October 12, 2021
By Clint Casper
Bowhunting mature whitetail bucks is often referred to as a science or a meticulous game of chess. It's a cat and mouse type atmosphere when a bowhunter decides to go head to head with a majestic buck. Although a bowhunting season may seem long, they tend to fly by at a fast and rapid rate and are gone before we know it. So why do so many bowhunters only hunt during November when the rut is their only hope? Why do we put all the chips in on a month that is full of luck and chaos, rather than rely on patterns and predictibility? In my opinion, there is no better month to go all in on a buck than the month of October — and I've got many good reasons for that.
Why Wait? Get After it Now!
Contrary to popular belief, the rut is not the only time to hunt a big buck! This is especially true if you're bowhunting a specific buck that you've watched all summer and fall, but now have no idea where he may be! Early October can be absolutely awesome bowhunting if a plan is put into place. By utilizing your summer scouting and running trail cameras, we can find the flaw in a bucks armor and take advantage of the patterns that he shows right off the bat when the season opens up. This is a great time to make an aggressive move and go in after a buck because he has not been hunted for months and may still be on a very predictable pattern. But beware, this will not last for long! So we must jump on this strategy right out of the gate. Key in on a bucks preferred wind direction and daily movements in daylight. This should give a bowhunter a solid pattern to slip in on his target buck.
Adapting to Hot Sign
October is the best month to hunt the hottest, freshest sign. As the month goes on, bucks become more and more excited as the rut nears. Knowing that they will be breeding soon creates an abundance of adrenaline and testosterone, which leads to bucks rubbing and scraping all over their preferred bedding and feeding areas. There is no month during hunting season where more sign will be available than in October. These clues can help us get on a good buck immediately. The hottest sign during this month can tell us where the best feed is and where the deer want to be at the present time. This gives us valuable clues to base our daily hunting plans and predictions on. Unlike the rut, where sign can be scattered and very unpredictable, October provides us with clues that coordinate a pattern to them. This is huge when trying to locate a buck that has gone missing after the season opener! Also, don't forget to pay close attention to the farmers. When corn and beans start coming down, deer start diving into these freshly picked areas to scoop up the feed that's left behind.
Every year I hear and see so many people talk about the "October Lull" and how it shuts down deer movement. In my experience — 23 plus years of bowhunting — this couldn't be further from the truth. In October, a whitetail buck needs to feed and move more than ever before. With the rut and winter coming, a buck knows he must pack on as many calories per day as possible because he will lose so much chasing does in November.
With this being said, October is a month when feed is changing rapidly and so are the deer. If you're not on the hottest sign and keeping up with the ever-changing patterns, you'll struggle to find deer. Crops being harvested, acorns dropping, apples falling, etc. are all taking place this month. If you're not seeing deer, don't go to the next county to find them — instead focus on where the best, most available feed is in that current area and I guarantee you'll get back on bucks. Bucks in October are like a high school football team during preseason scrimmages — they're ready to bust loose and get the game of breeding going. With that in mind, remember that these deer are preparing for battle. They need to feed and concentrate on where the does are, and want to keep tabs on them waiting for that first doe to hit estrous. Do yourself a favor and don't fall into the "lull" trap during October. Find the feed, find the hot sign, and you'll find the bucks!
Be First to the Party
The end of October can be some of the best action of the entire year! With does becoming close to estrous and bucks testosterone at an all-time high, these last few weeks of October can be outstanding for buck movement! Bucks will be cruising doe bedding and feeding areas, while checking each doe for estrous. This is the perfect time to start hunting saddles, funnels, pinch points and doe concentrated areas awaiting the pre-rut action to explode. Be ready because once this action heats up it'll only get better from there. Don't wait for that November calendar flip, go kill your buck now!