When I started this field test, I was looking for four things: realistic sound, durability, affordability, and easy-to-carry ergonomics. The first criterion being the most important by far...the other three simply don't matter if you're rattling the wrong tune.
These five whitetail rattling systems will have you calling in rut-crazed bucks with the best of them:
Cabela's Real Rack
It stands to reason that every hunter should be rattling with real bone. Of course, most of us can go for a walk on the food plot and happen upon a set of sheds for this purpose, but there are those that don't have the time or the property to find sheds that crash together in perfect unison. That's where Cabela's
They buy sheds from Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico game farms, burn in their logo, and attach a paracord lanyard. Even though no two sets are alike, the pair we received was easily the best sounding of our five tested options, and they should last forever. But the Real Rack
isn't cheap, which will be a problem for every deer hunter I know.
You'll have to drop four times the price of competitors' offerings, but a real, honest sound is worth its weight in bone.
Flextone Black Rack
The Black Rack
produced some great authentic rattling in the field during testing. In fact, it might have been the most effective rattling system of the manmade bunch. The Black Rack features a foam core throughout that Flextone
has dubbed Bone-Core Technology, which combines with a full rack design to produce realistic tones.
While rather clunky and less intuitive than a rattle bag or real set of antlers, the Black Rack is versatile and can create just about any rattling sequence you need from sparring to a full-on territorial throwdown. Just be sure to take some time to learn how to work with the two separate full racks. Flextone has a great reputation with deer hunters, and the Black Rack should only elevate their standing.
The Black Rack makes up for a rather clunky design by producing super-realistic sounds.
H.S. Ruttin' Buck Rattling Bag
For rattling bag fans, the Hunter's Specialties Ruttin' Buck
version is a solid choice. Real solid. The oversized rattling system was the loudest of our test, echoing through the timber with authority on a cool November Illinois rut hunt. It comes with a durable bag filled with sturdy wooden rods, a lanyard, and a silencer strap for quiet transportation.
The only complaint from testing came when trying to produce a subtle, less aggressive battle. The bag's rods don't really respond to a light roll of the hands, so it can be difficult to change volumes. But when the time is right and bucks are ready to fight, this bag will do the job. Not to mention the Ruttin' Buck bag leaves the smallest dent in your wallet.
This easy-to-use rattle bag is a great option, though not as versatile or compact as others.
Knight & Hale Da' Bonehead
Knight & Hale
recently rolled out Da' Bonehead
, a 'designer version ' of the company's popular Pack Rack offering. I'd been using the Pack Rack for a few years to great results, so I was pretty confident in this dressed-up model. Da' Bonehead looks kind of cool, I'll admit, and it's the lightest and most compact system in the test.
Bang the two pieces of molded plastic together well enough and it won't be the worst sounding battle in the woods, either, but compared to real bone, it's not close. The sound rings hollow and uneven...noticeably so. Will Da' Bonehead ruin your hunt and send that buck running for the hills? Probably not, but there sure are better options.
If you're looking for a solid rattling system out of the Knight & Hale camp, stick with the Pack Rack.
We all know that the biggest issue with most rattling systems remains that they're cumbersome to use. Most hunters have been caught with their hands full by a riled-up big buck at least once. He comes charging in to your call, and you've got to figure out how to quickly and quietly put down the rattler and pick up your gun or bow.
It can be a tough, sometimes impossible dance. To solve this, the Primos Rack-N-Roll
comes with a built-in strap that allows you to attach it to your leg, a tree, or wherever is most convenient. This makes one-handed use a cinch. Multiple sections of nodes bang together to create surprisingly realistic sounds.
There's no plastic that can sound exactly like the real thing, but Primos came close here.