Calling deer is no mystery, veteran hunter says

Accomplished bowhunter Will Rives said patterning deer is impossible in the woods of Mississippi, so he moves often to put himself into position to score big.

Will Rives called in the state-record bow buck by being aggressive.

Pretty much every hunter has a grunt call whenever they sit on a stand, but using that tool effectively is a mystery to most of us. Natchez hunter Will Rives said he’s decoded that mystery.

“2004 was the last (season) I killed a buck that I did not call in,” Rives said.

That’s amazing, since he’s killed numbers of 130-inch-plus bucks in the past six seasons.

What’s the secret? Rives isn’t worried about scaring deer away.

“I call a lot,” Rives said. “The only time I think you can call too much is when he’s looking at you and knows where you are.”

His technique is pretty aggressive.

“I usually rattle; it’s usually non-stop for at least three minutes,” he said.

And he’ll work in grunts and bleats to add to the ruckus.

“It’s back and forth, back and forth,” Rives said.

The goal is to give deer a reason to check things out.

“You’ve got to get their attention,” Rives explained. “A deer is a very curious animal.”

There’s no real rhyme or reason for how often he cranks out sequences.

“I just wait until it feels right again,” he said. “It might be 15 minutes; it might be 30 or 45 minutes.”

And if he sees a buck sneaking through the woods, it’s pretty much game over — even during the rut when bucks are chasing girlfriends.

“If I can see them, nine times out of 10 I can call them in,” Rives said.

And calling is most effective when scrapes begin appearing.

“When they’re looking (for does) and making their scrape lines, they’re very receptive to calling,” he said. “They’re always up looking for that first doe that goes into heat.”

Mornings also are better then evenings.

“I think I’ve rattled three deer up in the afternoon,” Rives said. “In the morning, I think they’re coming off a high from the night; they’re more aggressive and responsive to calling.”

Once he has a big buck coming in, it’s usually just a matter of getting a shot off before being winded.

“When you call in a mature buck, he’s coming and he knows where you are,” Rives said. “Nine times out of 10 he’s going to try to circle you.

“I’m trying to get a shot before he gets downwind of me.”

In addition to a grunt and bleat can, Rives believes real antlers are critical.

“They sound more realistic,” he said.

He’s so meticulous that he even has two sets of antlers for different applications.

“I have a big heavy set, and I have a smaller set,” Rives said. “They sound different.”

Editor’s note: This article is part of the Trophies on a string feature in the August issue of Mississippi Sportsman. Digital editions can be downloaded right to your computer or smartphone.

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About Andy Crawford 279 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.

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