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THE RATTLING ANTLERS
Hart Stilwell
November 29, 1954
Texas hunters lure their deer by simulating bucks fighting over does
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November 29, 1954

The Rattling Antlers

Texas hunters lure their deer by simulating bucks fighting over does

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It isn't that way with rattling antlers. Naturally a veteran hunter develops a certain degree of artistry. I've watched demonstrations of real skill and seen the results. The expert holds the antlers with prongs facing, slaps them together, twists them a couple of times sharply and snaps them apart. Then he waits a while before rattling again. Maybe while waiting he will scrape an antler against some brush and then bang the antler on the ground, giving the impression that hell is really breaking loose.

A BUCK IN SECONDS

Yet the rankest dub might go out and bang the horns together and be astounded to see a big buck coming at him in a matter of seconds. A woman hunter called in a buck by beating two dry sticks together. Rattling is actually one of the easiest wild-animal calls to master, and one of the most effective if everything is right, which means the early stages of the rutting season, cold weather and a shortage of does.

The bucks answer then—sometimes, in strange ways. Most keep their self-control, advancing cautiously, from cover to cover, stopping to watch, listen and smell. A buck may move up within 15 or 20 feet of a hunter if he remains still—then the buck may scare the hunter half to death by letting go with a whistling snort and bounding away.

Some bucks come on the run, barging in unexpectedly, and some come slowly, deliberately and belligerently, like a bull advancing to battle. Such a deer may keep advancing even after he is fired at. Love does strange things to deer as well as to human beings.

The mystery, then, is why rattling won't work everywhere. Perhaps the best answer is that in many states the hunting season comes before the rutting season. A buck that's not in love isn't interested in somebody else's fight. And in many areas, such as the Texas hill country, there is a big surplus of does. Why go fight over some other buck's doe when you already have a private harem too big to handle?

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