Unconventional hunter attracts bucks by rattling antlers

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. (AP) -- Marc Jackson defies most of the common wisdom about deer hunting.

The part about sitting still and being quiet, for instance. When Jackson goes deer hunting, he works so hard he has to peel down to his T-shirt to keep from working up too much of a sweat. And don't put him in a stand. He needs much more room than that.

That's because the International Falls man rattles deer within shooting distance using a set of trophy deer antlers.

Rattling is not a new technique among deer hunters, but it's a strategy that most Minnesota hunters don't rely on. Jackson, 59, began using the technique five or six years ago and wouldn't think of hunting any other way.

''It's completely changed my hunting, in the success I have,'' said Jackson, a supervisor at U.S. Customs. ''I used to go out and see one or two big bucks all season, and they might not have been that big. Now I'm seeing bucks in the 130 and 140 class (on the Boone & Crockett trophy scoring system). And still, we won't shoot 'em until they measure up.''

Jackson credits his son, Tony Jackson of Winnipeg, and another Manitoba resident for teaching him much of what he knows about rattling. Last year, Tony rattled in 68 bucks and didn't shoot one. None measured up.

Marc found one that measured up last fall. The massive eight-pointer had a 27-inch inside spread on its antlers and weighed 255 pounds field-dressed. He rattled in another buck in just 17 minutes for his other son, Greg Jackson of Washington, D.C. That buck dressed out at more than 200 pounds.

''It's been extremely effective,'' said Dave Rorem of International Falls, who has hunted with Jackson and his sons for the past 15 years.

Most hunters who have tried rattling without success haven't been aggressive enough, Marc Jackson suspects. He learned a lot about how bucks respond to rattling by watching them in Manitoba's open country, hunting with his son Tony. But he had to customize his rattling techniques for hunting in the woods near International Falls.

''You have to stop and think,'' Jackson said. ''These animals are both close to 300 pounds. What kind of noise do they make when they fight? They make a lot of noise because there's so much brush. They break branches. In a 20-yard area, every branch is broken.

''When I set up on a rattle, I get beside a big tree fallen over with lots of branches to break. I pick up rocks and throw 'em. I pick up logs and throw 'em. I also grunt (using a grunt call). I take the butt of the antlers and dig them in the ground. They sound like deer hooves. If you heard the noise I made, you'd think no deer would come for two days.''

Jackson scouts an area, and if it has plenty of buck sign -- scrapes and rubs -- he'll rattle there. Here's his procedure:

''I'll set up behind a big old root (of an upturned tree), and rattle about 20 yards from there,'' he said. ''I'll rattle for about 1 to 2 minutes, then I'm very tired. I have to stop.''

Jackson doesn't just rattle the antlers. He clashes them at first, then begins grinding them against each other, the way two bucks would if they were fighting. Sometimes the antlers will get hot, he grinds them so hard.

And it's important to use a large set of antlers, which sound different than a small set, Jackson says. The sound of bigger antlers is more of a threat to the dominant buck in the area, and that's the buck Jackson wants to attract.

After rattling aggressively for a couple of minutes, Jackson waits silently for another two to three minutes.

''An aggressive buck is on his way right now,'' Jackson said. ''I'll crouch down and wait, give him three or four minutes. If he's aggressive, he'll be there.

''If nothing happens, I'll go through the sequence again. Now what you're trying to do is reach deer within one-fourth to one-half mile.'' After rattling again, he gets behind his upturned roots.

''Then I know it's going to be a waiting game,'' he said.

Jackson waits there for an hour. If a buck doesn't materialize, he'll usually move. If it's an exceptionally good location, he might stay, going through his rattling sequence in another hour.

Rattling isn't a guarantee. Jackson keeps track of his rattling and hunting.

''I figure I see a deer one out of seven times,'' he said.

There are times not to rattle. Rattling is most effective in an area where few other hunters are in the woods.

''I try not to hunt when the red army is in the woods,'' Jackson said. ''Opening weekend, you might as well forget it.''

The peak of the rut also is not the most productive time for rattling. ''You're not going to pull that buck off a hot doe to come to your noise,'' he said.

Jackson likes hunting the muzzleloader season, when hunters are few and when bucks are still looking for does to breed.

The technique is most effective when one hunter rattles and another is set up on the path of a buck's likely approach. Last year, Jackson rattled in a nice buck for one of his sons.

Several other members of Jackson's party have found the technique effective.

''I taught Dave Rorem (of International Falls) how to do it, and he had two bucks fighting right in front of him. Lloyd Steen (of Ray) rattled in a monster,'' he said.

''I've been rattling for the last six or eight years,'' Rorem said. ''It's not simple, and it's a lot more effective with two people (one rattling, one shooting) than one.

''A few years ago -- this was the most impressive sight I've seen -- one came in to my rattling sequence. Another of equal size came in from the other direction. Then the two of them went at it. They were only 35 yards away.''

The closest Jackson has ever rattled a buck was to within 2 feet of him. Jackson was behind an upturned root, looking through a small hole between roots and dirt.

''His nose was right in my face going sniff, sniff. He was 200 (pounds) plus. He walked 50 feet away. I just touched the horns, and he came right back to 2 feet away, sniffing,'' Jackson said. ''Once you rattle, you are the hunted. You've got to be hidden so well.''

Jackson still enjoys taking a deer, but rattling one in for a partner is equally satisfying.

''The meat isn't important anymore,'' he said. ''I still enjoy venison, but now we're out there for the sport. We're very selective in what we shoot.''



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