For many deer hunters, their season timeline loosely follows mid-to-late summer for scouting and feeding minerals and supplemental food. September is the start of many regions' hunting seasons and is an excellent time to pattern bucks, still on a summer feeding pattern. October often is a waiting period for bucks to begin the pre-rut, which then leads into November, when the peak of the rut occurs, and most mature bucks are taken.
The month of October can often catch a bad name from hunters; some refer to the slow period of deer movement as the “October lull.” Hunters respond by approaching October hunting as a time to be patient and wait for November rut action. If you fall under that category, you may be missing out on some of the best hunting opportunities all season. Below are three proven methods of October hunting that could have your buck tag filled before November even begins.
In early October, the travel patterns and deer movement, in general, can create dramatic changes. The reason for fluctuations in deer patterns can often come from acorns falling to the ground. Acorns have their pros and cons for hunters. If typically hunting over food plots and crop fields, deer movement can seem to be non-existent. Acorns are one of a deer's favorite foods. When they begin to fall, deer leave all other food sources and feed solely on acorns.
If hunting in the timber, hunters can benefit from sitting in an area full of oak trees. This year, the acorn crop is higher than usual, making the timber an ideal hunting spot. From the first of October until the rut begins in mid-November, hunters should go wherever the most significant numbers of acorns are found.
Hunting With a Decoy
In mid-October, the bachelor groups of bucks that have been together throughout the summer begin splitting off while preparing for the upcoming rut. When bucks begin to separate, they typically spar with each other while establishing who will be the dominant buck.
When bucks begin to fight for dominance, hunters should try using a deer decoy to attract bucks into close range. The best time to use a decoy is a few weeks before the rut begins, as this is the period when bucks are establishing their territory. When using a decoy, bucks think another buck has slipped into their range, triggering a territorial instinct that makes them posture and travel to the decoy ready to fight.
Hunters also need to pay attention to scent control when using a decoy. The decoy itself should be clean and free of human scent. It must be placed at twenty yards or closer to the stand or blind location to draw bucks into bow range. Due to this close-range tactic, the hunter should also pay attention to their human scent. Hunters must wear their ScentLok apparel along with ScentLok gloves and a headcover to help control human odors. Once your human scent is controlled on your body, it is important to use actual deer scent around the decoy. By having a visual and a scent that appears as an actual deer, bucks come closer, giving the hunter a better shot opportunity.
Grunt Rattle and Roll
In mid-to-late October, bucks become more territorial. Another way to draw bucks into close range when hunting with decoys is by using a grunt call and a rattling bag or real antlers.
When the sound of two bucks fighting is heard, nearby bucks think that what they hear are rival bucks that have come into their area, trying to overtake their dominance. When responding, a buck will often show up to fight and tell others that this area has already been claimed as his dominant area.
During a buck's most aggressive period before the pre-rut and rut begin, hunters can use grunt calls, rattling, and decoys in conjunction with each other. When a buck hears the grunting and rattling and decides to respond, a more realistic scenario is often presented to him when a decoy is in place.
Even though it’s sometimes referred to as the “October lull,” the month of October can be an incredibly rewarding and exciting time to hunt if you use the proper tactics. Hunt the acorns and attract dominant bucks with a decoy, grunt call and rattling.