Don’t Head to the Woods without Knowing These Calls.
There is a common misconception in deer hunting that whitetails aren’t vocal. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Deer are extremely vocal and at times can be witnessed emitting numerous different sounds.
Knowing each of the most common vocalizations will allow you to be more successful this season and will potentially — if using calls correctly — pull a deer within range you wouldn’t otherwise kill.
1. Social Grunt
This is believed to be the grunt a buck emits when communicating with other deer in the herd. Some people even refer to this as the contact grunt. Call it what you will, but don’t forget this call.
Calling tip: This is a year-round call. While I generally prefer not to call outside of the rut, this can be used with good results throughout the rest of the season.
2. Trailing Grunt
The trailing grunt is emitted when the buck is on the tail of a hot doe. It is done in short bursts and can even be rhythmic in sync with the step the buck takes.
Calling tip: This is a great call to use during the pre-rut. Bucks are getting worked up, testosterone levels are high, and hearing another buck make this sound could be just enough to get a big buck up out of its bed to come look for you.
3. Tending Grunt
Bucks use this vocalization most often when they have an estrus doe pinned down somewhere. It is a sign of frustration, dominance and more. It is a very low, guttural sound and is drawn out when emitted. It starts out low, gets higher, and tapers off at the end of the call.
Calling tip: This is a great peak-rut call. Also, use the trailing grunt, then about 5 to 10 minutes later, follow up with the tending grunt. You’ll often find combinations of calls is the best choice. But make sure the combinations sound realistic and make sense to deer.
4. Buck Roar
This is the “myth”, the legend, of buck vocalizations. And while it certainly is legendary, it isn’t anywhere close to myth. I’ve personally heard bucks emit this sound myself. So I can attest to the legitimacy of it. This call is generally used by bucks that are extremely excited or frustrated.
Calling tip: I consider this a last resort call. I don’t blind call with this vocalization. However, if I’m watching a buck, have used a social, trailing or tending grunt to no avail, then I’ll throw this call at it to hopefully push that deer’s curiosity over the edge. Another time I’ll use this call is when it’s really windy or the deer is way off. Other than the snort wheeze (its high pitch cuts through wind better), the buck roar is the loudest call.
This is the most aggressive call a buck can make toward another deer. This is a buck telling the other deer around him that he’s the boss. It can also be a challenging vocalization to another buck.
Calling tip: Use this call during the pre-rut and peak-rut time frames. I choose not to use this very early or late in the season because bucks typically don’t respond well to these aggressive calls during those times.
6. Doe Grunt
The doe bleat is often used as a social call among other does and fawns. It is a year-round call that works great as a reassurance call to other deer in the area.
Calling tip: This is a year-round call that is synonymous with the buck social grunt. In fact, it sounds very similar to that vocalization, only higher in tone and not as deep as when made by bucks.
7. Estrus Bleat
The estrus bleat is a sound does make telling the world around them they are ready to breed. This is generally a sound made by a doe that has not made contact yet with a buck. Although it isn’t impossible, you generally will not hear this vocalization made by a doe that is already accompanied by a buck.
Calling tip: This is a great call to use during the heart of the rut when does are entering estrus. I like to blind-call using this vocalization during the rut.
8. Fawn in Distress
Fawns are often very vocal (and those that are often fall to predation). So it’s only natural to use fawn calls in appropriate situations. This particular sound is made by a fawn that is in distress, or feels it’s in danger. They often make this sound when pursued by a predator. It’s a very frantic-sounding call.
Calling tip: If doe hunting during the very early season (September), this can be a great way to fill a doe tag. Oftentimes, does will come running to this call even if they already have their own fawns with them. It’s their maternal instinct to respond to this call. Therefore, it’s an effective method for filling a tag. I’ve personally called in numerous does using a fawn in distress call. I’ve called in bucks, too. It’s not as likely, but it can happen. So don’t be surprised if you see a set of antlers bobbing through the green underbrush if you use this call.
Whitetail Call Training
Conquer the Call offers a call-training software that really educates the user. They have versions on numerous species, but I’ve found the whitetail version especially interesting. Learn with Michael Waddell how to mimic all of the different whitetail vocalizations above and more. The software will record you while calling on your grunt tube, compare it to the real deal, and help you improve each individual vocalization. Not only that but you can also learn tips and tactics on deer movement, scouting tactics, stand location, scent control, best times to hunt, and more.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.