October 15, 2014
Whitetail-Style Rattling Works on Elk, Too
MISSOULA, Mont.— Whitetail hunters for decades have employed rattling as an effective hunt strategy during the rut. Now more and more elk hunters are catching on.
Two notable hunting writers have covered rattling in recent issues of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s member magazine, “Bugle.” Both found success using slightly different methods and gear. Here’s a rundown:
1. Antler Preference – Ramos uses one large, 320-class, 6×6 shed as a base antler. During the rattling sequence, this antler mostly lays on the ground while the hunter swings a second antler, usually a broken end with at least three points.
2. Rattling Sequence – Bang the antlers abruptly and aggressively 6-7 times to create the thundering sound of two bulls squaring off. Ramos says real bulls often begin a fight with big theatrics that devolve into a pushing match. So after your initial start, continue by rubbing antlers together, clashing points, raking trees and brush and pounding the ground for at least 10-15 minutes. Lots of noise is realistic. During this sequence, bang the antlers together very forcefully a couple times every 2-3 minutes. Then, after a few minutes of silence, start all over again with round two, and then round three.
3. Calling – Ramos blends a variety of elk calls into the rattling session. Bugles, moans, groans and excited cow calls add realism to the sounds of a fight. If possible, let a second hunter focus on the calling while the first hunter focuses on the rattling.
4. Be Sure to Try – Switching off. Ramos says this hunting method takes a physical toll on a hunter’s upper body so it’s good to let two hunters split the rattling and calling duties.
5. Notes – Bulls generally bugle as they approach, but not always. Sometimes they slip in silently, as if trying to steal a hot cow away from the battling bulls. Stay alert! Watch a video of Ramos’ rattling technique.
1. Antler Preference – Kayser prefers a set of raghorn sheds, to save weight. A hunter can lighten his load even more by not using antlers at all. Consider commercial products that mimic rattling sounds, like the Rattlecage (http://rattlecage.com).
2. Rattling Sequence – See No. 2 above.
3. Calling – Use a series of high-intensity bugles with two different tones to imitate two different bulls. For example, make one a growler and the other a chuckler. Be creative in your own style.
4. Be Sure to Try – If you don’t carry actual antlers, you can use a large stick to scrape trees and ground, adding even more realism to the rattling sounds.
5. Notes – Kayser used rattling to draw a bull from a neighboring property. It took only a few minutes for an elk to respond to the sounds, cross a fence and walk within bow range.
“Bugle” magazine is a bi-monthly publication that covers hunting, conservation, elk ecology, predator issues, RMEF membership news and much more, plus memorable hunting stories and outstanding photography. Visit www.rmef.org for details.