by Bill Vaznis

The first time I heard a buck clicking, I didn’t know what to think. It sounded more like someone slowly dragging a thumb along the teeth of a comb than any noise a whitetail deer might make. But since then, I’ve called in several bucks by mimicking this breeding-period vocalization.

Here’s what happens: Just prior to mating, bucks make a four- to five-second-long series of loud clicks. The sound varies, however, depending on the animal’s age. Older bucks’ clicks are deep, low pitched, and evenly spaced. Young bucks, apparently beside themselves at being near an estrous doe, seem to hyperventilate as they make a higher-pitched version punctuated by false starts.

Both noises can draw competing bucks, from the seeking phase right through the peak of the rut. But I’ve had the best luck imitating the excited clicks of an immature buck. On calm days, the sound travels well, and I believe older bucks are extra quick to respond when they believe a youth has moved in on one of their does.

To make the basic vocalization, blow slowly enough into a standard grunt tube (with ribbed bellows) so that it emits a series of very short individual notes: click, click, click. Quicken your pace a little to capture the agitated cadence of an immature buck; mix in short, stop-and-go strings by inhaling and exhaling into the tube. If your call adjusts for tone, choose a higher pitch.

Send your calls in every direction both to maximize their coverage and to give the impression that a young upstart is chasing a doe. Ground hunters might stomp the turf and rustle the leaves to add realism to the ruse. If you can convince a nearby buck that an underage intruder is about to mate with one of his does, he’ll rush in to take over the job.