Beating the October Lull
Many hunters struggle to find bucks in October. That doesn't have to be the case, as Frank Miniter makes plain in his four simple tips to beating the October lull.
October 01, 2012
Last October I called a buddy who hunts a neighboring property and asked the standard question, “Seeing anything?”
“Of course not,” he replied, “it’s the October lull.”
I knew, but I think of the October lull as a self-fulfilling prophecy, so I enjoyed telling him about a 10-pointer I’d seen feeding under a white oak just out of bow range. “Maybe I’ll get him tomorrow.”
“Or I’ll get him next month,” he said.
I knew he might. He’s a good rut hunter. But he has a lot to learn about the pre-rut. Many hunters think of the doldrums of mid-October as a time when the bucks are nocturnal, just laying up for the rut. That explains why they’re not seeing any. It’s a very convenient excuse.
Granted, mid-October is when whitetails often become less visible. In many areas this is when they switch from feeding in the late afternoon in agricultural fields to feeding on mast crops. The bucks have also likely broken up their bachelor groups. Many have even dispersed. Suddenly the predictable bucks on trail cameras vanish.
The bucks, of course, haven’t vanished. They’re gorging on acorns back in the woods. Few people go into the woods when it’s 90 degrees and buggy. But in early fall many hike and hunt small game. When they bump bucks, bucks change their behavior.
All these factors can be overcome. The so-called lull can actually be your best chance to waylay a particular buck, as they’re predictable now. Here’s how to turn the October lull to your advantage.
1. Cold Fronts
After Oct. 10 watch the weather. If the average high temperature has been in the 60s but is due to dip into the 40 for a few days as a west or northwest wind blows in, get out there and hunt evenings. Hunt in staging areas near food sources and on oak flats near bedding areas. In my experience these hunts can be especially good if you have a moon rising in the afternoon. Cold and rainy (not pouring) is also good. It gets the deer moving, and makes it easier to slip out of a stand unnoticed.
2. Rub Lines
Rubs aren’t the guaranteed hotspots we thought they were 20 years ago, but rub lines can reveal staging areas—places where bucks are hanging out as they wait for darkness before going into a field—and they can show the path a particular buck is taking from a bedding area to a food source. The trouble is many hunters don’t wait close enough to the buck’s bedding area. Then the hunter pulls out at dark and—usually without knowing it—bumps the buck. If you can find a buck’s rubs and figure out where he is likely bedding (stay out of that place at this point), then you can kill that buck. What you have to do is hunt him in a way that keeps the buck from knowing you’re after him. That’s the hard part.
3. Hot Food Sources
Now is the time to scout the white oaks and other mast-producing trees. Many of us miss the signs, as it’s hard to see deer tracks in fresh-fallen leaves. Maybe so, but you can see the acorns. Carry a binocular and look up into trees. Also, start on a ridge in a stand where you can see across flats and maybe to another ridge. If you see a buck hundreds of yards away, you can move the next day. Just be sure you have a way to slip out after sunset and don’t pressure your prime rut stands now.
4. Secondary Trails
If you haven’t mapped out deer trails on your property already, do it now. Slip in at midday in rubber boots and scout off the sides of fields that deer are using. Don’t go too deep. You’ll be able to spot the doe trails fast enough. Look a bit more for secondary draws. Mature bucks will often use trails that have more cover. They’re solitary now and don’t want to be disturbed. Look for rubs with tine marks above the rubbed area. Look for scrapes back in the cover.
Now you have to make a plan to get in and out quietly while not letting your scent drift to the doe trails or the feeding area. If you find a tree that watches rubs and maybe scrapes on a secondary trail near cover, one where you can slip out after dark while keeping your scent from most of the deer, you have a stand where you can kill a mature buck.
As for that 10-pointer, neither of us got him. I left home to hunt other states most of November. My buddy bumped the buck once. This year the buck is even bigger, and I hope to get him during “the lull.”