The October Lull…..sounds a little depressing doesn’t it! Not nearly as popular a word with whitetail hunters as something like “The Rut”! Probably because it is just that, a lull in activity that happens somewhere between the first week of October and ends a week or so before Halloween. But what’s really happening during this time, are deer not moving because of hunting pressure or the warm temperatures that seem to linger longer into hunting season every year, maybe? It’s definitely a tough time to hunt when you compare it to say, mid-november, when deer are going crazy and bucks are on the move non stop. I’ll tel you one thing though, after spending 30 years chasing deer with a stick and string, I’ve learned a thing or two about hunting big bucks in October and the October Lull is not the time to be sitting at home watching dvr’d episodes of Lee and Tiffany!
First, it’s crucial that we really understand what a big buck is doing during this period in time, one that some hunters don’t even bother with. By now, bucks have shed their velvet, either given up their summer pattern or at least they are moving less during daylight, and have possibly even relocated back to their core areas of security cover. Yeah, it is a lull, but the big bucks are still out there doing their thing everyday! Yes, EVERYDAY they are feeding, drinking, bedding, and I’ll bet a day doesn’t go by that they don’t make at least one rub during October, but thats just a guess. One thing they aren’t doing much of is traveling! So what’s all this mean? It means that big buck you’re after is doing pretty much the same thing everyday, and he’s probably doing it in a very small area! That means he’s predictable, probably more so than any other time of the year, and he’s a homebody, not venturing too far on his daily travels! Starting to see how vulnerable a big buck can be during the lull? He’s regular in his pattern (unlike in November) and he’s not traveling much (unlike November). That’s the good news, the bad news is we’re going to have to be right on top of him to kill him and its gonna be extremely difficult to get close without him knowing it, since he isn’t moving far! Hey, I never said it was going to be easy.
In this situation, with a big buck not moving much, your probably only going to get one crack at him before he figures out whats going on so you have to make your move count! I actually prefer to wait until the last 10 days of October (what I call Red October and thats next weeks column) to make my move but I will share my tactics leading up to this point. I got the idea from an article by Miles Keller, it’s called “hunting from the outside in”. What he meant was he would start on the outskirts or fringes of a bucks territory, and methodically move in slowly, getting closer and closer to where he needed to be to kill a buck. He didn’t want to dive right into a bucks core area, make a wrong move and blow him out. He would observe from a distance, try to figure out how he could get closer without alerting the buck, and keep moving closer (safely) until he knew exactly what the buck was doing and exactly where he needed to be to get a shot. You can’t guess at this point in the game, one wrong move and it’s game over and you’ll have to take your chances during the rut!
I’ve adapted my own twist to this tactic. Through my scouting, I know where the buck is I’m after and have a pretty good idea what he’s doing. I’ll set up my observation stand to watch the area and have a trail camera within bow range of the tree I have already picked for my ambush. The only reason I will slip into that stand before “Red October” is if I see him making a mistake during daylight from my observation stand or get a picture of him moving during daylight within bow range of my stand, no exceptions! This is not the time to take a chance on spooking your deer! Hang back and watch him from a distance, wait for him to make a mistake, then go in after him! There’s nothing worse than diving into a spot and not getting it done, then blowing him out when you climb down out of your stand! I’ve killed all my biggest bucks the first time I hunted each of those stands because I watched and waited for him to make a mistake before making my move. It’s like a game of chess, have a strategy in mind and let your opponent make the first mistake, then capitalize on it!