We’ve all heard bucks grunt, and some of those grunts are pretty loud. But very few hunters have heard the kind of grunting that my hunting buddy Billy Jerowski heard yesterday afternoon. As he tells it, several mature does and their fawns had moved past his stand to feed in a nearby alfalfa field. Not long after, three young bucks appeared, working the same trails. “And then a mature buck–probably a 140-class 9-point–showed up,” says Jerowski. “He was back in the brush so I couldn’t see him well, but he was making plenty of racket, like he wanted the other bucks to know he was there.”

And then the grunting started. Not just the abbreviated “urp” most of us are accustomed to hearing. “This was a loud, sustained grunt that lasted for several seconds, and as soon as one ended, he’d go right into another one,” Jerowski says. “Every once in awhile he’d throw in a ‘roar’ like you hear guys talking about sometimes. But mostly it was just repeated grunting. After a few grunts like this I glanced at my watch, because I wanted to get an idea of how long he was doing it. A full twenty minutes later it was still going on. The younger bucks were really nervous, and when I looked down at the field, all the does had left. They were obviously freaked out.”

I’ve heard some long, loud grunting in my 40-plus years in the deer woods, but nothing to match what Jerowski heard yesterday. I contacted several friends–all veteran bowhunters with a lot of time in the timber–to relate this story. Only two of them said they’d had a similar experience, and both noted that their super-grunting session was similar to Jerowski’s; a mature buck in the presence of younger bucks and does. Most interpreted the aggressive, long grunts of the bigger bucks as a warning to the younger ones. But my friend Sam Collora, the veteran Iowa bowhunter, has also heard this among the captive whitetails he raises to produce his line of deer urine. Sam feels this vocalization is a combination of dominance-assertion and frustration with an urgency to breed.

Either way, it’s obvious that whitetail bucks are ready for the show to start in our region. Overall, the reports I’m getting from guides and hunters across the Midwest tell of good-to-excellent buck sign, but fairly slow daytime action. One fine 13-point buck was shot near my home a couple of days ago, and the buck had several tines broken from fighting. Tension is building and days ahead should produce some break-out pre-breeding action. So keep at it, and don’t forget your calls and rattling horns.