Rattle Dem Bones

Winter Sheep and Black Drum
November 25, 2017
COMMENTARY by Kendal Hemphill
November 25, 2017

Rattling Up a Crafty Old Buck

Fit, fit, ffffeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” I hissed, then slammed my rattling forks together with a loud crash and immediately started meshing and grinding them together like two big-bodied, mature whitetail bucks engaged in mortal combat.

I pushed hard into the ground with my right foot imitating a buck being pushed backwards, then broke nearby branches with my left foot. I grunted “aakkkkkk” deeply and loudly. Fifteen seconds into my rattling sequence, the first buck appeared. A nice two-year old, wild-eyed, drooling eight-point charged in. He looked for the fight that was not there. 

The author prepares to shoot as his guide mans the rattling forks.

I continued rattling. Five seconds later, a second buck appeared in the shooting lane to my right about 25 yards away. He was one to take a second look at. He had ten long points with mass slightly exceeding the diameter of his eyes, over four-inches. His beams extended about two inches past his erect, forward ears.

He stood right on the edge of the brush staring intently in my direction. I could see his left hind leg. His dark-stained tarsal indicated he was four years old or older. 

Slowly, I lowered my rattling forks, then peered through the scope. My .30-06 Ruger American rested on tripod shooting sticks pointed in the direction where the buck stood. No doubt he was a good one for the area I hunted.

My agreement with the landowner on whose property I hunted was to shoot a buck I thought was at least six years old. The buck seemed to be mesmerized, trying to determine what I was and why he couldn’t see two bucks fighting.

A lone buck is called in to the sound of rattling.

He turned broadside, straight top and bottom body lines. I could not make him older than four. He started to walk away, I grunted a deep “aaakkk.” He turned and came back for another look.

Moments later he again started leaving. I waited until he was about to disappear into the brush, then gently brought the rattling forks together, tickled them together and again grunted a deep “ack.” He turned and started walking toward me.

I was having a blast “messing” with the ten point, maybe having too much fun because I only glimpsed a bigger antlered, and much older buck walk through the shooting lane to my left. I saw him only a second or two. There was no doubt. He was definitely a shooter!

In originally setting up, I found a place that simply felt “right.” It was close to a brushy creek bottom where still-hunting through the area earlier I had seen several fresh scrapes.

I positioned myself, sitting down behind my stalking shield, so I could essentially watch downwind. There were natural, open shooting lanes at about 45 degrees to both my left and right.

I learned many years ago most older bucks tend to come to horn so they end up exactly downwind of the sounds that attracted them. I do not watch directly downwind because if he gets directly downwind I know he will smell me and leave post-haste.

Had I been watching for other responding bucks rather than “playing” with the lesser one, I could have shot him when he stepped in the shooting lane. My bad!

After crossing the lane he walked downwind, then walked directly away without crossing the shooting lanes.

After the old buck appeared briefly, I continued rattling for about thirty seconds twice more about five minutes apart. Then I sat and watched.

Quite often old whitetail bucks will come to the sounds of rattling but stop and stand just out of sight, then come in to investigate after the sounds have quit. I have seen some bucks come in thirty minutes after I have finished rattling.

Depending on the size of the property hunted, or if there are other hunters on the property, rather than rattle and leave to find another rattling spot, I will stay in the same place and do a rattling sequence about every 45 minutes or so. I’ll do this throughout the day. No telling when they will best respond.

How long to rattle? I try different things, sometimes rattling for about fifteen to thirty seconds. I’ll wait a couple of minutes, then rattle again. Wait maybe five minutes and rattle again and continue to do so for upwards of thirty minutes.

If that does not work, I may rattle for as long as five minutes or more. I have watched many buck fights. Some lasted less than ten seconds, others upwards of eight hours.

Try different lengths of rattling. When you come upon a sequence that brings in bucks, do it again. Rattle throughout the day.

I dearly love rattling “dem bones”! 

Do you see that buck charging in on your right?

 

 

—story by Larry L. Weishuhn

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