October can be the most trying month of whitetail season. Why? Some call it the “October lull.” Whitetail bucks are in major transition. There’s a lot going on in their world, including topping off a deer gut, maintaining pecking-order status, controlling raging testosterone and dealing with daily paranoia. When you add up this lineup it’s difficult to believe a mature whitetail buck isn’t appearing on “Dr. Phil” for counseling.
If you want to get in on October buck action, you need to abandon the strategy you’ve been using in September and get a handle on your rushed enthusiasm for the upcoming rut. Both of these behavior windows can have a factor in success, but tailor them to the character of cagey October whitetails.
1. Think food. Yes, bucks are trying to get a deer gut and most are successful by October. They need to bulk up for the rut and winter. Unfortunately, their days of gallivanting in the wide open are in the past. Look for acorns, apples and hidden browse that can sustain a buck until darkness allows them to visit their favorite farm fields or feeding spots.
2. Rely on your game cameras. Now’s the time to use your game cams to pinpoint hidden travel routes of big bucks, but be cautious. Too many visits to your cameras can reveal your true intentions to a buck. Place cameras in easy-to-access areas and limit your inspections to once a week if possible. If legal, use attractants such as Monster Raxx Trophy Minerals to get bucks in front of cameras.
3. Snoop around the bachelor groups. Although mature bucks might abandon bachelor groups, they could still be following the pattern set by the youngsters. Look for them to use the same trails, but enter and leave the fields at a much later time. You’ll likely have only minutes of shooting light on a field-edge setup, so moving back into the timber by 50 yards or so could be the winning ticket.
4. Look for rut traps. As you scout for October whitetails, pay special attention to the new rut clues that will be showing up daily. Look for big rubs in conspicuous lines and watch for scrapes that are receiving the most attention. When you see a pattern, get a treestand in place for a future ambush.
October can be trying for whitetail hunters, but it can also be a successful time period if you change your tactics. If you don’t score in October, your efforts will certainly pay off in November with all your pre-scouting efforts.