October is transition time in the deer’s world and that should dictate your bowhunting strategies. Here are 4 strategies to up your success during the awful October Lull.
Most bowhunters view early- to mid-October (the October Lull) as a waste of their time in the deer woods. The biggest misconception about the Lull is that the bucks are nocturnal and that deer movement will be nil. If you plan to hunt your September stands on field and food plot edges, this may very well prove to be true and your experience will be awful. However, if you’re willing to figure out where the current deer activity is occurring, you just might find that October can yield productive sits.
Before you head afield, however, you have to accept that things are in a state of flux in the deer woods during mid-October. Food sources are changing in a way that will dictate where the most deer activity will occur, and the accumulated pressure of bowhunters, small-game hunters, and upland hunters in the field will likely affect your local deer herds’ patterns.
This means that October demands a different bowhunting strategy than you used in September. Besides, you shouldn’t push a dead program just because it worked a few weeks ago or might work again in a few weeks when the rut threatens to bust loose. Here are four proven ways to beat the dreaded October Lull.
Depending on where you live, by mid-October, soybeans and cornfields are being picked, acorns are dropping or have already dropped and been vacuumed up, and the general browse options are disappearing. Deer need to fill their bellies now with as high-quality nutrition as they can find, and those options are becoming more limited by the day.
Quick tip: October food sources usually become limited as the month winds down, so spend some time scouting to identify the spots bucks are most likely to fill their bellies.
The reality is, coupled with deer having a more heightened awareness during this time. more two-legged predators will be in the woods now than they have been for months. All of this may paint a gloomy bowhunting picture, but it really should just inform us that we have to make in-the-moment decisions on where to spend our valuable stand time.
There is no better place to sit right now than on a staging area located just off of a destination food source, or a site that is located on an in-cover destination food source like a stand of white oaks that are littering the forest floor with acorns every time the wind blows. The thing about staging areas is that they will be located in the cover, and they’ll require you to scout or observe carefully. If you try to run a camera to locate them, you’ll probably miss the boat.
You have to take a walk into the thick stuff and keep an eye out for sign, or employ a hang-and-hunt strategy that allows you the chance to observe deer movement in the cover. If you do see some deer killing time in the brush, move in as soon as the conditions allow.
Quick tip: White oaks dropping acorns are a key food source to key on during the October Lull. Also look for fresh signs of bucks revisiting scrapes and making fresh rubs along trails inside deep cover.
Throughout this process of trying to identify current deer activity, keep an eye out for scrapes as well. There is something about mid-October that draws bucks to scrapes, especially those that are located well off of the field edges and deep in the cover. If you want to hedge your bets for killer sits this time of year, locate some fresh scrapes well into the cover that are located near - but not on - a hot food source.
The thing about a strategy like this is that you won’t get it right every time. You’ll blank on plenty of sits while trying to lay eyes on an October buck doing his thing. That’s okay, because every sit on which you don’t see a deer is one that helps you eliminate dead woods.
Keep moving, and keep looking for fresh sign. This is important for all bowhunters, but it’s crucial for anyone hunting public land. In fact, those hunting public land might have a better chance at a mid-October buck than anyone else due to the fact that there will undoubtedly be an ebb in the hunting pressure when most bowhunters believe the lull is happening.
Even though the woods and the world of whitetails are in flux right now, meaning it may feel like a gamble to sit at all, here’s the thing: you can hedge your bets by being a disciple of the weather. Follow the hourly and daily forecasts for your hunting area and pay attention to the swings as fronts move through.
If unseasonably warm weather is forecast, get out now or wait to hunt until things level off. If a cold front is coming, which will bring north and west winds most of the time, it’s a good idea to plan some time in stand. The buck that usually wouldn’t start meandering to the nearby soybean field until right at dark will often get moving a little earlier if the temperature has suddenly dropped by 10 or 15 degrees in the span of a day or two. This goes for Halloween, of course, but also for the first week of October when the hunting is not supposed to be any good.
October isn’t November, but it isn’t a whitetail write-off month, either. The deer are out there, sussing out new food sources and changing their patterns due to hunting pressure. This means you have to figure out what they are doing right now, which takes a bit of hunter’s discipline and a strategy to watch over some new ground until the local herd tips you off about their whereabouts.
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About the Author: Tony J. Peterson has written hundreds of articles for over two dozen national and local publications. Although he covers topics related to all forms of hunting and fishing, his passion lies in do-it-yourself bowhunting for whitetail deer and western big game. Peterson is an accomplished outdoor photographer and currently serves as the Equipment Editor for Bowhunter magazine and Bowhunter TV.