By Mark Kenyon
The early season is behind us, the “October Shift” just about is too, and right there on the horizon – so close that I can nearly taste it – is the rut. But in between then and now we’ve got the final third of October, and that’s a period of time that we SHOULD NOT be glossing over. Even though it often gets shown up by it’s big brother the rut, late October is a dynamite time to close the deal on a big mature buck.
Here are three tips to keep in mind during these final days of October.
1. Capitalize on cold fronts: This is a basic concept that applies really to all parts of the hunting season – but the impact of a cold front in late October might be more dramatic now than at any part of the hunting season to this point. A decrease in temperatures of about 10 degrees or more can spur more daylight movement at any time of the season, but in late October it can also kick-start some of the rut related behavior that we dream of – like daylight scraping activity, bucks nosing around does and even some sparring. On top of that, if you’re a believer in Charles Alsheimer’s rut predictions related to the moon, this year visible rutting activity is supposedly going to be kicking off during this last week of October. If we get a cold front AND if the moon really does trigger a little extra movement – things could get rocking. If you see these kinds of conditions in your neck of the woods, drop whatever you’re doing and get in a tree.
Looking for more advice on using the weather at this time of year? Check out this quick video from Mark Drury, as he analyzes a late October weather forecast.
2. If you know where he is, hunt hard: If you’re after a single specific deer, the last 10 days of October might be your best opportunity all year. I say this because in late October that buck is likely still sticking to his normal bedding areas and home range, but that won’t last too long. Once we get into November, his patterns could change dramatically as he heads out in search of ladies. That said, now is possibly your last chance to get on him before he switches things up – and luckily – in late October that buck is likely to let his guard down just a little. With testosterone levels bubbling ever higher and does getting ever closer to estrous, there’s a good chance that with the right weather, he’ll start moving a little more during daylight than usual. So if you know where your target buck likely is spending most his time, make sure you hunt hard when the correct conditions present themselves. It’s now or potentially never.
And speaking of where you should hunt, now is just about the best time of the year to hunt over a scrape. Scraping behavior peaks during these final days of October, and while most scraping is at night, this is likely the best time to potentially catch a visitor during daylight. If you can find a fresh scrape near where you think he’s bedded or feeding, it might be one more clue to help you zero in on the right spot. Mock scrapes can be a great tool now too, learn more about that here –> 3 Reasons To Make A Mock Scrape Today & How To Do It
Finally, pay attention to your trail camera pictures from last year. If you had pictures of the buck you’re after now in a certain area around this time during previous years – there’s a great chance he might be doing something similar this time around. Use that annual pattern to help you get in the right place.
3. Focus on Evenings: I personally, and many others, tend to believe that your best sits in October are most often going to be in the evenings. At this time of year I’m focusing my hunts on those first few evenings after a good cold front and I’ll be tucking myself in as closely as I safely can to a known buck bedding area – in between his bed and the best food source. If you focus just on these evening sits, which are usually lower risk than mornings at this time, I believe you can get away with a few more hunts than if you go pushing in the morning and potentially spook your buck before daylight or when he circles back in to bed in the AM.
In an update he shared about late October several years ago, Bill Winke of Midwest Whitetail explained this same recommendation.
“It is best to wait until the bucks are actually chasing before you start to get aggressive in the mornings. This is because the best morning stands are deep in the cover and close to doe bedding areas. If you hunt the fringe, you are probably going to bump too many deer going in.
You can’t hunt bedding areas very often before the does know you are there and stop moving naturally. It always makes sense to save your best stands for the best times and the best times to hunt near bedding areas is from November 1 onward. “
That said, if you do get a cold hard cold snap that hits at the very end of the month – the 30th or 31st for example – you might as well switch into November rut mode. That’ll get em moving morning, noon and night.