By Mark Kenyon
Can you feel that? The adrenaline rush and excitement overload … it’s gone, or at least dwindling. And now maybe you’re feeling the hangover too. The opening week/weekend of the season is now over for most hunters, and now as often happens, the action in the woods is dwindling as well.
Commonly referred to as the “October Lull”, this period of time in Mid-October can be one of the most frustrating times to hunt. This lull in daylight deer activity is often attributed to deer changing their patterns leading up to the rut, changing food sources, and also changing deer behavior forced by increased hunting pressure. No matter what the cause, it’s safe to say that most hunters will experience this slow-down in action to some degree.
That said, it’s definitely not time to admit defeat just yet. Mid-October can still be a great time to kill a mature buck. You just need to play it smart. One thing the October Lull isn’t, is the time to jump from stand to stand, just hoping to “find” where the deer are. Please don’t do that.
Instead, during this timeframe you should be ultra-focused on hunting either high probability locations or, if you don’t have these types of spots prepared, spend your time in low-risk areas.
With that in mind, let’s dive in to this a little more, with four big buck killing tips to help make your “October Lull” less dull! Cause that’s what we all want, right?
Hunt Isolated Food Sources: This time of year bucks will still be honoring their bedding to feeding pattern, assuming they feel safe and unpressured by humans. Often times this means the daytime feeding activity will occur in areas that are secluded or deep in the cover. If you can find a food source in such an area, you could have yourself a perfect opportunity for an “October Lull” ambush. Isolated mast trees such as red or white oaks, persimmons or apple trees can all be perfect spots to set-up on. If you have the luxury of having planted a small hunting food plot that is secluded, this could be another great option. Once the pre-rut hits, your local big bucks will start caring more about does and less about food, so your time to capitalize on these isolated food sources is quickly running out.
Move In On Beds: If you’re confident that you know where a mature buck is bedded, this is another great time to lay an ambush. If you wait too much longer, he’ll start roaming and you may miss your opportunity when he disappears during the rut in search of a lady friend. That said, if you can sneak in close to a bedding location in the afternoon and set-up in between that bed and the most attractive food source – you might just catch that buck before he heads out in the evening.
Another related tactic, sometimes called the “bump and dump“, can be used at this time as well. If you happen to bump a buck from his bed, move in right away and set up a stand within shooting range of that exact bed. Make sure your stand is downwind of the bed, and downwind of the expected area that the buck will be returning from the following morning. Now get out, and be ready for excitement in the AM. The next morning get back to that stand, as early as you possibly can. If you’re lucky, that buck will return to his bed and you’ll have an easy shot. It’s high risk, but it can also be high reward. (W2H teammember Ross Hausmann’s dad actually pulled this move off a few years ago – photo above). For a comprehensive look at this topic, check out our full article on “Pulling Off The Bump & Dump”
Capitalize On Cold Fronts: During mid-October, just like most other parts of the season, cold fronts can greatly dictate deer movement. Given the fact that overall daylight activity on average may be a little low during this time, it’s smart to plan your hunting around the days with the best possible chances of that activity. Those best possible days will be the ones when cold fronts move in. If you’re going to try any of the tactics listed above, cold front days will be your best bets to try them.
Play It Safe: Another way to look at “October Lull” success is to just make sure you don’t mess things up for the pre-rut and rut yet to come. As we know, hunting can be tough during the October Lull and if you don’t have the option of trying one of the tactics above, it might be best to just cut your losses and hunt low risk areas. By this, I mean hunting areas where the chances of educating a mature buck of your presence are low, but maybe there is still a chance at a doe or a random big buck encounter. If you can manage to still get a few hunts in during this time frame and not muck up your best areas, you’ll still be in a great position come late October or early November. That’s a win in my book.
Whether you’re hitting it hard or taking it easy during mid-October, make sure you’re doing so with a plan in mind. The October Lull is not the time for willy-nilly hunting. Make a smart, targeted strike – or stay the heck of of your best areas. Whichever route you decide to take, make sure to remember the importance of cold fronts as well.
Speaking of which, for much of the Midwest next week a substantial cold front is expected to move in. So shake off that opening week hangover, put a plan in place, and get hunting. If you’re lucky, with a few of these ideas in your back pocket, a mid-October buck on the ground could be in order.
Do you have any other tips for “October Lull” success? Let us know in the comments!