|A mature buck pushes a doe past one of my cameras on 10/17/09|
|This rub appeared overnight, as many
blacktail rubs do.
As the second buck got within 8-10 feet of the first buck, he let out two more snort-wheezes as they squared off in a stiff-legged two-step! They lowered their heads and side-stepped around each other slowly, then began to spar. What a treat! I was only a few yards away with a front row seat to a great learning opportunity. Anytime I can observe bucks in a natural state, sign me up! They pushed and shoved for a bit and at one point I could have literally poked an arrow into the hind leg of one of the bucks as they moved toward my location. They simply never knew I was there. Eventually, with their differences settled and deciding they make better buddies than enemies, they left together without further incident.
I have determined that the bulk of blacktail does are bred around November 12th, plus or minus a couple days. My data to support this has to do with trailcam photos, observed deer behavior, and counting backwards about 205 days from the first fawn sightings in the spring.
Blacktails do grunt but based on my observations over the years, they don’t grunt loudly or with the tenacity of whitetails. Most bucks will grunt when on the scent trail of a doe or even when trolling for hot does. It’s soft and difficult to hear from any distance. If you are working a grunt call, scale it back unless you are fighting loud windy conditions. Less is more with blacktails.
Fawn bleats and doe bleats are excellent calls to use anytime from October through December. The blacktail rut timing and rut phases shift slightly from year to year but these sounds are acceptable under most any condition.
I discovered an interesting behavior back in Iowa in 1993 while filming the Wilderness Sound Productions video, Wily Whitetails. I was filming my friend Rich Thompson during a daylight-to-dark stint in treestands. We had two fawns come in bleating loudly. The doe had been pulled away by a buck and they were left alone. Their bawls and bleats carried through the hardwoods. Moments later a hefty 9-point buck came marching onto the scene and Rich made quick work out of putting an arrow into his chest.
A couple days later, Larry D. Jones and I were on stand in another area. After telling him of this fawn situation, we discussed the sound tonal qualities and frequency of the calls. While on stand, mid-morning we whispered back and forth and let out several calls trying to mimic the two fawns. We’d make adjustments to the call reed and let out a few more loud bleats. As Larry was making a couple calls I scanned the area looking for deer. Out of nowhere I spotted a mature buck on a dead run from a brush-lined irrigation ditch! Larry barely had time to grab his bow as I flailed to get the camera up and on the buck before he was under our stands. Larry sank an arrow through the P&Y brute in short order.
Two mature mid-west whitetail bucks both fell victim to loud fawn bleats during the peak breeding phase. I’ve not had this kind of response to fawn bleating on blacktails but calling does work in the right situation. I’ve rattled in plenty of bucks and never had a deer respond negatively to soft bleats and grunts. Don’t be shy, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I passed up this buck last weekend after he followed a James Valley (Lethal Weapon) scent drag literally to within about 5 feet. Here
he is intent on this doe but she won’t stop long enough for him to get too close. These were taken on October 23rd.
The doe has moved out of frame to the right and the buck continues on the exact path, scent checking as he progresses.
(c) Tom Ryle 2010