You make a big effort while hunting to be as quiet as humanly possible, so the idea of banging things together up in your tree stand probably makes you cringe. That’s basically what rattling antlers are, but believe it or not, they’re an effective strategy for calling in big bucks.
These days you have a wide range of professional synthetic options for simulating buck fights and the sound of clashing antlers. Some are better than others for a number of reasons. Some are easier to carry, others are better concealed. And of course, certain systems just sound more realistic than others.
We’ve chosen the top synthetic antler systems that outdo the competition when it comes to these kinds of features. Read through our list to see which products made our list and why.
Our Top Rattling Antler Picks
- Primos Big Bucks Rattle Bag – “Great, slips in a large pocket, so easy to carry”
- Illusion Systems Black Rack– “An instructional DVD helps you get the most out of these”
- Flextone Battle Bones– “Knuckle protection earned it a top spot”
Table of Contents
What do rattling antlers do?
Rattling antlers are one of the many sounds you can use to attract deer. They mimic the sounds of antlers clashing when two bucks are fighting over does or territory. This makes nearby bucks curious. They might want to see the outcome of the fight, or they might want to know what other males have moved into their area.
Antlers are essentially bone, and they make a sound like a rattle when they strike each other repeatedly. Watch a few clips of bucks sparring to hear what they sound like in real life.
Compare the sound of bucks sparring to the sound of a hunter using synthetic antlers as a deer call.
Do they work?
During the rut, rattling antlers are one of the most effective deer calls. Territorial bucks full of testosterone are quick to react to the sound of other males in their area. That same testosterone also makes them impulsive and less likely to be cautious, even if they normally are otherwise.
It is true that they take a little bit more technique than other deer calls. You should use them at the right time and in the right way. If you do, though, they’re a great tool to add to your strategy.
How would you use them?
The best time for rattling in a buck is the rut. That said, they can be effective in the pre-rut and post-rut. They work whenever bucks would naturally be fighting.
You want to bang your antlers together in a way that simulates real buck fights. If you watched the clips above, you probably got a sense of the rhythms and sounds of two bucks butting heads. It should be fairly chaotic with different tines repeatedly striking and sliding against each other. If you want to make it sound really authentic, try to add some stomping or rustling as well.
Studies show that bucks respond to rattling more often in the morning. It’s a good idea to start your hunt with a simulated fight, then wait 30 minutes to an hour before trying again to give nearby bucks a chance to come close.
Synthetic vs natural antlers
Your first instinct might be to assume natural horns are always the right choice, but that isn’t necessarily true. In certain situations, synthetic horns can actually perform better.
Of course, it’s true that natural horns will make a more realistic sound. They’re the real thing. One downside, though, is that you can only hold two antlers. A real buck fight involves four–two for each buck. Many synthetic systems have four forks to make the fight seem more authentic.
Another problem with natural antlers is that they’re a pain to carry around. They’re bulky and pointy and hard to get in your bag with your other gear. This is the big advantage of synthetic systems. As you’ll see in our top picks, some are super compact–they might even fit in your pocket.
Bowhunters especially have to worry about room in their pack for accessories. If you know space is going to be an issue, a synthetic alternative could be a solution.
Can you make your own?
In the spring many hunters find shed buck antlers. This is the easiest way to make your own antler rattling system. Just tether them together with a string at the base and there you go.
If you can’t find any though, you can make your own synthetic rattle bag. The sound will not be as authentic nor as loud as a good professional synthetic antler system, but people do have success.
For the bag itself, use any cloth bag or even a sock or pair of pantyhose. For the rattles, find a handful of sticks. They should all be different lengths and shapes as long as they fit in the bag.
Using a knife, shave the rounded edges off some of the sticks. For best results, vary the sticks. For example, flatten two sides of some sticks and one side of others. Leave a few round.
Put the sticks in the bag and tie it off. You can put a rubber band or hair tie around the middle of the bag to keep the sticks together. Rub them against each other to produce a realistic antler sound that’ll attract curious bucks around you.
Our Top Picks In Detail
Primos Big Bucks Rattle Bag
The Big Bucks Bag is great if you have a lot of gear and can’t spare any room to fit bulky antlers, real or fake. It looks kind of like a sack of toys, but it’s actually a specially designed bag filled with tines. When you shake the bag, it sounds like two bucks sparring.
One of the coolest features is the bag itself. Thanks to a string on the end, you can hang it from your pack. You can also use it to tightly close the bag and keep it from rattling when you don’t want it to. Plus, it’s made of camo-net, which both prevents deer from spotting your call and helps amplify the sound.
You might find that the sound of this bag is a little less realistic than some other options. That’s inevitable when you’re deviating from the natural antler shape. The sound is loud, though, and similar enough to draw in bucks.
Finally, these are made of high-quality materials. You can rub the tines together hunt after hunt, and they won’t wear down. The bag is also tough. Consider it if you need something more compact and less expensive.
What we liked:
- Light and compact
- Attachment string
- Camo-net bag
- Low price range
What we didn’t:
Illusion Systems Black Rack
The first thing we like about this antler system is the included instructional DVD. On that DVD Illusion Systems makes the claim that this is the #1 Rated Rattling System. After taking a look at it, we can see why.
First of all, a lot of effort was clearly taken to make sure these sound like real buck antlers. Bone-Core technology gives that rich bone sound. They even feature two forks on each antler. Since real bucks have two antlers, this makes them sound more realistic.
These are painted black. This might seem like a small detail, but imagine sitting up in your tree stand in your camo and holding a pair of white antlers. That’d be too conspicuous. The black paint keeps you concealed.
The Black Rack system is light and easy to pack, but they don’t come with any string to connect them or hang them in your stand. Consider doing this yourself to make it more convenient to keep nearby.
- Instructional DVD included
- Real antler sound
- Bone-Core technology
- Two antler forks
- Black concealment
- Easy to pack
- No connecting string
Flextone Battle Bones
These are really similar to the Black Rack. Battle Bones also come with two full racks and Bone-Core Technology for the realistic sound of fighting deer. They’re lightweight and super easy to use.
Unlike the Black Rack, the Battle Bones aren’t painted with black concealment. They also lose points for not coming with instructions. They aren’t quite as compact either, but you can still easily pack them.
Where the Battle Bones win out is their surface texture. Designed to mimic the real thing, this increases the quality of the sound. They also feature knuckle protection. If you plan to use these a lot during the rut this season, this could save you some serious knuckle pain.
- Two full racks
- Bone-Core Technology
- Easy to use
- Realistic surface texture
- Knuckle protection
- No instructions included