Understand why deer are often vocal
Although vocalizations from white-tailed deer occur year-round, deer undoubtedly intensify their larynx usage as the rut gets under way.
The grunt is a very distinct form of communication used by rutting bucks. However, females can occasionally be heard grunting over social disputes or to locate each other.
Even so, the male’s grunt is by far a trait to recognize bucks when foliage obscures your vision.
Bucks can also charge or trot toward a female and grunt once or even several times in sequence.
To establish and maintain dominance, bucks use grunts when rival bucks are sighted or scented. Their instinctive objective is to try and get the other buck to move on.
This grunt can also be followed up by a grunt-snort vocalization that is usually short and not as intense as the snort alert vocalization.
The grunt-snort is usually echoed once, yet bucks really start displaying it more often when searching for estrous does.
But the most-intense and unique display during the rut is when bucks go all out with the grunt-snort-wheeze vocalization.
It is usually performed in a rapid sequence with a short grunt immediately followed by a quick snort and then a lengthy, drawn out wheezing sound.
The grunt-snort-wheeze tends to indicate that a buck is not going to tolerate an intruding buck and puts bucks on the edge for serious competitive battles.
Mature bucks can also charge and grunt-snort-wheeze at female deer as the rut heats up. This vocal really tends to indicate that it is associated with achieving dominance, and it is usually displayed in conjunction with aggressive body gestures.
When bucks use this vocalization, they usually swing their head and neck upward as they end the sequence with a drawn-out wheeze. This head/neck movement is used to intimidate rival bucks.
Besides these common rut vocalizations, rutting bucks can also just exhibit a singular “wheeze” vocal with no grunt or snort. All in all, though there is usually a pattern to whitetail communication — the sounds described can be combined together or used just once, occasionally making deer calls erratic and unpredictable.
Once females are near or in estrus and receptive to the breeder buck, a whole new set of sounds unfold.
The most common is the tending grunt. It is displayed when a buck stands guard of his mate and tends her — especially when other intruding bucks attempt to get in on the action.
The tending grunt is usually a softer, lower-sounding vocalization than the common grunt used by bucks on the move. It is usually drawn out in comparison to the common grunt.
This is also another whitetail vocalization that some hunters use to try and attract rutting bucks.