I'm sure everyone has heard of or seen the videos/stories of how well rattling works in Texas. I've heard so many people complain that it only works in Texas, so they don't try bang'n horns in their own woods. These people are missing out!
I've had a lot of success bang'n horns in Texas as well as my home state of Ohio. I have three sets of rattling antlers of different sizes, basically small, medium, and large. I generally choose which antlers to use based on two things; time of year and size of bucks in the area. If I were hunting an area where the mature bucks only get to 120" and lack mass, well I'm not going to bang my large antlers (160" set of sheds) together. I'm generally hunting in Ohio where big bucks are all over, so my antler choice usually revolves around time of the year. The earlier in the season it is, the smaller the antlers I'll use. Once Halloween hits (maybe even a few days earlier) I will be bang'n the big dominate antlers. As many who rattle in the Midwest have noticed, rattling usually brings in the younger bucks. What many don't notice are the big mature bucks that come in to their rattling but don't run right into the middle of the setup. Often times a mature buck will hang on the edges over cover and try to see(or smell) what he was hearing. If he doesn't see anything he may never show himself and leave you oblivious to the fact that you actually did call in a good mature buck. This is why it's important to have a setup conducive to successful rattling.
There are more tactics used by hunters for effective rattling than I could even imagine, but I will focus on just a few that I use and have found effective. There is no question that a good buck to doe ratio will make rattling more effective, but not all of us hunt in areas like this or have the ability to manage the herd toward a better ratio. So let's focus on some things each of us can control.
-Hunting over a decoy. This is a great way to get that wary buck to commit and walk into your shooting lanes. I prefer to us a medium buck decoy, often with only a half rack.
-Stand placement. Obviously you want your stand in a spot that allows the sound of your antlers bang'n to reach multiple areas you expect mature bucks to be hanging around in. You also want your spot to make it difficult for a buck to visually investigate from a distance. If he has to walk within 40 yards of you to check out what he heard...well now you may get a shot.
-Prep. I attribute much of my rattling success to prepping the area around my stand. I try to build an area that will attract and hold bucks and does. My goal is to get the deer to focus much of their "rut activities" in front of my stand. If a mature buck already knows a specific area has a lot of buck/doe activity he is more likely to be fooled by the sounds of bang'n horns and come in with less caution. To accomplish this, I like to build a small line of mock scrapes using Bust A Buck Mock Scrape Madness. I get this scrape line built relatively early in the pre-rut. I know the mock scrapes are in a good area if they become the main territorial scrapes being used by a majority of the deer on the property. Once this is accomplished I know my stand is in a great location that should be perfect for bang'n some horns together. Don't forget to use some Bust A Buck "Buck Brawler," "Doe-N-Estrus," and/or "Young Buck" each time you hunt and plan on creating the scene of two bucks fighting over a hot doe.
-Noise. Have you ever heard two bucks fight? If so you know where I'm going with this. If not, try to imagine two 200lb bucks fighting in front of your stand... If you're in the woods with crisp leaves all around, this fight is going to be extremely noisy. With that said, while you're in the woods this fall try and think up some ways to make extra fighting noise while rattling for more realism. Throw some hedge apples, kick leaves around, shake a bush; the key is to make the most realistic fight possible. But you need to be cautious of too much movement at the same time.
Using these tactics won't guarantee that you will rattle in a mature buck or even young bucks every time. Following these tips will however increase your odds at setting yourself up for a shot on a mature buck that you were able to bring in by bang'n some horns together. Good luck when you hit the woods this fall. Be safe and shoot straight!