Hunting the October Lull
Each year I make it back east to hunt whitetail in October during my kids fall break this usually occurs the first two weeks of October. Many consider this time period approximately Oct. 7th-20th the “October lull,” a period when bucks become nocturnal and and very recluse. Some believe its them resting up getting ready for the Rut, some believe its because the crops and feed change or Perhaps hunting pressure is to blame, but its undeniable that the bucks patterns change and they seemingly become more nocturnal.
What I have found in the last 12 years or so hunting during the “October Lull” is that yes you stop seeing bucks in those destination spots like: crop fields, food plots, etc. Basically all the places you scouted and watched all summer long. Its like they just vanished, well I can assure you that big 10 you’ve been watching hasn’t vanished and he isn’t moving exclusively at night, he’s just changed his routine and tightened his circle I suspect it has a lot to do with the establishment of pecking order and such but I haven’t done enough research on the subject. But what i do know from experience is the scrape lines and rub lines start getting hit fairly hard in those areas close to their bedrooms.
Hunting their beds:
Well not really in their beds but smack right up against them is what has landed me 12 bucks in 12 years. My main focus around the October lull is hunting the rub and scrape lines that lead in and out of bedding cover. I first Take a broad look my hunting area and label all the potential bedding cover and travel routes. Then I locate buck trails which are usually faint almost unnoticeable trails that often parallel larger more predominate trails or are “short cuts” from bed to feed. If you inspect these trails back a little ways to where they originate often you will find rub lines along them and often where these trail meet or cross main trails you will find sign post scrapes. Once I have determined this is a “buck trail” I set up cameras on these obscure trails to let me know what buck I am hunting. The trick is to be as low impact as possible because these trails appear and this sign appears over night so your scouting is done while you are hunting. 1) I have a very strict scent free regime I follow 2) I don’t walk on the trails but beside them 3) my cameras are set to capture from a bit of a distance and set to see which direction they are going and coming from i always run my cameras in video mode 10-15sec clips with 10 secs in between 3) I only enter the woods when its the least likely I will run into deer I pay close attention to moon feeding charts but typically from 9am-12pm (rule of thumb) I find this time of year is the slowest unless its an early rising full moon then I tend to shift it to 2-4 pm 4) Stands are always set the furthest away I can (within comfortable shooting range) with the best wind.
During the October Lull I focus mainly on scrapes and rubs secondary. In the early season especially October, bucks scrape within their core areas, in particular near where they frequent the most hours of the day basically their sanctuary / core bedding and where daytime feeding occurs. If you hope to shoot a mature buck over a scrape , the scrape should be located within or near the heavy / dense daytime security cover that a buck calls home. If the scrape is too far away from where a buck feels safe, you are most likely not going to see a buck during day light hours. Bucks will make scrapes all over the place in social areas and travel corridors mostly at night, so your chances of seeing a buck on that scrape during day light hours is slim to none. Sometimes if I have the time or plan to hunt the same property year after year I will set cameras on these social area scrapes or what most refer to as sign post scrapes: Sign post scrape is one that gets used year after year often larger deeper cut and on transition zones and major travel corridors . I set them on this type of scrape for 2-3 days If there is a buck on it that i want to hunt I keep working the scrape line or trail back to the bedding cover in which the buck is coming from. Keep detailed notes as to the time and direction in which he comes from also pay close attention to changes in weather etc and see how they affect his movement. If you are doing it right each move you make should result in an earlier visit by the buck. if you get all the way back to his bedding cover and its still night time pictures, you will want to try going the other direction ( where hes going). A lot of times big bucks given a good habitat with lots of “options” big bucks will be on a loop meaning they will bed in bedding cover “A” for the afternoon get up right before dark make their way to the destination spots (crop field , major feeding areas , social gather areas) then keep heading to bedding cover “B” to bed for the night and do the reverse the next day. Some buck will even have 3 or more areas to bed in that loop. The point being is you need to find where hes moving in daylight and do it as low impact as possible.
The weather plays an important role in deer movement as we all know but learning how to use the weather to your advantage is key. I feel like paying attention to weather during the October Lull is more important then any other time period. For instance my biggest buck I ever shot was over a scrape near bedding cover right after a rain storm. I pay close attention to rainy days especially if its going to rain all night and slightly into the morning. I have found that as soon as the rain stops most bucks are motivated to get up and go refresh their scrapes that have all been washed away from the rain storm. For example this is a screen shot from Wunderground weather 10 day forecast with all the options checked and it shows me that a high pressure system is coming in for the next couple of days followed by rain and more importantly rain all night and clearing up the next morning. This is a time to double down hunt leading up to the rain and immediately after. Deer should be moving during the front and I can almost guarantee that buck will come and refresh those scrapes as soon as the rain quits. I mentioned “the front” if you haven’t heard that term yet and how it relates to hunting its definitely something you should learn. here is a good podcast I did on the subject Hunt the front. I’m gonna give you the “2 cent tour” A weather front is a term used to describe the front end or advancing edge of an air mass that will soon replace the air mass that’s over a specific region. These air masses are designated P for “polar” (cold), T for tropical (warm), M for maritime (wet) and C for continental (dry). Without getting into a completely different subject matter deer movement goes up the 12-24 hours leading up to these changes of air pressure. And it has been my experience that “cold fronts” are typically more productive then low pressure systems before it happens and low pressure (usually rain) are better right after. In this example we have high pressure system move in on Thursday and it collides with a low pressure system bringing rain on Sunday , well deer should be moving Saturday and again when the rain clears. Look for a period of several days of high or low pressure with drastic changes in a short amount of time. (If the rain is very light and misty I will often sit anyway.)
The October Lull doesn’t have to be a mystery and it shouldn’t keep you out of the woods. Try to apply some of these ideas to your October hunt. I hope this gives you some food for thought. Every situation is a bit different but the more you learn about deer behavior and movement the more you can apply it to your hunting conditions and situation. Pay attention to the details and keep notes of your observations it will help you
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