If you are looking for an excuse as to why you aren’t seeing whitetail deer this October, this may not be for you. Too often, recycled articles surface that explain to the hunters that the “October Lull” is a period where deer just become nocturnal and you might as well save your vacation for November. Often-times the authors of these articles will spend more time behind a desk than they will their tree stands and use others’ experiences to supplement their words.
What is the October Lull?
If you are new to hunting or not familiar, the October Lull will be a term you hear many times over the next several decades until it changes to something else. For now, the October Lull was always a period of time, of course, the month of October, when whitetail deer activity seemed to decrease (depending on where you live the timing may be different). During this time, hunters were told and believed that deer just weren’t as active. They were no longer seeing activity because the deer were just resting up for the rut — this is not true. Now, are the number of sightings down in October? Yes, across the board, most of the time they are. But are deer ACTUALLY less active? Not really and here’s why.
Shift in Food Source
The first thing that happens during October is the harvesting of crops. Whitetail deer are often patterned tremendously easy during this phase. Many deer can be seen along corn and soybean field edges all summer long and into those first few weeks of hunting season. As the beans turn yellow and the acorns begin to drop, deer often shift gears. Once the beans become yellow and brown, deer will stay away from the beans. That’s not to say they won’t eat them at all, but just because you see a homeless man eating out of a dumpster, doesn’t mean all humans eat trash scraps also.
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If there is no other food source, deer will eat whatever they need to, to get by. If you have a good acorn crop, start there. Deer prefer to eat white oak over red oak due to the bitterness of the red oak acorns, but they will still eat both. Any food plots, forbs and other greens that are available will continue to be great sources of food to hunt over as well, especially in areas where there are no oak trees. If you don’t see deer in the pattern in October that you did in late August, there is a reason for that and it’s not that they disappear.
Increased Hunting Pressure
In a perfect world, whitetail deer would see people in the woods and think it was normal. It wouldn’t affect their day-to-day activities and they would carry on with their life as normal as possible. However, deer are an animal of prey and their sole purpose in life, other than to run out in front of my buddy Matt’s car three years in a row is to survive. Given that, as soon as they feel hunting pressure, they begin to change their daily routines. Of course, there are many other factors that alter their course, but hunting pressure can surely be one.
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My grandfather always used to tell me big bucks were smart and that they don’t become big bucks if they are dumb. And I feel that today, even some big bucks can make mistakes, but for the most part, he was right. The big bucks are usually the mature bucks that have been around for some time. They know when an intruder has entered their home and are after them, wouldn’t you? Keep that in mind when you put a lot of early season hunting pressure on your deer herd, it can have an effect on their actions in October and often make many deer become nocturnal. If you have an opportunity to spread your hunting across several locations rather than just one property, I suggest it.
So we know the deer movement has changed. We know the October lull, although maybe not be what most people define it as, is real, to some degree. What do we do to overcome this change? If you are running trail cameras on your hunting property, this may be extremely helpful and relevant information that can help you. If not, and maybe you are hunting on public land, mid-October can be a great time to shift gears and focus more on the bedding areas. Here, you can find a big buck getting up out of his bed to tend his scrapes, buck rubs and ultimately scope out the competition. Deer hunting is all about adapting and not just continually sitting in the same tree stand every weekend. You become too predictable and mature bucks and other big game will already have you pinned down for the entire deer season.
In areas where there are fewer deer, you can focus on the core areas where you see the most deer sign. The pre-rut is a great time to capitalize on buck movement coming off the bean fields and into different movement patterns. Waiting for a cold front can increase buck activity and deer sightings in your hunting area.
No matter what, you only increase your hunting opportunities on a nice buck if you get out and hunt. As bow season closes and muzzleloader season makes way for rifle season — deer behavior is always changing. Change your behavior as a hunter, become optimistic and your chances at a trophy buck will increase tremendously.
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