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 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? It’s a tough time to hunt when you compare it to mid-November when deer are going crazy, and bucks are on the move nonstop. I’ll tell you one thing, 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 episodes of Lee and Tiffany!
First, it’s crucial that we really understand what a big buck is doing during this period in time.
By now, bucks have shed their velvet and given up their summer patterns and are moving less during daylight. Possibly, they have even relocated back to their core areas of security cover. Yes, it’s a lull, but the big bucks are still out there doing their thing every day. 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 this month. One thing they aren’t doing much of - traveling! So, what’s all this mean? The big buck you’re after is doing pretty much the same thing every day, and he’s most likely doing it in a very small area!
That means he’s predictable! Probably more predictable now than any other time of the year. He’s a homebody right now and not venturing too far on his daily travels. Starting to see how vulnerable a big buck can be during the lull? He’s very 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 it's going to be extremely difficult to get close without him knowing it since he isn’t moving far on his daily routine. Hey, I never said it was going to be easy.
In this situation, you’re probably only going to get one crack at him before he figures out what's going on, so you must make your move count! I prefer to wait until the last 10 days of October (what I call Red October and that's next week's 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 buck’s 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 buck's core area, make a wrong move and blow him out. He would observe from a distance - gradually moving closer and closer to the area trying to figure out the exact tree he needed to be in for a shot before he moved in for the kill.
You can’t guess at this point in the game, one wrong move and its 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 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!