By Chris Eberhart
Mid October is perhaps the toughest time of the entire hunting season to kill a mature buck. The early season late summer routine has come to an end with the onset of hunting pressure. The leaves begin to drop, leaving the woods far more open than just a week or two earlier. And the farmers have begun with their harvest, completely removing sources of both food and cover. The more intense rut phases and the coinciding buck activity and thus increased hunter opportunity have not quite arrived. The whitetail’s world is in upheaval, but the hunting can be difficult. Fortunately, with a good plan and execution bowhunting success is certainly possible, even now during the dreaded October Lull.
To be able to understand the October Lull one has to understand typical deer behavior during this period. For years I experienced and dramatic drop in deer sightings during these few weeks. Other hunters I know always reported the same series of events. After an early season with many deer encounters and activity, it is as though someone turns a switch and suddenly fewer deer sightings occur. Mature buck sightings drop to basically zero, though sign continues to appear and even increase.
Through years of observation my family has deciphered the mystery of the Lull. There are a couple things going on with the deer at this time. The first is a totally natural response to a changing environment. As the fall begins the trees begin to drop their leaves. The timber that was thick and provided excellent cover suddenly becomes open. This normal phenomenon causes mature bucks to become naturally more nocturnal. The now more nocturnal buck will remain that way until the urges of the rut push him into a more diurnal routine later. The October Lull is far more pronounced in areas with heavy hunting pressure. Sometimes it is as though the entire deer herd goes underground. This is a direct response to the heavy pressure, which just happens to coincide with a natural tendency. The Lull is even more pronounced when spells of hot weather happen to coincide with the mid October weeks. The sudden drop in visible deer activity can be very frustrating. I say visible activity, because actual deer movement, and buck signposting, increases steadily throughout the month of October, but nocturnal activity dominates things until the pre-rut kicks in. In areas with big fields of standing corns mature bucks will often take up residence in the corn until it is cut, or the rut changes his attitude. There are basically two options for this time of year. Either hang up your bow and wait for the pre-rut, or create a feasible hunting plan into your fall specifically for this time of year. You probably guessed it. I certainly don’t hang up my bow, and neither should you.
Hunting the Lull
One of the main credos of hunting the October Lull is to remain patient. As more rubs and scrapes begin to appear during October most hunters respond by hunting their best spots. Though this may be occasionally met with success, in most instances these hunters are only broadcasting their intentions and diminishing their chances later on. It is best to leave your premium hunting spots alone until they are absolutely ready to hunt. The pre-rut is the time for these, but I will get to that a bit later on. Along the same lines, if you only have few hunting spots, or access to a single small tract of land, you may indeed want to stay completely out of that area until the pre-rut begins. Deer can easily avoid a small piece of property, so think and hunt tactically. Sometimes hunting less is more effective than hunting more.
During your spring scouting forays you should have cleared out a host of secondary trees. These secondary trees are locations that are good, but not spectacular. Most often our secondary stands involve simple travel routes between bedding and feeding areas. This is also the time I go through a rotation of those unusual spots that I always clearing out. For instance, hunting a single oak in a standing corn field, or that tree on that tiny piece of property with only a fence row between two unlikely looking swales where there wasn’t much sign, or that tree in the middle of a big woods with a single runway along an ancient ditch. These unlikely spots keep me in the woods and put me in a position to kill a random mature buck, while waiting for my best locations to heat up. I have occasionally killed mature bucks in this fashion. Any location that is left alone may have a mature buck using it, and if that area isn’t too disturbed there is a possibility that particular buck will remain active during daylight throughout the Lull. The element of surprise is key to the Eberhart Way, even during the October Lull.
– Chris Eberhart, BowhuntingWildFood.com
If you want more great whitetail hunting information like this, check out Chris’ latest book, Bowhunting Whitetails The Eberhart Way