Why does rattling antlers attract deer?
Lets first discuss why deer are attracted to a fight. I once sat in a tripod in Old Mexico watching about a dozen deer feeding in a dry tank bed. A fight erupted between two mature bucks that were in the herd. It was a tremendous battle lasting 20 minutes until one of the bucks finally broke and ran with the winner in chase.
They crashed into the remaining water in the tank, swam across, and both disappeared over the dam. The winner returned shortly with tongue hanging out, sides heaving, and near complete exhaustion. He was immediately challenged by another buck in the herd and had no option but to retreat or die.
Rattling deer to the horns is about opportunity. During the breeding season, whitetail deer are conditioned to claim a territory so they will have first rights to breeding.
This begins shortly after velvet is shed and continues until the spring when antlers are shed. Essentially, any time period when antlers are hard defines the breeding season and can be an effective time to use a good set of rattling antlers be it with natural whitetail deer horns or our Rattling Forks.
There are periods, however, when rattling works best.
It has been my experience that the pre rut is far and away the best time to rattle.
This is when the testosterone is raging and each and every buck is positioning himself for breeding rights. If a battle erupts, it is either because two bucks are fighting for territory or a doe has come into early heat. In either case, bucks in the surrounding area will be attracted to antler rattling because there is an opportunity.
I believe people wait too long to start rattling for whitetail.
When deer antlers harden it is not uncommon to find evidence of fighting. This can be broken tines or fight scenes evidenced by broken brush and torn up ground. The territorial battle is underway and bucks are getting real ornery and climbing the ladder to establish dominance. As the rut approaches, it intensifies greatly. Each deer knows what’s at stake and is focused on making sure they get their share of the women.
It can be hard to rattle them in during full rut.
I have literally gone from rattling in 20 bucks a day to rattling in nothing in a span of one day. It’s like somebody turned off the light. I can only speculate as to why, but it always happens when the doe start coming into heat. I believe the beginning of the rut creates plenty of opportunity and there is no longer a reason to fight because there is plenty to go around. An exception to this rule is a ranch with a balanced ratio of bucks to does. In this case, it’s quite possible to rattle in a buck that has not found a girlfriend yet.
The second rut can be fantastic.
In central Texas, this happens in early January and in South Texas, it happens in early February. The second rut is a period when 90% of the does are already bred and the 6 month old fawns along with does not bred in the first phase come into heat. Talk about opportunity!! Every buck on the ranch doesn’t want it to end and suddenly 20% of the herd is coming into heat. I have rattled up my best bucks during this period. Old bruisers that had their way during the initial rut but now have to really work to find a doe to breed. I have evidence of bucks coming to rattling antlers that were recently seen by other hunters several miles away.