by Steven Hill
By the time the secondary rut rolls around, most young bucks have dropped out of the breeding race, and many does have already been bred. That means competition for the few remaining females is concentrated among big bucks. And the contest gets intense.
“The confrontations you see at this time of year aren’t like those earlier in the season, when it’s just a shoving match,” says Jim Carpenter, a Texas guide who’s rattled hundreds of deer to within range of a gun, bow, or video camera. “They lock horns and really battle, and they’ll run over anything that’s out there—including you if you get in the way.”
This heated rivalry makes the late season a great time to rattle in a trophy whitetail, Carpenter contends. Fewer deer are likely to respond now than during the primary rut, but a higher percentage of the ones that do will be dominant bucks. Of course, hunting a herd with a healthy buck-to-doe ratio increases your chances for success. Carpenter believes that 1 to 2 or better is ideal.
Still, for anyone who hunts where the herd quality doesn’t quite stack up to the Lone Star State’s, the good news is that the effective ratio—as it pertains to breeding behavior—can actually improve in the late season. Why? Because so many does have already been bred. “The competition is much fiercer for the bigger, more dominant bucks during the secondary rut,” says Illinois bowhunter and North American Whitetail TV co-host Stan Potts. “There just are not as many does available as the first time around.”
Here are three keys to rattling a second-rut buck into range:
#1 - Use Big Antlers
Carpenter recommends using the largest antlers you can get your hands on. “It’s like banging together two 2x4s versus two sticks. The sound carries farther with the larger tool, whether it’s made of wood or bone. Plus, I believe bigger antlers draw bigger bucks.”
#2 - Simulate a Fierce, Relentless Battle
Unlike many experts who counsel short bursts of rattling punctuated by long periods of watchful waiting, Carpenter rattles long and loud in the late season. “If you’ve ever watched deer fight, they don’t stop for anything. Neither should you.” Shake tree limbs and stomp undergrowth to simulate the collateral damage of a buck fight. Carpenter sometimes takes dead branches along on a hunt so he can stomp on them to create a realistic soundtrack for his mock battle.
#3 - Get Them Close
Some hunters stop rattling once they see that a buck is approaching. Carpenter keeps at it almost until the deer’s on the ground. “Even if you see a buck, as long as he doesn’t see you, keep clashing the antlers.” The Texas guide has rattled bucks in close enough to touch them this way—but getting a big one within gun or bow range should be near enough for you.