After wrapping up an unbelievable Montana whitetail trip, rattling was a key element throughout the hunt. Rattling is a perfect way to draw bucks out of thick cover and send them searching in your direction. This is much easier than stalking a stationary buck and can be an adrenaline-packed way to hunt. After rattling in over 20 bucks in only a couple days with Powder River Outfitters, this was the most enjoyable way to hunt whitetails I've ever experienced. To be successful in your rattling setups, there are a few key elements you want to remember to increase your odds.
1. Realism -- Bucks never just clink their horns together and walk away so make your rattling sequence sound realistic. Bucks run around and knock branches down, so you should do the same. Don't forget to add in a few grunts and even a snort wheeze to really fool those big bucks into coming over to check out the fight. Although this is an extremely aggressive way to hunt, it can also be effective. Before I start the hardcore rattling, I always do a couple soft grunts while approaching the new setup. This way if a buck is bedded close, you won't scare the living daylights out of him with your aggressive rattling, and you may get him on his feet with just a couple grunts before you even get started.
2. Timing and location -- To find success with rattling, one of the most important aspects is timing. You want to get the bucks when they're in the fighting mood, which I've found is usually right before the peak of the rut or even during the rut. Big bucks usually like to bed in the thickest brush possible, and in Montana this is usually located in the thickets or the Russian olives. I like to find a location with the wind in my face about 100 yards outside of these thickets and try rattling. You would be surprised how many bucks will get up to come checkout what the commotion is. The best part is these areas are usually extremely hard to hunt, so this is a great way to get the bucks on their feet and heading your way.
3. Busting deer -- I know this seems crazy, but if you rattle in a couple small bucks and they spot you or catch your wind and take off running, it's not over. This is the rut and little bucks are being chased off constantly by bigger bucks, so in reality it just adds to the realism of your setup. I've seen little bucks go flying out and actually passed a big buck coming in, and the big guy thought nothing of it. Another little tip is if you're sneaking into a bedding area and accidentally crack a branch or make some sort of noise, always keep your grunt tube handy. This way you can make a few grunts to cover your noise and put deer back at ease.
4. Wait it out -- Once you complete a rattling sequence, be sure to wait it out. Too many people have a great setup, wait a couple minutes and start marching forward. Remember that rattling is extremely loud and can draw bucks from a long way out. Don't destroy your chances by getting up too early. Make sure to give a buck at least 15 minutes after each setup to make their way in your direction. Although some bucks will come charging right in the middle of your sequence, others may be a little more timid.
5. Use cover -- When picking a rattling setup, try to look around for deadfalls or get in front of a big tree. This will give you a little cover and break up your shape. Always look in front of you and try to position yourself with as few trees as possible in your way. You don't want a beautiful buck to come in and be standing behind a giant tree, leaving you with no shot. The next step is getting ready for the shot. If possible, find a tree or deadfall to rest on, or bring a set of shooting sticks along. I bring a tall tripod set so I can shoot standing up and be rock solid. In many areas, the grass is extremely high and this helps give you the height advantage when a buck comes in. Lastly, once you see a buck coming in, hold as still as possible. This deer is searching and looking for the fight he just heard, so you don't want any additional movement. This also includes grunting or making any noise once the deer is visible. A buck can pinpoint a sound in a second, so just let him search while you try to keep your nerves under control.