Anyone who has successfully attracted a buck or doe by imitating any of the four primary deer vocalizations knows three things for sure. First, all the different sounds that deer calls imitate work amazingly well to lure deer to the hunter’s location. Second, when calls are made incorrectly, they can instantly spook deer, particularly mature bucks and does. Lastly, most deer calls, including the grunt, adult blat, and fawn bleat vocalizations, have smaller windows of opportunity during the season to coax deer into the gun or bow, than a snort call.
While the primary grunt or any of its four sub-cadences can seem to work like magic during the rut, bucks are generally overly enthusiastic about responding to a grunt call for fewer than ten days of deer season. The fawn bleat is also an effective call, but it, too, has its time restraints in attracting bucks and does. While the adult blat and its varied sub-sounds will attract deer for most of the season, the sound falls short of generating consistent responses. There is one deer vocalization, however, that can be used the entire deer season. More importantly, deer have no choice but to respond to it every time it is used. The reason is that they have learned from the time they were fawns that if they ignore three of the four cadences of the primary snort, it could cost them dearly (sorry, I just had to write that).
Seriously though, deer have come to recognize that when they hear another deer make the sound of Alarm, Alarm-Distress, or a Snort-Wheeze, there is a real and present danger nearby. From the crack of dawn on opening day to the last rays of legal light at season’s end, all four cadences of the primary snort can be used anywhere in North America. This makes a snort call the most useful and effective call a hunter can use during the entire deer season. There is no doubt a snort call will provide a hunter with an opportunity for an increased success ratio. Anyone dedicated to improving their deer hunting should never be in the field without a snort call hanging around their neck or kept in an accessible outer pocket. To do so would be a critical a miscalculation that will be destined to end in fewer opportunities to kill the buck of their dreams.
Regrettably, because a majority of hunters associate the sound of a snort with deer fleeing, the snort call is one of the most misunderstood and rarely used deer calls. Understandably, many have little faith that using a snort call can be an effective hunting tool, which is unfortunate because it simply isn’t the case. Once you learn how to decode the meaning of each snort variation, you’ll not only be surprised at how effective each snort cadence is, you will increase your deer hunting success.
There are five variations to the primary snort vocalization. Four can be used to attract, hold, stop, and even draw deer to a specific location. Some experts say there are six snort vocalizations, but I’ll address that later in this chapter. For instance, one of the most astonishing snort cadences can be used to intentionally frighten deer from areas where they are seeking security. I have accumulated more than four decades of experience using this particular variation of the primary snort. During this time, I have used this sub-vocalization to intentionally startle or frighten deer into involuntarily revealing themselves from a wide variety of cover including clusters of blow downs, fields of standing corn, trenches in farm fields,ledges overlooking thickets of mountain laurel, swamps, thick stands of evergreens, and anywhere else a buck might conceal itself.
So, I can say with extreme confidence that the Alarm-Distress snort cadence, when done correctly, is one of the most exciting, effective, and amazing deer calls you can add to your hunting tactics. This variation of the primary snort vocalization will definitely cause a buck or doe, no matter what type of area they are hiding in, to reveal themselves. They have no choice because they respond to this sound intuitively. This is especially true with mature bucks. It is common knowledge that adult bucks will hide in cover and hold tight as hunters pass within feet of where they are laying rather than risk abandoning the cover to run away.
In order of my preference and the call’s effectiveness, the variations of the primary snort include:
1. The Alarm-Distress Snort
2. The Alarm Snort
3. The Social Snort
4. The Aggressive Snort
5. The Snort Wheeze
6. The Snort Grunt Wheeze
Each of the variations to the primary snort, or any primary deer vocalization for that matter, communicates a specific meaning to other deer in different circumstances. That is why it is so important to learn each sub-sound and practice each long before deer season begins. If you use the wrong cadence in any one situation, the result will either be that the deer will ignore it, move away from it, or, in the worst-case scenario, flee. Here are the two best variations of the snort call. Learn these and you will have a greater chance for success this fall.
As I have said many times in magazine articles, on our television program, and at my seminars, the Alarm-Distress is by far my favorite deer call, and it is my preferred snort-cadence. Why? This call affects deer on an instinctive behavioral level, though some biologists say it is a learned behavior. Either way, deer react to this sound quickly and without second-guessing what it communicates to them—immediate, life-threatening danger.
The Alarm-Distress snort can be used when you are hunting alone or a hunter can use it to drive deer from cover to hunting companions posted at potential escape routes. No other deer call is better to use when it comes to hunting a wise, old buck. This is particularly true when you are still-hunting, walking to a stand, or planning a deer drive. Locate thick cover, like a cedar patch or swamp, then post hunters along the networks of trails that are escape routes. The call sounds like this, “Whew—whew—whew—whew, whew, whew, whew.” Make the first three snorts loud and hesitate about a second between each sound. Then, make the next four snorts quickly without any hesitation. To help create the entire illusion, you can also stomp your foot on the ground a few times. Wait a minute or two and repeat the sequence. If there are deer in the cover, the sound of the call should make them sneak out along the routes where the other hunters are posted.
The Alarm-Distress can also be used when you are hunting alone—I have had the most success with this cadence when I do. I use it to roust deer from cattails, ledges, brush piles, small woodlots, laurels, and standing corn. In addition, I have been successful with this call when walking through blow downs. Used alone or in conjunction with other hunters, the Alarm-Distress cadence will help you see bucks you may have walked by otherwise.
The Alarm cadence of the primary snort is the most recognized vocalization that deer make. I can even tell you when and where you probably encountered a deer making this Alarm snort. Often, a hunter walks along a logging road or makes his way through the woods to his stand and jumps a deer. When the deer does not see nor smell the hunter first, it only reacts to the hunter’s noise. If it had sensed the hunter first, it would have quietly snuck off or blown the Alarm-Distress call as it made a hasty retreat.
In this instance, however, the deer is confused and blows an Alarm call. It doesn’t really know what alarmed it and it often remains standing or slowly walks away a short distance and blows the call again. The deer that makes this call can be easily called back if you know exactly what to do.
When you encounter a deer unexpectedly, the deer may respond by blowing a single snort, then running several yards, stopping, and blowing a second single snort. “Whew . . . Whew.” It is alarmed, but it has not been able to pinpoint why. It knows it is safer not to run any further until it can determine exactly what made it nervous to begin with.
This is where you either make or break your opportunity to call this deer back. I have learned through trial and error that you must stop in your tracks when you hear this snort. Immediately blow a single snort at the deer in return. Be careful here—if the sound you heard seems to be fifty yards or closer, one single snort is all you dare make or you risk being discovered. If, on the other hand, it sounds as if the deer is more than fifty yards away, you can make two single snorts. A snort, followed by a brief second or two of silence, then another single snort, “Whew . . . . Whew.”
By blowing back at the deer with the Alarm cadence of the primary snort call, you stimulate the deer’s curiosity. Often, after hearing what it perceives to be just a call from another deer, it decides to slowly make its way back toward the location where it first encountered the perceived danger.
As long as the deer remains at a distance and continues to blow one or two snorts, you can keep blowing a single snort. Continue to do this as long as the deer does not walk toward you. The second the deer moves in your direction stop calling all together. Even if the deer continues to snort, you must let its curiosity build. By doing so, it will eventually walk to within shooting distance.
You will find the Alarm snort to be the easiest snort to learn and use. Keep in mind, however, the critical aspect when using a snort call is to not blow an Alarm snort to a deer that is vocalizing an Alarm-Distress snort. You must know the different cadences of each call for them to be effective. To learn more about the snort call and how the variatio