When Deer Calls Don’t Work with John E. Phillips
Day 1: Chris Kirby and Harold Knight Recall Instances Where Deer Calls Didn’t Work
Editor’s Note: Some days, a grunt or a bleat may pull a buck within bow or gun range. However, at other times calling may prove futile, or even frighten deer away. Don’t consider deer calls the magic cure-all to put the buck of a lifetime in your crosshairs anytime you use them. Sometimes deer calls don’t call deer.
As Chris Kirby, the president of Quaker Boy Calls in Orchard Park, New York, explains, “I was bowhunting in north Missouri in November one year when I saw two bucks that totally ignored my grunt and my bleat calls. I learned later they were following an estrous doe. But then when I hunted in Texas with my wife Michelle at the Ford Ranch, which has a 1:1 buck-to-doe ratio, I called in an 8-point buck that scored 125 points on Boone & Crockett for her, after four other bucks already had responded to my calling. Deer calls don’t always work, but when they do, they can make deer hunting fun and exciting.”
Kirby, like many other call manufacturers and professional hunters, realizes that sometimes deer calls don’t work. A deer call even may spook the buck you’re hoping to take. Deer may react negatively to calls just like humans do to circumstances in our lives. For instance, if a 275-pound football player comes up and kicks sand on a 130-pound weakling laying on the beach putting on sunscreen, will the smaller guy jump up and punch the big guy in the nose? I don’t think so. If you give a very-deep, guttural, aggressive grunt call that sounds like a big dominant buck, often a subordinate buck won’t come to that calling and actually will flee. A 275-pound tackle who’s recently had a bad fight where he’s cracked three ribs and broken his nose and has bad bruises on both thighs most often will walk away when a 250-pound guard from another football team wants to fight. And so will deer. If you grunt to or rattle antlers aggressively at a dominant buck, and he’s just fought, he’ll probably shy away from what he believes to be another fight.
However, calling deer has no absolutes. Harold Knight, co-founder of Knight and Hale Game Calls in Cadiz, Kentucky, says he’s had some success calling a big buck right after the buck’s had a fight by using soft, non-threatening doe grunts. “Whether that buck has won or lost, if he hears the sound of a doe grunting, he’ll assume an estrous doe is there that he may can breed before the buck he’s fought finds her.”
Tomorrow: David Hale and Jim Crumley Explain How White-Tailed Bucks’ Moods Impact Their Calling