Be it whitetails, blacktails or muleys, one of the hardest challenges archers face is reaching full-draw once a buck is rattled into view. Such a buck is on the lookout for any movement when being lured to a call, and this is why treestands are so popular when it comes to rattling, for they allow hunters to get away with a certain degree of movement needed to make the shot.
Treestands aren’t always an option, especially in brush-choked rivers and timbered patches of the West. In these settings, it might be better to rattle on the ground, and move quickly. Ideally, it’s best to work in pairs, having the person rattling set up 50-75 yards behind the shooter. But working with a partner is not always possible.
Some of my best blacktails have come while rattling solo, on the ground. When doing this, if the setting is not conducive to reaching full draw on an approaching buck, then I like adopting a rattle and move approach. Two points I always look for prior to rattling and moving is that I’m able to work into the wind the whole time, and that there’s enough real estate to cover ground.
Rattling, then moving for the best set up got this nice buck in the right position for the best shot.
Typically I’ll set up in a thick river bottom, creek bed or on top of a ridge with benches below. I’ll rattle for a couple minutes, then wait for up to five minutes. I’ll repeat the process one more time, and if nothing immediately shows, will move ahead 25-50 yards. How far I move up depends on the terrain, how far I think my sounds are traveling and where I think a buck may approach from as he tries to catch my downwind scent. If it’s windy and raining, I’ll cover short distances, then set up and rattle again, so as not to miss a buck. If it’s fairly calm, I’ll cover more ground before rattling again.
When I first move, I won’t rattle. I prefer moving soon after my last rattling sequence, so if a buck is honed in on that sound, he’ll be looking at that specific site. This has paid off in the past, where a buck approaches, passes by, and gives me a shot. The key here is whacking him before the wind gives you away.
Rattling and moving allows you to cover ground and seek out where wiley bucks may be holding, or looking for does. Out West, where I do most of my hunting, the terrain is big and broken, meaning bucks can be holed-up virtually anywhere. Success often depends on how much ground you cover.
On one of my favorite ridges, where I’ve taken two P&Y blacktails, I’ll rattle and move, covering about a quarter-mile of prime ground. I’ve taken a good buck at the start of where this sequence starts, and towards the end. The key is covering ground and rooting those deer out of the brushy benches where they spend the day.
If the setting is right and conditions are favorable, try taking to the ground and rattling up your buck this year. You may discover new hunting areas, new territories and maybe a prized trophy.
Note: Beginning in January of 2007, look for the new TV show, BowTech’s Western Adventures with Scott Haugen, appearing on The Men’s Channel. Haugen is also editor of Hunting The West magazine, www.huntingthewestmag.com.