Picking out a deer call can be confusing. There are so many different types out there, so many different sounds, and who really even knows what deer are talking about anyway? Well, mastering that language is an important part of the hunt.
You want something that’s going to be useful to your specific circumstances. You want something with the right features and just the right amount of versatility.
Before you get a call, take a look at what each one has to offer. Different designs and technologies, even different cases have their advantages and disadvantages, and you want the call that’s going to lure in the deer you want in the place where you’re hunting.
There are a lot of options when it comes to calls, but there are a few that really stand out. Take a look at our list of top picks. Made by trusted companies with quality materials, these calls are high value and low cost. After discussing some of the technical details of deer calls, we’ll go through each one to tell you what makes it special.
Our Top Picks
- Illusion Game Calls Extinguisher Deer Calls System– “New technology makes this call hard to beat”
- Primos “The Original Can” Deer Call – “Great choice for its authentic sound”
- Primos Hardwood Grunter Call – “An incredible value lands this call high on our list”
- Hunter’s Specialities True Talker Deer Call – “Definitely a winner for volume”
- Primos Hardwood Fawn Bleat Call – “Chosen both for its power and its compact size”
- Primos Big Bucks Bag Call – “This call maximizes convenience in deer calling”
Do deer calls really work?
Yes. Despite how ghostly quiet they may usually seem, deer are actually very vocal animals. They respond to a lot of different nuanced calls that all mean different things.
How often do you call a deer?
You should usually wait 20-30 minutes between calls. This gives any deer that might have heard the call time to come to you. Plus, moving around too much to make another call could scare off a deer you’d just lured in. Of course, if you see a deer, and you need to get its attention, there’s no rules on timing.
When should you use a deer call?
Different calls work better at different times in the season.
Fawn bleats are one of your best bets before the rut. Early in the season, fawns are still dependent on their mothers, so the does respond quickly to fawn distress calls.
Buck grunts and antler rattles work best during the rut. During the mating season, the bucks get angry and respond to other bucks in their territory. Aggressive buck grunts will bring in other bucks looking to battle it out, and rattling antlers bring in spectators who want to watch a fight.
Doe calls can be effective throughout the season. Social calls can bring in other does, and the estrus bleat is tantalizing to the bucks pretty much year round. The estrus bleat works best in the rut, of course, but bucks like the sound of it anytime.
What works best during the rut?
You can go with a couple of strategies during the rut: buck calls and estrus bleats. Each work for a different reason, so it depends on the circumstances of your hunt.
Buck calls make territorial males think there’s another buck in their area, and they’ll come looking for a fight. Be careful, though, if the sound is too intimidating, it can scare off younger, more timid bucks. Antler rattles might work well for younger bucks, however, who might want to come watch a fight.
Estrus bleats make a buck think there’s a doe nearby ready to mate, so he’ll come running. You can actually combine the two if you want. The sound of a bleating doe being followed by a grunting buck will really make any dominant trophy bucks around jealous.
Who makes the best?
Illusion is a newer brand that prides itself on innovation. Their calls all have a more modern feel, and often new technology that really improves the product. They manufacture all their calls in the USA and have a reputation for quality, premium products.
Primos is a storied company and a trusted brand. In fact, their history goes all the way back to 1963 when an 11-year-old Will Primos made his first duck call. A lot of their calls have a traditional look, and the brand prides itself in its craftsmanship.
Deer Calls – What to look for
There are a few things you should consider when shopping for deer calls. Each factor has its advantages and disadvantages, and some might work better depending on what you’re hunting, what part of the season it is, or the climate where you live.
Deer calls range from palm sized to barely fits in your backpack. The advantages of a small call are clear: it’s easy to carry around. You have more room in your gear for whatever else you want to bring. That could even be other calls. If you have a habit of losing things, though, a small call might be risky. Plus, bigger calls are usually louder. They can also be easier to adjust since the parts aren’t so tiny.
Ease of Use
This is a big one. Every brand out there seems to have a different design for adjusting and using their calls. In recent years especially, manufacturers have been innovative when it comes to new technology. Sometimes this new technology makes the call easier to adjust, for instance, but it will add a lot of moving parts, so it’s easier to break the call. Some calls take a little bit of practice. That can be a turn-off for the impatient, but these calls usually pay off with rich, authentic sound.
Some deer calls are specialized for one call while others can make every sound in the deer language. For this you really need to think about what you’re hunting this season. If you’re just going out to the stand to see what you can get, consider a more versatile call. That way you can call to whatever deer you see walking by. If you’re sure you want that trophy buck, though, maybe try something fine tuned to get his attention.
More versatile calls have to be adjusted, too. This means more reading instructions and more moving parts you might break, so don’t balk at a simpler call just because it doesn’t have as many uses.
Tethers and Cases
Tethers and cases might seem like trivial accessories, but they can actually make a big difference. For example, if you see your trophy buck come out of the cover and you want to make a call, you don’t want to have to move much to get it. Reaching into your pack or even down to the floor of the stand might be enough to scare him off, so a tether or lanyard can keep it close by at all times.
Cases matter too. It’s not just the aesthetics. Some cases resist freezing up better than others. Others might be less likely to break.
Our Top Picks In Detail
Illusion Game Calls Extinguisher Deer Calls System
The Illusion Game Calls Extinguisher Deer Calls System is a high-quality deer call made in the USA. This call combines durability and versatility at a great value and is refreshingly easy to use.
The unique feature of this call is Illusion’s patented Modislide system which allows you to change the pitch and tone of the call by sliding the system up and down the reed. This lets you change your strategy even midhunt if you want and go from doe to buck to fawn in an instant. With the antlers thrown in, you can make every sound in the deer language.
The Extinguisher has a fairly modern design as well, incorporating a plastic casing and rubber mouthpiece, not to mention the flashy decal with the model name. If you like making your hunt high tech and being on the cutting edge of deer science, this is probably the call for you. That said, for the traditionalist who’s used to the standard hardwood calls, this system might not mesh with the mood of your hunt.
For a newly invented piece of technology, the Extinguisher System is easy to use, and Illusion makes sure to include easy and fun instructions. They also had a lot of foresight with the design and manufacture the system to keep the slide and reed from freezing up in cold weather. In fact, the slide itself can be used to break up any ice that forms on it to free up the reed.
Of course, like anything with moving parts, the Extinguisher System isn’t flawless, but there’s only a 30-day warranty on parts, so if something didn’t get put together right, it’s covered.
At the end of the day, this system works. It works well. You’ll find yourself communicating with deer as if you were one. The call is complex but still durable. For brand new technology, it’s a pretty great value.
- Adjustable sound
- Freeze-free design
- Detailed instructions
- Moving Parts
Primos Hardwood Grunter Call
With the Hardwood Grunter, Primos has another top-of-the-line product that makes a rich, realistic sound. It’s made of gorgeous hardwood as well that gives that authentic rustic hunting feel. The hose is ribbed to mimic the actual airways of a deer.
The call is versatile as well. The reed assembly can be adjusted, and the hose can be lengthened and bent. The sound can be tuned for buck, doe or even fawn calls, but buck grunts are where the Hardwood Gunter Call really shines. The rich timbre of the call sounds completely authentic, and angry bucks in the rut agree.
Since it’s adjustable, you do have to watch out for one thing. The hose disconnects from the reed assembly, and if you’re not careful, you might reconnect it incorrectly, and the two could fall apart while you’re walking. The call does come with instructions, so make sure to check them out. They’ll also tell you how to adjust the reed for different sounds, which can be a little complicated on this call.
It looks hand crafted. Just seeing this call, you’d think it’d be in a much more expensive price range. Primos has managed to make a high-quality call at an incredible value. They’re a trusted brand, and this call design has been around since 1984. If you’re really dedicated to getting your trophy buck this season, the Primo Hardwood Grunter is a solid choice.
- Rich sound
- Hard to adjust
Hunter’s Specialities True Talker Deer Call
Some people look at hunting like an art form, which would make the deer call its music. It would be appropriate, then, to have a call that almost seems more like a medieval recorder than a modern deer call. That might be what it feels like holding the Hunter’s Specialties True Talker, and better yet, you can play all the notes of the deer symphony, from fawn to trophy buck.
To make the different sounds, you have to play the call with fingerings. This might seem a little strange, and it is more complicated than other adjustable designs, but it does work. The problem you might run into is that you have to hold the fingerings consistently to get a consistent sound. You don’t really want your fawn bleat to suddenly turn into a scary buck. The True Talker comes with detailed instructions, though, and with a little practice, you’ll play masterpieces.
When it comes to size, the True Talker is big. It’s definitely not pocket sized, and it might even be a challenge to get it in a smaller pack. But if you can fit it in, it pays off. The sound the True Talker makes is good, really good. And it’s loud, too, thanks to its size. This call can make an authentic sound that your trophy buck will hear a long ways off. Plus, it comes with a lanyard, so carrying it isn’t much of an issue.
The housing is made of a durable rubber. This makes it less likely to break if you’ve got butterfingers, but more importantly it’s a lot less likely to freeze up in cold weather. If you’re going to be out there till Christmas and you live north of Florida, this call could be a lifesaver.
Primos Hardwood Fawn Bleat Call
The Primos Hardwood Fawn Bleat call was developed in 1986, after which hunters went crazy for it because it seemed to draw does in like a fishing line. It still has that reputation today, and it earns it season after season.
Mother deer have a powerful maternal instinct, and with this call, you can command that power. And all from the palm of your hand. Literally. This thing is small and compact. You can easily carry it in your pocket, but be sure not to lose it. It’d be a shame. It’s made of beautiful hardwood with a walnut finish and fine etching.
The pitch on the reed can be adjusted a little, but you have to take it apart. Don’t worry about volume either. It might be small, but this call gets loud, just like a scared fawn would. There’s a little bit of a learning curve on this call, so be patient. You’ll have to learn just the right amount of air and inflection to sound like the deer in your area.
Like usual Primos made a quality product here. The materials are durable and sleek.
Fawn bleats are very specialized. Not only are they more aimed at does than bucks, but they work better in the early part of the season when fawns are still very dependent on their mothers. For that reason the Primos Hardwood Fawn Bleat Call is really great for bow hunters or anyone who’s looking to stock their freezer this fall. The does will hear you.
- Hard to adjust
Primos Big Bucks Bag Call
If you’re tired of constantly trying to figure out the right angle to get antlers into your pack, you might consider the Primos Big Bucks Bag Call. It looks like something you’d have found under the Christmas tree when you were seven, but it’s actually a bag of specially designed tines that you can shake to mimic the sound of antlers clashing in a fight between to bucks.
The bag is really great on this call. The string at the end of the bag lets you hang the bag from your pack, and you can cinch it tight to keep the call from rattling while you’re walking. It also has a holder on the other end if you want to attach some other calls to it. The camonet keeps it hidden if you do hang it from your pack, and it helps the sound escape the bag as well.
It’s hard to mimic the sound of antlers one hundred percent using plastic tines in a bag, and this call probably isn’t exactly the same. It is really loud, though, much louder than you’d expect from something so small and compact, and it does sound a lot like two bucks sparring. You can even combine this with other calls to complete the picture of a fight.
The materials on the Primos Big Bucks Bag Call are top quality as well. The tines don’t wear down despite constantly rubbing them together, and the bag is tough too. Don’t be fooled by the name, though, this call is in a great low price range. If you’re going out in the rut this year and have a lot to pack, this could be a good option.
- Easy to carry
- Easy to use