Well, it's right around the corner-the dreaded, "October Lull". But wait a second...some of you that live in a state that features September archery openers may be experiencing a breakdown in deer movements before October even begins! Why is that? And there may be others who have yet to experience the decline in deer sightings because their season has yet to begin. For the later folks, game cam pictures may be humming along at a great pace right now as deer are still in their late season patterns. The lull can happen in September...it can happen in October (of course) and it can happen in November and December too! There are so many factors that enter into the seasonal shutdowns of deer activity and October seems to get picked on the most as if the mystery of hidden deer is determined by a particular month on the calendar.
So, just why do hunters experience a shutdown of whitetail activity during October? Why do you personally think you experience a shutdown on your own lands that you hunt? A key point to understanding how to develop October Lull hunting strategies is this: It is critical to talk about what causes the annual October slowdown in the first place.
October Lull and Whitetail Activity Shutdowns
Hunting shutdowns take place throughout the entire hunting season! Archery season, the entire rut, gun season, muzzleloader season and even late archery season; even if to varying degrees, each phase of the season is vulnerable to a vanishing deer herd.
1. Hunting Pressure:
Hunting pressure is by far, the #1 reason for the lull of any season. Have you ever had the opportunity to hunt an October 10th deer herd during a cold front, on a parcel that has had zero hunting pressure? Wow, the hunting can be fantastic! And its the same if it's a first-time hunt on the 5th...the 15th, and the 20th. What about a piece of land that had pressure on a mid-September opener, and then no other hunting intrusions for another 3-4 weeks? Again, the hunting can be fantastic! Often the October lull is just a result of the timing for early season archery hunting, and is directly reflective of the hunting pressure that follows.
2. Warm and Stable Lull Weather Patterns:
Adding 2-3 days of 75 degree daytime highs in early November can shut down the rut as much as hunting pressure. When you combine the two together the deer hunting can be incredibly poor, even during the best time of the year for overall mature buck movement, on any land. This is exactly why from year to year the rut can appear "Great" or "Very Poor"...it really just depends, on the weather. Early November is great because even with poor weather, mature bucks will still cruise for rutting activity. However, the amount of time they spend cruising during daytime hours can flucuate greatly from year to year. Except for the last few days of October, the added ingredient of the rut to invoke mature buck movement, is non-existent. When warm temps hit in October, deer movements can be very slow. However, as long as the hunting pressure is minimal and cooler temps are in the forecast, quality hunting will directly parallel the extremity of each passing cold front.
*Make sure to check out my whitetail book series including, "Whitetail Success By Design" and "Food Plot Success By Design", to help you find mature bucks this hunting season!
3. Shifting October Habitat Needs:
I have writting about the "The Shift" of food and cover needs that mature bucks experience each year, which typically takes place during late September to Mid-October. Where have all of the bucks gone? Often they have just followed the seasonal change towards a need for cool season forages, and thicker, higher stem count forms of security cover. Mature bucks rarely stop moving until the middle of the night (unless injured), but instead if you aren't getting pictures of them anywhere near the hours of daylight, they are probably living a parcel away or more. When these same mature bucks suddenly appear during early November it offers the illusion that they have been living under your nose the entire time! However, don't be misled! Instead, when the rut begins and bucks begin to have a hard time finding another receptive day, they cruise; and often they cruise far and wide, which includes sometimes back to their summer habitats.
*Where did all of the bucks go? They probably moved to their preferred Fall habitat. To find out more about the annual shift, watch this video and make sure to check out "The Shift of Fall Whitetail Habitat" .
Have you ever experienced a huge influx of deer into the lands your hunt in December? It can be an awesome site to behold, but remember, someone else is experiencing a desert of deer activity that may not recover until early Spring. The shift of whitetail movement can also take place in December, when harsh Winter weather forces deer, even if temporary, into their cold-season habitats of thermal protection and high carb food sources.
October Lull Hunting Strategies
If you take the above 3 influences of deer movement, I would suspect that you can probably come up with a plan of attack on your own. However, for the sake of discussion...here you go:
1. Remove the Hunting Pressure:
Opening day of bow season can feature an oustanding time for tagging an unsuspecting giant! However..."Hunter Beware", because not all opening days are created equal. I don't believe the local deer herd keeps a calender of bowseason openers, and neither should we. Why? Because there is plenty of time, in fact an entire season of opportunity lies ahead. I like to keep the pressur off of the land, until the weather conditions for a high value early season sit are present.
2. Wait for the Weather:
For those of you who have followed my writings for years, it will comes as no suprise to hear that I wait exclusively for the calm and cold sit opportunities that follow the various hunting season cold fronts. My season opener takes place when the temperatures are at least cool, and haven't been mired for several days within a period of calm and stable weather. By waiting for a high value day to take a seat, the stand locations that I plan to hunt haven't been spoiled by hunting pressure during low value sits. For decades I have found that "Fresh stands are often the Best stands", and October is no exception.
3. Follow the October Habitat:
If you are patient for high value weather conditions to place the first amount of hunting pressure on the land that you hunt, you may as well follow the habitat! Building high quality food sources and cover options on private lands can be an oustanding practice for setting the table not only for high quality October opportunities, but for the rest of the season as well! That great stand of white oaks may have revealed an extensive amount of buck sign in early September, however it sure can be deceiving when it comes tme to hunt in October. Whether you are hunting on private or public land, a great way to bust the lull, is to match your hunting efforts to the preferred food and cover choices of the deer herd at your time of the hunt.
4. High Value October Lull Evening Sits:
While the above 3 tips could be applied to any portion of the deer season, this tip specifically relates to the October Lull. Well, and also the late gun season, muzzleloader season and late archery season...but this about October lull hunting strategies so keep that in mind! Morning hunts during the first 20 days of October can be at best, "hit or miss". Is that mature giant already back his daytime bedding hour 2 hours before light? 5 hours before light? or is he still feeding in his favorite midnight food source at daybreak? Your guess...is as good as mine! In 2012 I took advantage of a long movement of whitetails during a frosty, toe numbing morning to harvest a great southern MI giant on October 12th. My stand location was close to a bedding area (but not in the bedding area) and over a 1/4 mile from a collection of major food sources. Open hardwoods and a lack of cover allowed deer to feed along at a lazy pace to an unpressured stand locations that I accessed well before daylight. The conditions were great, the stand was "clean", and the weather was perfect, however the opportunity was not nearly as defined as an evening sit during the same period of the season!
Remote food sources that have featured zero hunting activity, combined with a cool evening conditions, can be a mature buck magnet-even during the middle of October. Should you hunt in the morning? That purely depends on if you risk ruining a potentially much higher value sit that same evening...or even the next evening, or even the following week! Deer may only have memories that span a few weeks, but rest assured a mature buck typically doesn't have time to fall back into his early season archery ways before the beginning of the rut. Often, making a risky stand access during the early season morning hours can really shut the deer activity down for the rest of October in that 1 location, let alone the evening of the same day.
What's an October Lull, anyways? To me, it's when hunting pressure combines with poor weather conditions and a lack of habitat to significantly reduce deer movements. And when you think about it, you can really turn those conditions into a positive! Why? Because each of those conditions can be planned for, avoided and used to your own advantage. Much of your October Lull hunting strategies should consist of turning the negative effects that create the shutdown, into extremely positive opportunities! And that effective "hunting attitude", can also be applied to the rest of entire whitetail season...