For over two decades now, I have had a personal superstition that all my camouflage must match, including my hat and gloves, when I am deer hunting. If matching camo isn’t enough, I have also felt that if there is not a grunt call around my neck while hunting, I am not prepared for the hunt. Though I have had a grunt call with me on ninety percent of my hunts, I rarely use it until late October during the pre-rut and into November when the rut is in full swing. That is until I became bored during a late September, early season hunt and decided to give my grunt call a try.
Often, when hunting during the early season, I climb into my treestand early in the afternoon to prevent spooking deer during the peak movement of the evenings. I frequently sit for two or more hours before seeing my first evening deer. During the wait, I admit, I often become bored. Sometimes, I scroll through my phone to occupy my time, whereas other times, I try to soak in the sights and sounds of being in the outdoors, doing what I love to do. While on an evening hunt during the early portion of Missouri’s archery season, I searched for something to occupy my time before deer naturally began moving. “I wonder if anything would come to a deer call,” I thought. I grabbed my True Talker grunt call from Hunters Specialties and gave a few soft grunts. I made a few more subtle grunts a few minutes later, tempting a mature buck to show up, ready to steal the show.
That wasn’t the case; instead, I heard the occasional crunching of the leaves as something inched closer to my location. Ten minutes after my last calling sequence, I spotted a mature buck scanning his surroundings, trying to figure out where the call he had heard was coming from. Moments later, I had an early season buck on the ground due to using my grunt call.
Best Strategy to Using a Grunt Call in September and Early October
When calling in September or early October, a hunter shouldn’t expect the same result as one would experience during the rut. There is a word that doesn’t belong in early-season deer hunting; that word is ‘aggressive.’ Bucks don’t get excited about much during this time of year. They spend most of their days feeding early mornings and late evenings when it is cooler, then slowly travel back to their bedding areas during mid-day.
A hunter prepares months before the hunting season to obtain enough knowledge to get within bow range of a trophy buck. A buck also spends his time in September as a setup period for what will come later in the fall, during the rut. Early-season scrapes are an excellent way for bucks to size up their competition when the time comes to breed does. Using a grunt call early has the same intention; when a buck hears another buck in the area, he is not mad and will not come charging in ready to fight. Instead, they slowly ease their way closer, trying to see who else is in the area, and non-aggressively let their presence be known to other bucks.
When using a grunt call during the early season, it is vital to set up in an area where a buck can casually approach the call while staying hidden. A good old-fashioned timber setup is the ideal location for an early-season stand. One of the most significant mistakes hunters make during the early season is using their grunt call aggressively.
As I mentioned earlier, there were very few times when I did not have my grunt call around my neck or close by in my backpack when deer hunting. Though I have used my call successfully in September, it has also taught me more about calling deer due to trial and error. My worst habit used to be when I saw a buck; I wanted to immediately use my call if he wasn’t coming my way. If the deer wasn’t going where I wanted, I thought I had to blow a call like a soldier using a trumpet to signal war. As you can guess, I didn’t have much luck calling that way during the early season. However, when hunting in the timber, I casually pick up my call and make two or three subtle social grunts to let other deer know that a buck is in the area. More times than not, a buck will respond by casually sneaking into closer range.
Don't Go Aggressive in the Early Season
During September and early October, hunters can not use aggressive calling tactics. Deer are not going to respond to loud calling, and they will most likely not travel a far distance when responding to calls. Instead, they will let their curiosity dictate where they will travel. A social or contact grunt is a subtle sound that deer make year-round to communicate with other deer. To help better understand, it is a sound that is saying; there is a deer over here; come say hi if you want. To make a social or contact grunt on a call, blow a light short burst into the call as if you were fogging a mirror with your breath. The soft grunts will be spaced in two short series. When using these calls while hunting, it is best to ensure no deer is visible. Make two or three soft grunts, wait several minutes, and repeat one more series. If nothing responds, do not try again. Remember, you want to trigger curiosity and not give up your location. Calling too much can detour non-aggressive bucks from responding, often making them stall out of range to observe the sound.