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Big Buck Central

Big Buck 411 Blog

13

By Mike Handley

Mike Handley
Mike Handley

For the record, I’ve never heard a doe talk to a buck. I’ve seen them stand up and slap ’em upside the head. I’ve heard them talk to their fawns. But not once can I remember hearing a grown doe whisper or shout sweet nothin’s to a suitor.

It would logically follow that I wouldn’t put much stock in bleating, eh?

Call me illogical.

I’ll admit I was slow to accept the premise and even slower to try it. Sounded like pure gimmick to me, figuratively, and like a goat, literally. But then Jerry Peterson, creator of Woods Wise Game Calls, invited me to bowhunt in Illinois. Although I was a bit red-faced over the thought of making such a stupid noise in the woods, I felt I owed it to Jerry to put his new call to the test.

The very first time, my bleating persuaded a 6-pointer to do a 180 and return within bow range, where it bedded down for the rest of the morning. The next year, I arrowed a record book 8-pointer in Nebraska that I also turned by bleating.

I’ve enjoyed numerous encounters with whitetails since adding a bleat call to my personal bag of tricks. But none compare with what happened one year while I was bowhunting with Mike Nickels in Kansas.

After four and a half days of playing musical stands and seeing very few deer, I was ready for a change of scenery. I wound up spending the last afternoon in a new stand about 150 yards deeper in the woods.

Alas, as the first sun I’d seen in a week began slowly to disappear, I decided to go to ground a bit early in hopes of seeing deer in a clover field at the edge of the pasture I had to cross to return to my car. I moved cautiously and silently toward the woods’ edge and soon saw deer feeding in the clover.

I made it to the last of the trees and leaned on a steel gate to watch, since it was already too late to shoot. A buck began chasing a doe half its size, and then I saw a third deer – more than twice as big as the buck I’d been watching – walk stiffly toward the others. The newcomer’s rack was thick and very tall.

I thought the two bucks were going to fight, at first, but they merely rubbed noses and resumed feeding, while the little doe squirted back in the timber.

That’s when I decided to have some fun.

Still leaning on the gate, bow on the ground, I lifted my grunt call and put it to use. Both bucks lifted their heads and stared hard. They were perhaps 60 yards away from me.

I grunted aggressively, testing the limits.

The big buck decided it had better get closer to the doe, which had resumed mowing clover. It lowered its head, began sniffing the air, and then gave chase. Actually, it seemed more like it was herding the doe away from me.

As soon as those two were back in the woods, I flipped my grunt tube and began bleating through the opposite end. I was using a Woods Wise Doe-N-Buc call that can produce both buck and doe vocalizations, depending upon which end you blow.

The small buck, perhaps feeling left out after losing his potential girlfriend, walked straight to me as I continued bleating. It didn’t stop until it was a mere five feet from me. I froze, but kept offering the occasional bleat. I could almost see its eyelashes.

After five minutes, the confused animal circled around and jumped the barbed-wire fence between us. I bleated again, and it came within five feet of me a second time – directly downwind, on MY side of the fence. If I’d had an arrow in my hand, I could’ve speared it.

When the buck couldn’t get me to move after five more minutes, it stomped its right foot. I answered by stomping my own and bleating again. I stopped breathing when the deer took two steps closer, leaning in to sniff deeply.

At that point, I was both elated and – to be honest – a little unnerved. Rather than continue the game, I decided to keep my mouth shut. I didn’t want to write a “How I survived a goring” story.

The buck never spooked. When I ceased with the pillow talk, it simply walked away and disappeared into the woods.

When I related the story to my wife, she joked that I was the “buck whisperer.” I’d never actually call myself that, but the episode sure makes me glad I decided to give bleating a try. Not only has the technique put venison in my freezer and more than one record book certificate on my wall, but it’s also provided me with some great stories and memories.

If you’ve never tried bleating or have summarily dismissed it as hogwash, I urge you to consider it. There are a lot of great calls out there today, from the grunt-bleat call I carried to canisters that require a simple flick of the wrist. If you don’t take advantage of it, you’re missing a great chance to become a buck whisperer.

NOTE: Readers who have followed my byline over the years might remember this episode. I wrote about it on this website prior to the big revamp and long before “blogging” was cool. Of the many thousands of hunting stories I’ve penned, or rather lived, this is among my favorites. And the message is timeless.

Scott Pearson Dave Lorier Jeremy Pearson Tony Nelson Joe Kocher BTR Brian Inda

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Comments

Mike
# Mike
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 12:20 PM
How true it is. But recently over the past few years I've notice that because of articles like this and more and more hunting shows everyone has a can estrus bleat, grunt call etc. The areas I hunt are posted but do have hunters and the calls are becoming less affective because of the education the deer are getting from them. Its like I can hear the deer thoughts . Oops there is a hunter I should stay away. Don't get me wrong I have harvested 80% of my deer by calling , rattling etc. But I have found a least in the areas where every hunter is calling it has become less affective. The best chance now for calling seems to be early season before the get an education. There are exceptions but over all I found this to be true. One of of the exceptions of course are areas that are well managed and have limited hunters. I am experimenting
Mike
# Mike
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 12:23 PM
How true it is. But recently over the past few years I've notice that because of articles like this and more and more hunting shows everyone has a can estrus bleat, grunt call etc. The areas I hunt are posted but do have hunters and the calls are becoming less affective because of the education the deer are getting from them. Its like I can hear the deer thoughts . Oops there is a hunter I should stay away. Don't get me wrong I have harvested 80% of my deer by calling , rattling etc. But I have found a least in the areas where every hunter is calling it has become less affective. The best chance now for calling seems to be early season before the get an education. There are exceptions but over all I found this to be true. One of of the exceptions of course are areas that are well managed and have limited hunters.
MR.VELLA ( VIC ) RICHEY
# MR.VELLA ( VIC ) RICHEY
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 3:05 PM
WHEN USEING A BLEAT CAN , I HAVE ONLY HAD IT WORK ONE TIME OUT OF THE MANY TIMES I HAVE USED IT . THE TIME IT WORKED , I USED IT IN CONJUNTION WITH MY GRUNT CALL . WHEN USED ON IT'S OWN , THE BLEAT CAN SEEMED TO PUT THE DEER ON ALERT , OR JUST PLAIN SCARE THEM AWAY . I HAVE HAD FELLOW HUNTERS TELL ME THIS SAME STORY ,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Mike
# Mike
Tuesday, December 14, 2010 4:06 PM
I do not want to sow bad seeds here. Calls do work all I am saying is that more and more hunters are using them and deer are getting educated. Some hunters do not know when to stop calling . Most the time (if your blind calling ) deer do not come in right away, most the time they sneak in 20- 30 minutes later. And if your archery hunting and it is still thick with foliage the deer will see you before you ever see them. Again I have called in plenty of deer in my life 43 to be exact out of 54 deer but the secret is out and now there are millions of hunters using them.
AdinCrandall
# AdinCrandall
Wednesday, December 15, 2010 11:15 AM
I have never called at all in the past, but count me in for next year!
Chad
# Chad
Thursday, December 23, 2010 10:30 AM
I absolutely love deer calls and regularly carry two grunt calls a doe estrus bleat can and a snort wheeze. Over the years i have killed many of my lergest bucks using these calls especially the can. The one thing i have noticed about calling is that some of you are right, it doesnt work for you and that may not mean that it doesnt work or that your not doing it right, it could simply mean youre not in the right area or not using them at the right time of year. I hunt a property heavily managed for trophy deer we have very strict rules on the age of bucks we harvest and do extensive doe management. This kind of management has really set the stage for some great calling due to low pressure and a great buck-to-doe ratio. The bucks on our property actually have to compete for breeding rights and we actually get to see first hand deer acting like the deer we read about so when we call deer respond but not 100% of the time. As far as timing the can seems to have about a two week window during the rut that it seems to work other than that i dont have very much success with it so do some research on your calls and what your saying with them so you use them at the appropriate time of year. Good luck!
Mike
# Mike
Thursday, December 23, 2010 1:35 PM
Chad ,
You are lucky and you should get on your knees and that God for a well managed area . I hunt private posted areas and tried to get everyone to agree on managing the land. We shook hands! Every buck I passed up was shot. One of the guys I think needs to go to hunting anonymous he hunts every day from archery through shot gun and muzzle loader and i don't think he understands the term "deer pressure". I do n't know how many deer he kills. And he has boys coming of age to hunt yikes!! The Problem is, he lives next door to the land I hunt and I live 1 hour and a half away. You may be saying find some where else to hunt. But I have shot around 40 deer out of the same tree . I am trying to find another area to replace this. It takes time once you find a new area to scout etc. It's tuff when you work. So this is why calling isn't working as well as it used to. They educate the deer, every one is calling. The calls still work early in the season. Every so often a new buck comes around and if you can get to him before he gets educated calls can still work. I did get permission to hunt new areas but its going to take alot to replace this one . So I was wondering seeing that I work and don't have alot of time and you already have a well managed area , if you were looking for a hunting partner? :)

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