 7:08 PM
I have had good and bad results rattling in SW OK. I watched a great buck two years ago break into a run AWAY from my tree stand when I rattled. He was 50 yd up wind so I know he did not smell or see me.
On the other hand I have stopped bucks in their tracks and brought them in by rattling. All in all I think using everything available to a deer hunter is a plus.
Stacey D Nyenhuis
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 8:09 PM
I have to agree.Alot of the time bucks will come blazing in so fast you hardly have time to put the horns down.Other times I think you might spook them.What the heck though,I think I would rather take the chance.I think sometimes I've thrown about everything but the kitchen sink.Sometimes you score sometimes you don't But isn't that whats so great about deer hunting.S.e.Iowa
# Ken
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 8:32 PM
Hat to be a party pooper, but NEVER HAD IT WORK YET!
# buckduder
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 10:37 PM
Soem times it works other times it don't , WHen it does you'd better be ready. Wild things can happen quickly,!!!
Mike Handley
# Mike Handley
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 9:09 AM
Hey, folks. This has nothing to do with rattling, but check out this hawg of a buck found dead in Ohio ...
Smokey Snyder
# Smokey Snyder
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 10:39 AM
Interesting Neb. outfitter. Before his clients arrive, he kills a big one. I have been part of that scenario on other hunts for bear & pronghorn, where the outfitter does not wait until his clients arrive, or have all left for the season, and then go gets the big one.
Mike Handley
# Mike Handley
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 1:27 PM
I know that scenario happens. I've seen it and had the same thoughts. But I can speak to this fella's character. He's not the selfish sort. He's usually the doe killer on the property; it had been several years since he'd even shot a buck. And he hunts for himself only two or three times a season. It was a total spur-of-the-moment decision, and he was far more embarrassed about it than proud. Not a single client had a negative thought toward him.
# jonnyo
Wednesday, August 18, 2010 2:54 PM
the thing to remember about rattling, is the buck to do ratio (why I was surprised it worked last yr) // Tim Puhalla being the land ower and operator, it is his right to shoot a big one - but their are people willing to pay big $$ to shoot one - his loss there // more big buck are being harvested (note the one in BuckMasters magazine) in Nebraska (we do have a very big doe problem - so rattling is getting harder) we try to shoot one doe and one buck (both riffle and bow)

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