October 2002

Bleats Rule!
as the rut draws near, a grunt tube may be an asset, but for the best results, you can’t beat the bleat.
By Joe Byers

I could hear the buck before I could see it; his grunting sound was enough to
make my hair stand on end. In seconds a doe appeared along the ridge—its wannabe
mate right behind. The pair passed just 50 yards away, but seeing the buck’s headgear
was difficult through the thick cover. I gave a couple of grunts, which the buck ignored,
and it disappeared. Switching tactics, I cast several doe bleats in its direction, doubtful
that any call would pry it from the doe. To my surprise, I soon heard leaves shuffling.
The buck returned, walking steadily toward me, searching intently for the source of the
sound. The eight-pointer passed within 20 yards, stopped to drink from the stream
below the stand and then wandered away in search of other does.

On most days, my arrow would have flown toward the two-year—old deer that
weighed about 150 pounds. However, this was the peak of the rut in the heart of Illinois’ famed “ABP” counties (Adams, Brown & Pike). Moreover, I was hunting with Heartland Outfitters on part of their managed trophy properties. Dr. Robert “Doc” Russell, owner and outfitter, encourages P&Y minimum standards, stressing that numerous 150-plus bucks thrive in the QDM program. I had mixed emotions about passing the modest eight- pointer, yet was genuinely impressed with
the performance of the bleat call.

Bleating Super Big Time
Ironically, some 200 miles to the east on the exact same day, Ohioan Mike Beatty
was in his stand. He climbed-in around 5 p.m. in the afternoon and let things settle
down. Seeing no deer, he turned his can-style doe bleat a few times and looked
intently for results. Sure enough, he saw movement as a 150—class buck sneaked
toward him. The animal came within 15 yards, yet never left the shroud of branches
that protected it like some Star—Trek Cling on cloaking device. Not finding a doe, it
turned and walked away. The Ohio archer grunted several times, yet the buck did not
reappear. Beatty considered this deer to be a buck of a lifetime and was devastated.

Since the bleat call had worked once, he let some time pass, then made several
more “baa” sounds. Within minutes, the buck returned, or so Beatty thought. As
this deer approached through the same thick cover, Beatty saw that it was bigger.
Much bigger! It came within 12 yards, looking intently for an estrous doe.

Beatty was at full draw when the animal stopped to sniff a scent bomb. Although it was facing toward him, he aimed carefully, visualizing an arrow through the neck and into the lungs. He
released and the buck wheeled and ran. He waited 30 minutes and then began trailing by flashlight. After covering 250 yards, he chose to return in the morning. After a sleepless night, he found the huge buck at dawn, just a few yards from his stopping point. The buck is the largest whitetail deer
ever taken with a bow. With 39 points, the 11.5-pound rack scores and is the largest whitetail ever taken by any hunting means.

Back to Reality
Of course, I didn’t know about Beatty’s success, yet his experience demonstrates
two key elements. One: an archer never knows what kind of buck can be called in.
Despite the immense antlers size, this deer had not been seen previously. Two: the
bleat call can be extremely effective at bringing-in even the largest of whitetails.

As the morning wore on in my Illinois perch, I lured a small six pointer within 30 yards, causing it to change course and come directly toward me. Just as impressive were a doe and fawn that came down a ridge searching intently for the bleat.

When I returned to camp for lunch, I recommended the call to Bryce Towsley
who had been seeing a big 10-point, yet could not get it in range. Later that afternoon, Towsley used the call to bring the buck to 12 yards and made a good lung shot. That evening, we celebrated heartily with a common mindset: Holy Cow! This bleat stuff really works.


Next to a Victoria’s Secret lingerie model, I probably had the best roommate in the
world. Jerry Petersen and the Woods Wise staff hunt Heartland annually in early
November, not only for a great outdoor experience, but it’s a perfect test-track for
their deer calls. I had rarely encountered such success with a deer call and corralled
Petersen for a mini seminar.

“To understand the call, you must focus on the biology of what’s going on,” began
Petersen. “Here we are in the second week of November in Illinois. We are dealing
with bucks in the pre-rut and soon to be full rut. It’s the most exciting time of the
whitetail season. Everything works, yet if you apply calling in a more selective and
scientific way, you can be more productive than just throwing out anything.

“The first thing to understand is how a buck’s motivation is different than in early
season. Instead of seeking companionship of other bucks, he now seeks to win the
attention of does. His primary motivation is breeding, contrary to popular notion that
bucks just want to fight. Therefore, in pre-rut, you will rind much greater success in
sounding like a doe ready to breed, than two bucks ripping each other’s head off. I rattle
up bucks every year, but usually use the doe calls before I touch antlers.

“The doe—specific calls include the estrous bleat, which is a longer drawn-out a bleat that lasts a second to a second and a half and is usually repeated from two to 12 times in a series. Also, the breeding bellow is a bleat that’s louder, drawn out and starts at a high note and drops to low one.
“l like to call to almost every buck I see just for fun and as a means of gauging what I can expect for a response. lt’s a way of taking the temperature of the local deer population. On the first morning of this hunt, a spike passed by at 75 yards. I bleated three times and stopped it. Then, l added a breeding bellow to which it responded by dropping its head and giving a sharp tail wag, then came
directly to me. (The dropping of the head to a low position and an exaggerated tail wag that is repeated several times) is a fairly common response. When this happens, stop calling. Let the deer come as far as it will on its own. lf it stops, don’t call unless it walks away. Too many times the hunter thinks, ‘It worked once. more is better’ That’s a mistake. If you call when the animal is close, it will pinpoint you.

“I had good early season success in Montana with bleating and light rattling. Two big bucks passed by my stand nearly 200 yards away. l got their attention with a bleat, and then played a waiting game. They stopped in their tracks, looked and listened. They did some heavy searching for almost five minutes, just staring. With big bucks you want to fight the temptation to call repeatedly. The first time I detect a tum of a head. ear or a flick of a tail, they are going to move forward, that’s the time I make the second call. It often moves them in my direction as it did in this case. Both bucks came at a steady walk and passed under my tree. I shot an 11-point that scored in
the high 140s.”

The CanCan
“The time of year that deer are the most callable is during the pre-rut and rut,” says Will Primos, president of the call company that bears his name. “I have known about the estrous bleat for 20 years but have not been able to reproduce it in a blown call. The concept works very well. It produces a good reproduction and is easy to use. Mike Beatty used the Primos Easy Bleat because a buddy of his (a game warden) bagged two bucks using the call. ‘Do the can’ he advised, so Beatty went to a local sporting goods store and bought one.”

Primos believes that the bleat is the most powerful allure as the breeding season nears.
‘Although grunts can work, the sound a buck really wants to hear is the sound of a
doe ready to breed. When a cat goes into heat, it often screams. Bobcats do the same
thing in the wild. The bodies of estrous females go under stress when they are ready
to mate and they advertise a biological need.”

Back In Action
Armed with new knowledge and the Bullseye Buck call, I climbed into the
same stand for a second day with great anticipation. I planned to use the call only
when I saw a deer, rather than just random broadcasting. Unfortunately, by 9 a.m., I
had not seen anything. It was time for a different approach.

Putting the call to my lips. l inhaled several soft bleats, then picked up my bow
in preparation. Fifteen minutes later I repeated the bleat call routine, searching
the thickets for the slightest movements. Perhaps five minutes passed when leaves
crashed behind me. In seconds, two deer raced in and stopped within spitting distance. Rotating my head downward with great caution, I could see the antlers of a mature buck.

My bow was on a hanger within easy reach, yet l dared not move with the animals so close. The doe continued her estrous run, bounding up the steep ridge to my left. As the first leaf cracked, l grabbed my bow, locked on the release and came to full draw. Unfortunately, the buck was
stopped behind thick vines. l held and hoped. The pair crossed my entrance trail and caught a whiff of the Real Deer trail scent I had deployed. They took two more jumps, this time the buck stopped just above a cedar tree that I had ranged in at dawn. The arrow flew, catching the buck in the boiler room. Ironically, the escape trail contained no blood for the first 30 yards and then emerged like a paint spill. The buck was a bit shy of P&Y yet a mature breeder that made wonderful eating and
excellent trophy.

Hunting whitetail deer is always exciting, yet inducing a wily buck to seek you out is the grandest of all. Rattling, grunt tubes, and bleats all have their place in the communication scheme of our favorite prey. As the rut draws near, a grunt tube may be an asset, but for the best results
you can’t beat the bleat.

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