The Deer hunter is traditionally a silent operator. He has to be if he expects to get game. If he takes a stand at a water hole or a crossing, he sits still and makes no noise. If he sets out to walk up a buck, he moves as quietly as a lion stalking its prey.
But it isn't that way in the mesquite and blackbush belt extending across most of south Texas and on into Mexico. Here the deer hunter waits for the first severe cold wave which will start the deer "running," as Texans term the rutting season. He sets forth with a pair of antlers which he probably inherited from his father. And he proceeds to make noise—plenty of it.
He bangs the antlers together, imitating the sound of two bucks fighting. Any buck in the grip of love will become interested at once. Bucks fight one another for the favors of does, which is probably a sound arrangement, since the strongest and healthiest win and sire the next generation. So the buck in love takes off to see about that fight, figuring he might steal the little doe away even if he can't whip the fighting bucks. For his curiosity, he gets shot.
It's an old, proved, popular method of hunting in the mesquite and black-bush belt. But go 200 miles north, into the oak-covered hill country, then travel any direction you wish except south and you will find nowhere any rattling for deer.
I've talked to hundreds of hunters trying to figure this one out and I'm still not certain of the reason. I've even checked with the game departments in every state where there are white-tail deer. In only two or three western states had the game-department men even heard of serious attempts to rattle up deer. Some had never heard of rattling at all, and some had thought it was a gag.
"It won't work here," was the almost unanimous verdict. But some said the conventional deer calls, gadgets imitating the call of a lovesick doe, frequently do work. Some states even consider such calls unfair to deer and outlaw them, Texas being among those that ban the doe calls because they work too well.
The ban is probably unnecessary. Such calls, particularly the popular type with a rubber band stretched across a tube, can be effective at times in the hands of an artist at calling. But, like the bark horn used to call moose, and the various fox calls and even the best of duck calls, the deer call in the hands of the average hunter probably scares away more game than it attracts.
As one veteran guide phrased it, "You get the doggone thing low and soft enough to sound right and a buck can't hear it. You make it loud enough for him to hear and he knows it's phony."