Whenever I think of whitetail deer snoring, I think of my friend Tony Peterson, who is a noted nature writer and public land whitetail hunting expert, not to mention a born skeptic. And I think of Inigo Montoya The Princess Bridewho tells Vizzini, “I don’t think it means what you think it means.”
Years ago, during a September public land hunt in South Dakota, Peterson told me he didn’t buy the conventional wisdom when it came to deer snoring. The call has always been, and still is, meant as a whitetail fighting word—a super-aggressive challenge that mature bucks make during the heat of the rut. Peterson’s thinking was, sure, it could be — but it must be more than that, because he had used the phone many times off-limits to call money of all ages and sizes.
I thought it was interesting and tried it on our trip. On two different days, I called two bucks—a 2-year-old 8-pointer and an older 140-class 10-pointer—snorting, maybe 20 times each. Both deer were far away when I saw them. Once I got their attention with a few grunts, I continued until I was sure they would close the distance. This was bowhunting, though, and you know how bowhunting goes: you can call a few bucks into bow range, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to give it a shot. I ended up tagging a different buck on the trip, but I went home with a whole new outlook on the snorer, especially during the early season.
The Snort-Wheeze Call and What It Means
Quaker Boy Weezzy Snort Weeze
A commercial call like this can help amplify the sound somewhat.
Most deer hunters are familiar with the snort call, but for anyone who isn’t, this is a breeze. pft-pft-pffffffft sound you can easily make with your mouth. There are commercial snore calls, but they are nothing more than a small plastic cone meant to amplify the sound, which they don’t do well from what I’ve seen. I’ve never found a good reason to keep one. If you just say pft-pft-pffffffftletting the air pass through your lips and really letting out the last note, you’ll have it.
So that’s the call, but what does it mean? The answer is: It’s complicated, or at least more so than many think. I’ve seen one or two big snorts at a rival during the scramble, and it certainly looked serious. I’ve snorted a few bucks myself during the scramble and watched the hairs on their backs stand up before they started shoving them at me. I have also seen adult bucks turn tail and break away in the opposite direction of my snort call. So during the rut, when the big bucks are competing for breeding rights, the snort really does appear to be the mortal challenge most hunters have been told it is.
But since that hunt with Peterson years ago, I’ve also snorted dozens of early-season bucks and watched them react with perfect indifference and/or just plain curiosity. This time of year, it seems nothing like the mortal challenge it is during the tumult. Also, while snorting is usually associated with the dominant whitetail, I’ve seen early-season bucks of every size, from yearling bucks to older deer, come running to the call with barely a hint of aggression or fear. In other words, before the mess, at least, I don’t think it means what most everyone thinks it means.
When and how to snore for early season bucks
What I think is that because of the prevailing wisdom about the snorer, very few hunters use the call during the early season. But you should—because it absolutely works if you use it under the right circumstances. In fact, I’d say snoring is a lot less dangerous now than it was during the mess. I’ve sent more than one buck packing with the call in November, but I can’t think of a single buck early in the season that I’ve spooked from snoring.
I’m not suggesting you hop on your bow stand and get started pft-pft-pfffffting every few minutes. It might occasionally work as a blind call, but I wouldn’t use it that way. I think as a general rule, bucks don’t like to be startled at close range – not by squeals or a decoy or loud calls. From what I’ve seen, the best time to use a snorer on early season deer is when you spot a buck or buck that is well outside the range of the bow and doesn’t seem like it will come on its own. In this situation, which happens a lot during the bow season, you have nothing to lose – and a sudden shot at a buck to win.
Perfect example of When a Snort-Wheeze call works now
I’ve called quite a few early-season bucks at bow range snorting-wheezing, but the one that makes the best example was the buck I tagged last fall. He was one of four that emerged from the wood and pounced on a mock scratch I had made at the far end of a cut cornfield. A short 9-pointer with a big body, he came out last, pushed the smaller bucks around a few, and then stood atop a small knot where he could survey the field and make some kind of mess. There was no reason to think he would make a hard right turn and walk the 150 yards to my bow stand. So I approached him a few times until he turned and looked in my direction. I snorted again, and he lowered his head and began walking toward me, swaying as he stepped. Apparently, the other bucks realized that if the big guy was going, so were they, and all four ended up right under my stand. In shooting, he ran 50 meters and overturned the 9-pointer.
Fast forward to last Saturday night, our bow opener, and from the same stand I saw an 8 point buck and a larger 7 buck come out of the same timber. The farmer had planted the field to clover this year, and the bucks were slowly slipping away from me as they chewed through the green. When they got out about 200 yards and it was clear they weren’t going to change direction and feed my way, I started snorting. A few times they looked up, stared for a few seconds, then went back to feed—until, eventually, after maybe a dozen calls, the 7-pointer bent a little to the ground and suddenly decided it was coming. As soon as it broke, 8 came with it. I called again when they were about halfway with me to keep them on track, but that was it. They walked over to a patch of clover that I had 32 feet long, looked around for a while and eventually started feeding again.
Part of my usual mantra when drawing a buck is to mentally call out the yard, which reminds me which sight needle to use. For some reason, I forgot to do this and mistakenly used my 20 yard needle instead of the 30. I shot straight down the head and as the arrow closed both deer were about 100 yards away, I didn’t know what had happened.
There is no excuse for such a stupid mistake. And it will undoubtedly eat at me for a while that I should have snorted and killed two early-season bucks from the same stand in back-to-back years – but didn’t. Still, if you want to know what a powerful effect a few whistles can have on the dollar at this time of year, you should know that the 7-point indicator, after 10 minutes or so of rubber necking on the edge, eventually bottomed out. the ground again and returned to 40 meters. It was a bit far to shoot at a great value, and it never gave me a good angle anyway. So I thought I’d just give it a few days to forget about it and try again. And if that — or any other buck — is out of range and not coming my way, I’m definitely going to snort them.