Whitetails have a diverse and complex vocabulary, but if you only learn a handful of calls, these are the ones you need to know.
Contact Call - Deer are social animals and when a member of a social group finds itself out of sight of the others, it may utter a contact call or grunt. This low, guttural, nondescript single-note grunt is difficult to pinpoint the location of. It’s a bit like saying: “In case you were wondering, I’m right over here.” You might use this if there is a group of deer milling around in thick cover and you want to coax at least one into coming your way. It works equally well on bucks and does.
Fawn Bleat - This high-pitched, drawn out call (made with a tube or can) is intended to draw in a doe by appealing to her maternal instinct. It works best early in the season but can work any time, and might even draw in a curious buck. The lost fawn bleat is a more emphatic version that should be used sparingly. It may scare deer but if it works, they’ll come in quickly.
Tending Grunt - This repetition of short, quick grunts simulates a buck that is tending or pursuing a hot doe. Hunters who have heard it know it’s time to get ready for a shot. Bucks that hear it know love is in the air and they might want to check it out.
Snort-Wheeze - A plain old snort is a call you never want to make because it’s a warning from one deer to all others that there’s something wrong. The snort-wheeze, on the other hand, is a warning from one (dominant) buck to another (subordinate) one that they’d better back down or there will be trouble. It may intimidate other smaller bucks but if there’s a big buck with a bad attitude within hearing, you’ve got a good chance of luring him in.
Rattling - No, it’s not a “vocalization,” but simulating the sound of two bucks sparring or fighting probably calls in more deer than any other human-generated sound, short of a spin feeder. Start softly, early in the season and early in the day, to mimic a shoving match or modest sparring. As the rut intensifies, get more aggressive. And don’t give up. Rattle for a few minutes, wait 20 minutes and rattle again. It may take two or three bouts to get a response. And watch carefully for bucks slipping around downwind to scent check the commotion before exposing themselves to potential danger.