I am often asked the question of when is the best time to "RATTLE" for whitetail bucks. I have rattled in bucks from September through January. The style of rattling is largely dependent on the phase of the rut at the given time. Some of my best rattling experiences have been the first week of October in Michigan. I have successfully rattled in bucks in Canada, Texas, Mexico, Ohio as well. In my 30 plus years of rattling whitetails I have learned some tricks that work year after year. Some of these tricks just might work for you too.
Things to remember, deer have 3 important senses that they use the most, smell, hearing and sight. More often than not you need to trigger 2 of the senses to get either a positive or negative response. Trigger either sight or hearing and the deer will use its sense of smell to reinforce its other senses. So it makes sense to be as scent free as possible, and the use of an attractant scent as well. Use non-rutting buck urine during the early pre-rut period. Buck Stops Guide Grade Scents #GG150 or Supreme buck urine #1502 are good choices.
During this pre-rut period bucks have shed their velvet and are establishing the pecking order. These early season rattling sessions are a soft tine tickling affair. I have had my best success in rattling in grassy fields about 45 minutes after daylight and the last 90 minutes of daylight. Most of my sessions are done "BLIND" meaning I have no deer in sight. I lightly click the antler tines together for 10-15 seconds pause a couple seconds and start over again for another 10-15 seconds. I will repeat this of up to 5 minutes. I am always scanning the area for movement. Lots of times a buck will respond before you finish the sequence. You will see manly 1 1/2 years bucks during this pre-rut period.
The peak rut period requires a different approach you will need to be more aggressive and louder in your rattling sessions. I tend to move in to the woods and wood lines during this period, I also start using the estrus doe urines like the very popular 200 Proof #1401. Hot scrape area are a prime setup spot during the rut. I will always start a semi light blind rattle just before daylight unless I can hear deer moving nearby. If I have not seen any movement after the first 30 minute of daylight I will launch in to an aggressive "LOUD" rattling session. These sessions will last 2-3 minutes, a few rutting grunts from your favorite grunt call helps as well. I will repeat the sessions every 30 minutes or so. I often issue a series of grunts between sessions. This is the period when I rattle in my biggest bucks.
Rattling when you have a buck in sight is a hit or miss thing for me. I will just click the antler together just loud enough for him to hear them, you then have to play off of the way he acts. Grunt calls really help during this situation. If he shows no interest I will rattle once after I no long see him, and then play the waiting game. In the morning wait at least 1 hour after you have seen a good buck leave, they tend to sneak back in from downwind. Play your cards right and you just may shoot a buck of a life time.
I always want a buck to know where I am hunting at. I just don't want the buck to know what I am. This is where Buck Stop's scents come in to play. Fooling his nose is 3/4 of the battle.
Advanced methods include using a decoy or two near a hot scrape. I only use this method a couple times a year where I place a standing buck over a bedded doe, with the use of scents, grunts calls and rattling antlers. I normally use this when I start see big bucks moving during the day searching out does. NOTE: Never use this method during gun season.
Good luck this season. Put a little noise in to your hunt.