Communicating with Big Game

Minutes after climbing into my stand I began my calling and rattling sequence. First grunting, then working the antlers, I stared down at the mock scrape I’d been religiously anointing with doe-estrus scent for the previous two weeks. I hadn’t even finished my first round of clashing antlers together when I saw a nice buck run in from the heaviest cover. In a magnificent display of dominance all four feet were planted firmly in the center of my scrape as he swung his head back and forth in defiance! My efforts to communicate had sent this buck a clear message and he responded on cue. Using a call, rattling antlers, a mock scrape, and scent, my intrusion was too much for him to ignore. Duped into believing another buck had encroached on his territory, unbelievably he stood in place while I slowly lowered the antlers, drew my bow, settled the 10-yard pin on his chest and released. He ran 50 yards and collapsed. What a rush!

Communicating with game is the most proactive way to create a shot opportunity. We’re all familiar with calls; manufacturers have made sure of that. Visit any hunting supply retailer and you’ll be mesmerized by the array of grunt calls, bugles, doe/cow calls, and so on. But there’s a whole lot more to communicating with game. Watch any game animal in the wild, particularly during breeding seasons, and you’ll notice that certain sounds, postures, gestures, and smells attract either the male or female of the species to breed or fight.

Communicating with Sounds
Ungulates become more vocal and vulnerable during their annual rutting period. In simple terms, their God-given instinct to find breeding partners evokes this heightened communication. For hunters, the rut is a magical time; a time when we can go afield and not just hope for a chance encounter, but proactively scour the woods by periodically probing with a call. Whether it’s bugling elk in September, moaning for moose in early October, or grunting for whitetails in November, each sound holds special meaning for both genders.

Contrary to common thought, rut sounds emitted by the male of each species don’t necessarily insinuate a threat. Often these sounds are statements of dominance. A means used to communicate not only with other bucks or bulls to establish a pecking order, they are also a medium by which they make their presence known to females. Along with covering more ground in search of breeding partners, males and females of each species make distinct vocalizations. These sounds bring the two together. Aggressive males hearing the call of another male, may respond to confront the intruder. Conversely, a male may respond favorably to the call of a female in hopes of a chance to breed. Both are typical scenarios that hunters can capitalize on.

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