This is a guest post from acclaimed whitetail habitat consultant, author and deer hunter Jeff Sturgis. Enjoy! – MK
By Jeff Sturgis
The dreaded annual October Lull is widely experienced, and often just as widely misunderstood.
Because although mature bucks really do tend to turn into Nocturnal Trail Cam stars, it may not be because of the reasons that you think. Mature bucks do not turn into nocturnal ghosts that only wander throughout the land under the cover of darkness. Bucks need to feed five times per day just like the rest of the herd, as rythmic pattern feeders, and will travel during the daylight to do so, in particular to reach the various high quality evening food sources that they need. If the mature bucks on your land disappear within 10 days of the bowseason opener, you may be suffering from 1, 2 or 3 of the following conditions: Lack of cool season habitat, excessive hunting pressure or the lack of a Strategic Plan of Attack.
Adequate Cool Season Habitat
Corn and beans are hard to beat, but often very difficult or expensive for the average landowner to offer in any appreciable amount. For me personally, I like to focus on blends of peas, late planted beans, brassicas, oats and Fall rye. Typically I plant oats, rye and peas on one side of my food plots, and brassicas with beans on the other 1/2 of the plot. It takes an appreciable volume of quality forage to hold the attention of the local deer herd until after dark. But when darkness settles…a great strategy is to send the deer to neighboring parcels to feed all night. By keeping your food sources adjacent to daytime bedding areas and free from hunting pressure, it is fairly easy to accomplish this feat!
The more “stems per acre” of grasses, briars, native regen, shrubs and conifers that you have, the more likely you will be to attract and hold a quality herd during the months of September, October, November and December.
Food without cover is dead…and cover without food is dead. If you lack either of the necessities of quality cool season habitat, expect the deer to seek greener pastures with adequate cover.
Hunting pressure is to blame for the majority of deer management or deer hunting deficiencies. Poor sex ratios, over-population problems and reduced buck age structures can all be largely blamed on the negative effects of hunting pressure. But scaling back to a more precise time of the year, there is most likely no greater impact on the quality of your hunting opportunities during the annual October Lull, than the effects of hunting pressure. Completely removing the hunting pressure is absolutely no fun at all, but with a strategic plan of attack in place you can substantially improve your odds; while hunting at the same time!
Strategic Plan of Attack
A Strategic Plan of Attack comes together when you recognize quality hunting conditions before taking to the field. Knowing when, why and where to hunt on your land is far more critical than any magical deer lures, mock scrapes, scent control or any one of 100s of potential deer gadgets that you can employ. I personally let the weather guide my decisions of when to take a seat in more than a dozen potential stand locations, with the proper determination of when to access, where to access, and what time of the day to access created within a quality season-long plan of strategic attack.
If you want to experience some of the best hunting that October has to offer, try this:
1. Make sure that the land that you hunt has a strong buffet of cool season greens (most often rye, oats, wheat, peas and various brassicas), or other quality hunting season forages, as well as quality cool season cover.
2. Do not hunt until a mid October cold front
3. Place a priority on food source related evening hunts, with limited hunting pressure on long transitions between food and bedding cover during the morning hours. Keep in mind that you should avoid hunting during the morning, within the same line of bedding to feeding deer movement, that you will be targeting during the evening hours.
Does that sound realistic to you? It doesn’t to me, because I like to hunt! But I hope that you can appreciate the point that if you have a quality plan of non-invasive hunting attack, if your hunting pressure is greatly reduced, and if you have both adequate cool season food and cover, you are well on your way to busting the myth of the annual October Lull.
– Jeff Sturgis
Interested in learning more about Jeff Sturgis and his hunting and food plot advice? Visit WhitetailHabitatSolutions.com