For many, including myself, October can be a very frustrating time to be in the woods. The excitement of opening weekend has worn off and your thoughts begin to drift towards November and the rut. Chasing a buck in velvet is long over and the rut seems years away. You are stuck in a transition period with a hundred different ways to go. The deer you were seeing in September are getting fewer and fewer and the bucks on your hit list have disappeared. Is this a result of the “October Lull”?
In my opinion, yes and no.
Why? (Human Pressure)
The October lull is all a matter of perspective. For deer, this time of your is full of changes. The initial change is pressure due to human activity. Hunters have been hitting the woods hard for the last few weeks and deer have begun to recognize this. This contributes to a significant change in the deer’s world. The deer begin to feel the pressure of the increased activity and change their patterns to ones where they feel safer. For the most part this means they will find very secluded and isolated pockets of land or do most of their movement at night. This creates the first reduction in activity that hunters see as the October lull. The deer on your property haven’t left they have more than likely moved to more nocturnal habits.
How to Hunt It
To hunt a situation like this where you feel that human pressure is the cause of decreased deer activity you need to find the bedding areas. The reason for this is because the amount of time that that buck you are targeting is on its feet before dark is now extremely limited. So to have enough shooting light left to tag out, you need to move closer to his bedding area. This tactic doesn’t come without criticism though. Moving so close to bedding areas this early in the season is very risky. The obvious reason is because you might spook the buck you are after off your property for good. It is high risk, high reward. If you feel you don’t have another choice or your time to hunt a particular farm is limited you could try this tactic, but I would recommend staying away from it and using another tactic.
Why? (Food Sources)
Not only does human pressure change for deer, but so does their food. During September and early October deer are highly visible because of food sources. Bean fields, alfalfa fields, and food plots all draw large numbers of deer during this time. But as October hits the beans are harvested and the alfalfa dries up. Coincidentally, as these food sources begin to decline the acorns, persimmons, and fall mast all become available. As the food sources change deer quickly move to different forms of browse. That could mean eating on freshly cut crop fields or finding acorn trees. This creates a new issue for hunters that involves acorns. Once the acorn crop begins to hit the forest floor deer no long have to expose themselves in open fields. This essentially means that deer can be anywhere one day and somewhere completely different the next. The fields they were using a week ago are vacant and the trails they used to get there are no longer used. The wide spread abundance of new food sources means deer will be spread out across you and your neighbor’s property.
How to Hunt It
So how do you hunt deer that could be anywhere? Well, the first thing you can do is try and find the acorns. This time of your is a great time to hunt near acorns. Once you find a few acorn trees look for any funnels and that lead towards those trees. Set your stand up on a tree that gives you a good view point of the trails they are using to get there and wait for your buck to visit that acorn tree.
Also, you can take some time off from the tree stand and do a little bit of scouting. It is imperative that this scouting remains on the edges of the property. As we discussed earlier deer are becoming more and more wary of human activity every day. Scout the recently cut agricultural fields in your area and on your property to find the hot food sources. The trick to hunting food sources at this time of year is to hunt the food that is going to be attractive to deer next week instead of hunting the food sources that were attractive to deer a few weeks earlier.
If you have the option you can also hunt isolated food sources. If you had the ability earlier in the year to make your own food plots you may have made some small, seclude staging plots. Hunting over these small plots can be very successful this time of year because the bucks will hit these spots before they go out into the bigger fields and with most of their movement happening near the end of shooting light, it might just give you the extra few minutes of shooting light that you need.
You final option might be to just play it safe for a few weeks and not hunt at all, so that you can keep the pressure off the deer on your property and wait for November.
October is a month of changes for deer. Their habitat, food, and human pressure changes. The deer simply change with them. The thing that creates the October lull is the fact that hunters fail to change with them. Deer are in the woods 24/7, they are always out there. If you do your homework correctly you won’t experience a drastic change in the amount of deer you see during October.