By Mark Kenyon
We’re now into week three of my hunting season, and as is often the case this time of year, the big buck action has slowed down.
I’ve hit an “October Lull” of my own, and on top of tough hunting, I’ve also had a series of unfortunate events making this past week even more difficult.
Nonetheless, I knew I had to roll with the punches and persevere. Here’s the lowdown on last weeks hunts, a few observations regarding current deer activity, and some thoughts on lessons learned.
This Week’s Michigan & Ohio Hunts
On Wednesday afternoon, the 16th, I hit the woods with W2H team-member Dustin Hotchkin to film him hunt the same farm where he missed a nice MI eight pointer last week (you can watch that miss on our latest webisode). We set up in a terrific location for a mid-October hunt, right near the edge of a thick bedding area, with a large agriculture field about 80-100 yards away. The wind was perfect, and to make things even better we were able to access the stand by canoeing across a small lake and then walking a creek almost right to the stand location. Everything we did – being close to thick cover and beds, in between food sources and doing so with stealthy entrance/exit routes – is perfect for killing big bucks this time of year. But, as we all know, deer most often don’t follow our plans. We ended up seeing only a single doe.
The next two days I hunted by myself on a new farm. Again I set-up in an area that I believed had not seen much hunting pressure, and also was in between bedding and food. Once again though, things didn’t go as hot as I would have hoped. In the two sits I had here, I saw only a small six point buck and six does. While I didn’t end up getting a deer, I did get something else.
Poison Ivy! But more on that later.
Saturday morning W2H team-member Josh Hillyard and I packed up to head down to Ohio for our second trip to this farm. We were definitely hoping for a repeat encounter with “Jawbreaker“, but we also wanted to hang a few more stands and a trail camera in preparation for our big rut hunt in November.
The bad luck started early on for us, as by this time the poison ivy I contracted in Michigan had now spread across my entire body , neck, ears and face. It was so bad that my right eye was swollen almost shut! I was miserable.
Things didn’t get much better the rest of the night, as we headed to our stands and were surprised by two very unhappy and menacing dogs. They started growling and barking at us from about 20 yards away, and continued to follow us as we kept walking towards our stand locations. At this point I was thinking through in my head exactly how effective at self defense I might be with a 30 inch long, broadhead tipped spear. I wasn’t too confident!
The dogs finally stopped their pursuit, and I headed to my stand. After getting set-up, I again had a bit of misfortune. At the last minute before heading into the woods, I had decided to use my small handy cam for the night and not my larger camera. In my haste though, I forgot to remove the mounting bracket from my large camera. This meant that I now had no way to attach my camera to the camera arm. For the second time this season, I’d forgotten a piece of camera equipment, and again I had to use my MacGyver like lashing skills to secure the camera as best as possible.
From here I didn’t think it could get any worse, but about 30 minutes into my sit I saw my two dog buddies tearing across the bean field I was sitting on, and eventually running straight into the main bedding area on this property.
Needless to say, neither Josh or I saw a single deer that night.
With this bitter taste in our mouths we decided not to hunt the next morning, and instead hung a stand in a perfect rut spot, and set out a new camera.
Over the course of these aforementioned hunts I noticed a few consistent themes, all of which are consistent with the typical symptoms of the so-called “October Lull”
First, I’ve noticed that deer movement in my neck of the woods has moved to much later in the evening. Earlier in the season I was seeing deer on their feet an hour or two before dark. This past week I don’t think I saw any movement until the final 30 minutes. This change in movement is most likely due to increased hunting pressure, both by me and by hunters on other properties. The “October Lull” is definitely in part due to this increased hunter activity and the resulting change in deer behavior. I’ve also heard from a number of hunters that they’re seeing a lot more deer staying within the timber and feeding on acorns right now. Food plots and large ag fields don’t seem to be getting too much daytime utilization.
Secondly, while actual daylight activity in my area has slowed, I have been noticing a lot more visual sign of pre-rut activity. This has come in the form of significantly increased scraping and rubs. I’ve noticed a boat load of scrapes appearing on field edges, and rub lines have begun to start popping up in travel corridors connecting bedding and feeding areas.
While my hunts this past week weren’t particularly exciting, they did reinforce one important thing in my mind. You’ve got to roll with the punches.
During a hunting season there will inevitably be a lot of ups and downs, and if you want to ever get to the highest of highs, you must learn to navigate the lows.
This past week was a great example of those kinds of lows. I forgot my binoculars on one hunt, I forgot a camera mount on another, I hardly saw any deer, I found out one of the properties I used to have sole bowhunting permission on now is being hunted by someone else and I contracted poison ivy and soon had it spread across my entire body. The rash got so bad that I actually had to cancel a planned trip to New York this week.
Speaking of that, just today I had to go into an Urgent Care medical center to get some help for the rapidly intensifying poison ivy disaster. I was prescribed steroids, a topical ointment to stop infection of the blisters now on my face, and then finally a steroid shot to help in the short term. As if this wasn’t enough, my body didn’t take the shot too well, and I actually completely passed out in the doctor’s office for 15-20 seconds. When I came to, I had uncontrollable shakes and minor convulsions for about 30 minutes. Not fun at all.
While I’ve had plenty of punches the past week or so, I’ve been reminded that I just need to wade through the muck and stay on course. If nothing else, periods of times like this are great for humbling you and reminding yourself to keep a sense of humor. When things have gone wrong this past week, I’ve just tried to make the best of the situation, and laugh it off.
Tough times are going to happen during every hunting season, but those who can push through these challenges are the ones who will tag mature bucks consistently.
That said, the “lull” that many of you might be experiencing should be soon out the door, and the “pre-rut” is just around the corner. If you’ve been having some hard times so far this fall like me, don’t let it get you too far down.
Take a deep breath, shake it off, and saddle up. It’s time to roll with the punches and get ready for the rut.