Bold or sneaky, raucous or sultry. Deer callers use somewhat different techniques, but most agree that it's a pretty straightforward procedure.
"Give it three, two-second long wails," said hunter Marc Scholten. " 'Waah,' like a deer in distress."
Jim Papoi has successfully called deer for years. He likes to sneak into an area and then sit quietly for about 15 minutes to let things settle down.
"I usually start out blowing real soft," Papoi said, "just three or four times, and wait. See if anything close might come in right away. Then try it louder."
Hank Masters, an experienced bowhunter who builds deer calls, suggests blowing the call in two or three short, hard blows; then wait one to five minutes before calling again. Some deer will run to the call, others will sneak in and may take 20 minutes.
"I don't try to blow soft on it or anything," Masters said. "If you want a deer to come blow on it hard and make a lot of racket. The worse it sounds the better it works."
Some hunters blow the call softer in the woods and more loudly in open areas. Masters doesn't alter his calling volume or voicing from muskeg to woods or other locations. He just goes for a high-pitch squeal. His call uses a rubber band as a "reed" and he tightens it to get a high pitch
"The way you alter it is moving the rubber band in and out a bit," he said. "There's a slot on the back, you adjust the tension on the band. The key is to use the right thickness of rubber band."
The call sounds more like a squeal than a bleat, but that seems to be what works.
"You have to have some patience," said Bud Samuelson, a deer hunter from Petersburg who was in Juneau last week. "You have to sit for a half hour or so. They'll wait around the edges (of a clearing) and not step out for a while."
Fred Hiltner has heard this advice many times, but has mixed feelings.
"My experience is if they don't come within a minute they won't come," he said.
He's seen some exceptions to that, but not because the deer didn't respond right away. It just took a while to get to him. He was at the edge of a valley on Admiralty Island.
"I blew as hard as I could and a couple minutes later I saw this buck stomping through chest-deep snow, really working hard to get up to where I was," he said.
Masters has seen the same thing and said sometimes as the buck is making its way over it will lose interest or become distracted.
"I saw him coming after probably 15 or 20 minutes," he said. "Then he turned around and was heading back where he came from. I blew again and he came in."
Sometimes a deer will call back, but not come out into the open.
"Once I was one gully away from a buck, calling, he'd snort and stomp, trying to lure me over to him," Hiltner said. "It went back and forth for 15 minutes, I'd call, he'd call. I had to stay put and finally he left. He was not too trusting."
Hiltner said sometimes a call can be used to stop a deer. A deer that has been startled and is running away may stop and turn for a quick look back when a call is blown.
Hiltner uses the standard call, two or three blows about three seconds long and about three seconds apart, but he gives his call some emotion.
"I try a mournful cry, destitute, like a doe that's desperate and despondent that she hasn't found her buck yet," he said.
"There's not one right technique," he added. "It's really exciting. It's totally interactive. You think like a buck, where it might be and what might call it over."
Riley Woodford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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