BOW AND ARROW HUNTING
Basics of Buck Calling By Don Kirk
New Innovation In Calls Makes It Easier
FOG DRIFTED dream—like through the ridge-top oaks and hickories, as Harold Knight
stood shivering in the pre—dawn dampness of the rolling hills of western Kentucky.
Silence ~ the kind that sometimes becomes “deafening” when a bowhunter strains
to hear those things that refuse to stir — enveloped his tree stand. Without looking
down, he ran his cold forefinger over the smooth surface of the arrow shaft resting
against his bow, rechecking its position by touch. For five days during the state’s bow
season for whitetail, he had occupied this strategically located perch. Each day, he had
hoped he might nail the big eight—pointer he had spied while scouting before hunting
season. However, thus far the wary old buck had proved too scarce to pull an arrow back on.
The whitetail rut was not in full swing, but the Bluegrass State hunter hoped the
crisp cold snap that had moved in the night before would trigger increased breeding
behavior. The scrape line tracing along the crest of the ridge showed signs of heavy use.
Knight had a good feeling about this day and was confident he had a trick that might
undo the buck he sought.
Dawn gave way to a bright morning, then mid-morning. By 9:30 a.m., only two
small bucks and a trio of does had passed along the game path near his perch.
Shortly after 10:30 a.m., Knight spotted two does coming down the game trail
along the crest of the ridge. Fifteen minutes later, he saw a considerably larger
deer moving along this trail behind the does. Even through the tangles of wild
grapevine and tree limbs, it was obvious this was the big one he was awaiting.
The heavy-antlered buck was over a hundred yards away and separated from him
by thick woods. The snap of a twig caught the Kentuckian`s attention, as his quarry
slipped stealthly down the side of the hill behind a tangle of naked grapevine and
leafy greenbriar. The buck was still over a hundred yards away. yet it appeared to
be leaving. Experience had taught this expert woodsman that the buck probably
would not wander closer to his tree stand.
His trembling free hand found the call suspended by a lanyard around his neck.
Knowing it was his only chance to take this animal, he blew through the tube—like
call. A low-pitch, guttural grunt filled the air. This was followed by an inward gasp,
then another deep grunt. Before Knight ceased his efforts, six nonstop grunts
connected by inward gasps were broadcast through the brightly lit woods.
When hearing this, the heavy-beamed eight-pointer stopped in its tracks. Craning
its neck upward, the whitetail peered intensely toward the source of the sound.
Dropping its head, the buck started toward Harold Knight’s tree stand located high
alongside a scrub oak flanked by two dense cedars and backdropped by a huge,
head-high tangle of Japanese honeysuckle.
Blowing the call once more, Knight observed the deer moving in a straight line
toward him. The buck never looked up. Thinking the breeding noise came from
behind a large clump of honeysuckle, it approached to within thirty yards.
Its investigation was greeted by the lightning—like strike of a broadhead.
Sporting eight thick points, the wide beamed trophy now belonged to Harold Knight.
Knight needs no introduction to many bowhunters. He and David Hale own
Knight and Hale Game Call Products of Cadiz, Kentucky. They first made their
mark on the hunting scene over a dozen years with their quality goose and wild
turkey calls. Three years ago, they introduced their EZ—Grunt—er deer call.
Since then, they have sold more of these so called attending grunt calls than
any other manufacturer.
Thousands of bowhunters have experienced success using one of the many
grunt calls that became available a few years ago. Grunt calls are custom—made
for the close—in style of whitetail bowhunting. Until recently, all attending grunt
calls featured one reed, over which air is blown to produce a guttural, grunting sound.
There is no question that properly used grunt calls are effective. however,
last fall, this relatively new facet of hunting leaped to new heights. In recent seasons,
Knight and Hale’s EZ—Grunt—er has captured a lion’s share of the deer call market.
This may change with the development of their new EZ—Grunt—er Plus deer call.
The name EZ—Grunt—er Plus is almost a misnomer. It goes beyond mere grunting.
It effectively mimics a ready—to breed, excited buck’s grunts, gasps and wheezes.
When explaining their new call, “hyper-ventilation” is the term frequently used by
these two Bluegrass State nimrods. “First of all, there are several different
kinds of grunts. One of the most important is the simple social grunt. It is used
year-round. Soft and subtle, it enables does to maintain contact with their fawns,
as well as other adults. It starts with a short grunt another. It usually unfolds into
a series of six or seven grunts,” says Harold Knight.
On a calm day, the social grunt is heard easily forty to fifty yards away. Those
possessing keen ears and knowing what to listen for, can detect it over one
hundred yards away. However, the social grunt has little to do with the sound
produced by a ready—to-breed buck during the hyperventilating stage.
“Hyperventilation by a buck attending a doe in heat is something few hunters
have actually heard. For a long time, this so-called excited grunt has been overlooked,
but primarily because hunters had no means of copying it,” explains David Hale.
“I compare a whitetail buck’s hyperventilating stage to that of a bull elk. A bull
elk grunts immediately after bugling in his cows. The elk bull’s grunt is a close
in call, announcing to his cows he is nearby. When grunting, his stomach goes
up and down. He sounds like he is running out of steam, much the same as
I would were I on the edge of hyperventilating.”
Whitetail bucks attending a doe in rut give similar sounds. The excited bucks
grunt rapidly. Grunts are linked by easily heard inward gasps. At the same time
air is going out and making noise, it also is coming in and producing sound.
Bucks only act this way when in the company of a doe during her twenty—four
to thirty—five—hour estrus period. Does coming into heat announce this by
dropping estrus when urinating on scrapes. By doing this. female actively
seeks the male for breeding as much as, after finding freshly visited scrapes. bucks look for does.
Aier finding the marked scrape, the buck trails the nuptial doe. Nose to the
ground, he passes through the woods omitting short. deep grunts at intervals
of two to four seconds. This goes on as long as he is in pursuit of a doe in estrus.
Much has been written about the magic of the whitetail rut. The will to breed is
stronger than the desire for food or self-preservation. ln attendance of a doe in
estrus. bucks transform into fearless herd masters. On several occasions,
photographing deer near our home in eastern Tennessee. my wife. Joann, and
l have been put to flight by bucks accompanying ready to breed does.
During the doe`s short estrus cycle, she only allows herself to be bred by a buck
during a four—hour segment of this time. A doe’s egg is only fertilizable during this
relatively short ovulation period. To breed successfully, she must find a buck prior
to ovulation. Equally important, once a buck is attracted, his attention must be
maintained until ovulation. Prior to ovulation during estrus, the
female whitetail keeps a buck close by teasing him with a cat—and—mouse game.
To keep the buck handy, does wiggle their tails, almost letting the buck breed them.
They sometimes run and try to get away from the buck, so he will cut her off. When a
buck checks a doe, he drops his head to the ground and stomps his hooves in an excited,
prance—like dance. Bucks frequently draw their shoulders up and look like they
are attempting to sneak up on the doe.
“During this entire process, the attending buck is grunting, almost without stopping.
These baritone sounds can be translated as the buck’s pleas for the doe to stand for
him. A buck may only get a chance to breed once a year,” says Harold Knight. “He
does not want to miss any opportunity. Ever eager to breed, he constantly tests
the doe. How close he is allowed to approach and smell is a sure-fire indicator of
how near a doe is to ovulation. Understandably, five to fifteen hours of reproach
by an estrus doe creates noticeable frustration in the attending buck.”
During this tiny portion of a buck’s life, its grunt turns from clear and guttural to
raspy, excited and somewhat high in pitch. Imagine a frustrated buck grunting
until it is almost hyperventilating and you begin to have a picture of what Knight
and Hale Game Call’s new EZ-Grunt—er Plus is all about.
Blowing a call that mimics a frustrated buck in the attendance of an estrous doe
assimilates a breeding situation. This is nothing new. Years ago, hunters did the
same thing with mock scrapes, then later, antler rattling. The so called attending grunt
further enabled hunters to create a mock breeding scene. The addition of the new
hyperventilation call adds an even more decisive twist to the art of trophy buck hunting.
The rut is one of the most exciting times of the year in the life of all whitetails. It is
not uncommon for wary, dominant bucks to have ranges over three times larger than
the traditional one—square-mile generally attributed to these animals. Such roaming
bucks patrol along fences and forested areas, checking scrapes. They are always alert
for signs of dropped estrus or the sound of distance mating activity.
“All deer are attracted to the social activity of mating. Big bucks investigate to see
if they are capable of dethroning bucks already there. Smaller bucks sneak closer
for the same reason or out of inexperienced curiosity. Even does that are not in
heat are attracted to where mating occurs,” says Knight.
Copying the hyperventilation stage of grunting scams an irresistible attractor of
all deer. According to Harold Knight, such calls are particularly effective on
trophy bucks that are confident of them-selves from past contest for breeding rights.
Hearing pre-breeding noises quickly draws eager-to-breed bucks to the sources of these sounds.
Until development of the EZ-G runt—er Plus, it was impossible to produce the
back—and-forth sound of a buck’s hyperventilation grunting. The unique EZ-Grunter
Plus is more complex than any other deer call. Its construction features two reeds
positioned opposite each other. The first reed differs little in design from those of
traditional grunt calls. When blowing into the mouth hole of the call, it produces a low,
guttural grunt. The second reed produces a raspy, gasping sound when air is sucked through the mouth hole.
The hyperventilation-like sound is produced by blowing the grunt call, then quickly
sucking air one to three times over the second reed.
“Our new call can be slowed down for simple grunting like the EZ—Grunt-er or it can be
used to its fullest capacity. Dual pitch is possible by turning the call around and repeating
the process through the opposite end of the EZ-Grunt-er Plus,” says Knish.
Harold Knight admits his scouting home-work. not necessarily the new EZ-Grunt-er Plus.
was the key to taking his big eight-pointer the firsttime he used this call in the field.
However. he believes the call enabled him to draw the buck close enough to kill.
One week later. David Hale took a 131- score eight-pointer. using the EZ-Grunt-
er Plus. While hunting on the ground in a thicket five days later, Knight took an
impressive eleven—pointer. Harold Knight and David Hale feel whitetail calls of
any sort are most effective when your quarry is visible. Seeing the deer enables
the hunter to gauge the animals response to the sound of their call. In fact. the
deer will dictate back to the caller how much he wants to hear that sound.
Hunting on the ground, stalking the edges of fields and woods is the method
preferred by many expert callers. Granted. there is a possibility the deer will see
the hunter first, but when the bowman sees the deer first, there is an excellent
opportunity for calling up a trophy. When hunting from a stand, constant or
near constant calling is recommended.
Throughout the day, bucks will travel in and out of hearing range of such calls. Frequent use of a call will draw any curious bucks within shooting range. According to Hale and Knight, their new second generation hyperventilation type call will prove even more effective at this job than anything previously offered to hunters.
For more information on the new EZ-Grunt-er Plus, contact Knight and Hale
Game Call Products