October Lull of Whitetail Deer
As all whitetail deer hunters are aware, whitetail deer inhabit different kinds of terrain during different times of the year. Most whitetail deer hunters prefer to hunt during the rut or what is called the breeding season of whitetail deer. Some hunters who pursue whitetail deer prefer very early season hunts when big bucks are very predictable as they feed in the same places each evening. A lot of hunters prefer to hunt late season during bitter cold temperatures over food sources as during this time of year whitetail deer are forced to familiar feeding areas in great numbers. However there is a time period during the hunting season when some whitetail deer hunters do not prefer to hunt. This time period is often referred to as the October lull. Believe it or not this is my favorite time of year to hunt trophy whitetail bucks. Many reasons uphold my preference of this time frame called the October lull.
The truth surrounding this time period is that the reason whitetail deer hunters sometimes frown about it, is because they do not understand whitetail movement during this timeframe. We will visit and attempt to educate just what the October lull is, as well as provide strategies for harvesting monster whitetail deer during this time. You may not know what your missing out on.
After about the first ten days in October the whitetail deer that you were seeing sometimes seem to just disappear. There are many few reasons for this, however trust me whitetail deer don’t just disappear. The fact is that the average whitetail deer hunter doesn’t understand where the deer have gone to, nor how to set up on them properly thus they curse this time period and simply refer to it as the Ocotber lull. Kind of like in society when people use the phrase, “Blame it on the Moon”, or as Flip Wilson used to say, “The Devil made me do it.” Mere excuses for a lack of a understanding or taking responsibility.
A whitetail deer eats about 8 to 11 pounds of food each day and about 1 ½ to 2 tons of food each year. (Those poor farmers.) Most of their food comes from the natural food sources, such as; acorns, leaves, pine needles, wild berries and lichens. Understanding how food sources change during what many refer to as the October lull of whitetail deer is the key to your success. Anybody can sit in a funnel during the rut, or hang out on the edge of a field with a rifle during firearms season, but only the true whitetail enthusiast understands how to kill monster bucks during the October lull of whitetail deer. Understanding food sources will pinpoint whitetail deer movements during October. 60% of a deer's diet comes from natural food, which most hunters forget about and never learn how to identify when deer crave these natural foods. Perhaps during this time period whitetail deer instinctually crave natural food sources to gear up for the rut. Who knows? I stopped trying to think about them along time ago, but rather learn how to successfully adjust to their movement to be successful.
I have learned that the most favorite food source which is high in minerals and protein which helps deer gear up for the rut is acorns. Acorns are one of the most important wildlife foods in areas where oaks occur. Acorns are attractive to animals because they are large and thus efficiently consumed or cached. Acorns are also rich in nutrients. Percentages vary from species to species, but all acorns contain large amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats, as well as the minerals calcium, phosphorus and potassium, and the vitamin niacin. Total food energy in an acorn also varies by species, but all compare well with other wild foods and with other nuts. One has to understand that deer instinctually know that they have to gorge themselves with this treat during the October lull if they are to withstand the chases of the oncoming rut. A result of all this breeding activity is that many trophy deer have depleted much of their fat stores while searching out, chasing and breeding does. Many trophy bucks and bucks in general can lose up to and more than 20% of their body fat. Thus as aforementioned you must learn to hunt in the acorns during the October lull for whitetail deer, or you’ll simply think the whitetail deer disappeared. Cmon guys this isn’t rocket science, no offense, but you simply have to change your whitetail deer hunting strategies and adjust to your herd or deer during this time frame.
Some whitetail deer hunters believe the white oak acorns are the preferred acorn of all whitetail deer. While I tend to agree just out of what I’ve read over the years, I have had just as much success hunting pin oaks. The truth is deer just simply love acorns…………………period. Let me give you an example. I live at on a dead end road near a big block of timber and a field of alfalfa. During the summer we watch deer all the time feed in the alfalfa, however when the big oak trees in my front yard begin to produce acorns that riddle our front and back yard during mid October, my wife is constantly calling me to a window to view deer within bowrange of our front porch. Even my wife has this one figured out and she’s never killed a whitetail deer. In like fashion if during this time period I sat in the alfalfa field hunting during the October lull of whitetail deer, my wife would be more successful sitting on our porch with a weapon guarding the acorns. The bottomline as harsh as it may sound is as whitetail hunters we have often times punted our common sense by watching too much television, and accepted the fact that something exists called an October lull for whitetail deer, when the truth is they are simply eating the highest quality foodsource at its peak time to be eaten……………..acorns.
Whitetail deer need to feed about every four hours allowing their four stomachs to regurgitate and predigest their food. This time of the year (early to mid-Oct.) is the best time to take a whitetail deer. I have gutted too many deer over my course of being an outfitter of whitetail deer for 13 years, and checked the contents of the food in their stomach during this time. Studying their contents will explain what types of food they are eating and where you need to be while bowhunting deer at this time of the year. Again no October lull of whitetail deer occurs. Rather our abilities to understand the diet of the whitetails we hunt needs to be enhanced.
Bucks are starting to become more competitive at this time also. I have found that calling with a grunt call or a bleater can is very effective while bowhunting during what many call the October lull. Also, you may rattle antlers by doing so lightly. The younger bucks are trying to figure out their dominance and how well they rank in that particular part of their home front. This causes the bigger bucks to be curious and to check out who is in their neck of the woods.
Learning what deer eat when deer seem to disappear in mid-Oct. will definitely help your chances of being successful during your bowhunting deer season. Three things to investigate are; where do they bed, what are they feeding on and where are they moving to and from during daylight hours. Your sightings of deer during the lull of mid-Oct. bowhunting deer season will improve when you learn the invisible menu of the Whitetail's diet. We have captured the largest whitetail bucks on trail cameras during October over the past 13 years. Trust and believe brothers and sisters that it is during this time period that other whitetail deer hunters have given up in are simply waiting for the rut. Because of this I have watched the biggest of bucks waltz carelessly through any corn Colonies producing mast with their heads to the ground so engrossed in gorging themselves with the delicious treat that they literally become more vulnerable than most any other time of the year with the exception of a full blown, daylight houred November rut. Many whitetail hunters do not realize just how much money they can save with whitetail outfitters by focusing on this time frame called the October lull.
A another benefit to hunting mid October for whitetail deer is that the animals concentrate so heavily on slowly walking and peering down at the forest floor consuming acorns that often times the quality of shot opportunity’s at them greatly increase. As opposed to shooting during the rut when your literally trying to shoot a whitetail deer that is running by you 20 mph. Oh yeah, October deer hunting provides high quality shot opportunities without a doubt.
I’m not quite sure how I could claim to be a hunter and a naturalist at the same time. However as corny as it may sound hunting whitetail deer during the October lull is a time when the timber is nothing short of majestic. Colors a vibrant. Wildlife is active. Temperatures are comfortable. It is this time frame that the beauty of god’s creation peaks. I love it.
Over the years, veteran deerhunters have taught me, above everything else, that becoming a consistently successful buck hunter requires serious commitments of time and effort. Yes, there’s a little luck involved, but the overriding factor to taking that buck of your dreams involves making a pledge to study deer and deer behavior. Keep an open mind. Stop believing all the old-time myths, and you’ll start killing bigger whitetail bucks. The best time for killing a hog-bodied buck isn’t when the moon is full or waxing or waning. It isn’t during the first week of early archery seasons when bucks are still in bachelor groups, and it isn’t when the so called October lull gives way to November. The best time to kill a hog-bodied buck is after you’ve done enough scouting to learn where deer travel and when you’ve perched your scent-free body and gear in a tree that he decides to walk by on a given day. Shrug off bad advice. Leave words like never and always out of your deer hunting vocabulary. Above all, don’t be talked out of going to the woods.
Phrases like “October lull” and “nocturnal bucks” are excuses for guys who get their butts kicked and don’t want to admit it. The best old-timer absolute advice I’ve ever heard is, “You’ll never kill a deer if you stay in bed all morning.” When hunters come to camp with us I can tell you that the most dedicated hunters that invest time in their outing are always the ones that have a great hunt. On the other side of the coin it always seems like the slim percentage of hunters that “pittle” and aren’t serious about their deer hunt are the ones that go home unhappy. We can set up the best lodges, lease the best land tracts, have the best guides, supply the best equipment, and do everything with 13 years of experience but if you give me a hunter that won’t listen or pay his dues in the timber by putting in time and stay alert on stand nil can often times be the result. Another key is to use scouting time as effectively as possible. The very nature of most away-from-home hunting trips limits the amount of time spent hunting, much less scouting. In the woods behind your house, you can afford to wander aimlessly as you scout for deer sign; this just isn't true when time is extremely limited. The success realized from a trip often comes down to how effectively the limited time you have is utilized.
Become a trail wizard. Realize that well-worn deer trails aren’t sure-fire tickets to success. Instead of hastily popping up a stand that overlooks a trail, dissect the area and learn how deer use the trail and where it leads in all directions. Read and understand the signs. Buck make rubs and scrapes to provide visual and olfactory signposts for other deer, but deer hunters overrate rubs. Although it’s true that mature bucks living on low-density habitat can be outsmarted along well-defined rub lines, time-strapped hunters are best served by using rubs as starting points for scouting forays. One of the worst mistakes whitetail hunters make when hunting the October lull for whitetail deer is hunting over the most intense and densest deer sign by marching right into the area and setting up a treestand right in the middle of the action. Watch the hot area from a 100 yards away and determine how you can enter that area without being detected. Start out from outside the perimeter of the hottest deer action, appraise the situation, then move closer and closer until you are in the kill zone.
Legit reasons for not successfully patterning deer outside the aforementioned topics often times include huge areas of standing corn where whitetails have learned to hide. Standing corn fields are virtually inpentratable and whitetails use them for cover during certain time periods. However these same cornfields when harvested force huge whitetail deer into your lap in the timber after harvested and provide excellent field edge hunting as well. However hunting standing corn will be covered in an upcoming article. Other legit reasons for a hunter to lose the ability to pattern deer during what some say is the October lull for whitetail deer include the very fact that most whitetail deer hunters don’t focus on this time frame and don’t take to the woods, therefore those hunters aren’t even in the woods hunting in an effort to figure out successful strategies to hunting mid October for whitetail deer in the Midwest. This is the exact reason I love this time period. It’s like you’ve got the whole forest or woodlot to yourself with the element of surprise. As a brief example I harvest a trophy archery buck on Sept 19 in 2009. Within a 3 week span after this I sat in various locations and passed up 8 more trophy bucks at less than 20 yards that were bigger than the one I killed. So I would say to you, “What October lull?” The real issue is nobody is hunting this time period giving way to big buck movement to candid. This time frame is not a time to just sit back and wait for the rut of the whitetail deer. This is the time to get to the timber and hunt the undisturbed areas with the element of surprise.
If you look at the homepage of our website at www.imbmonsterbucks.com you will see an article called “Fling and a Prayer”. As you read the article the writer from Buckmasters kills a 164 inch deer and his buddy is avidly chasing after a 200 inch plus buck that he never arrows. As you read this article is actually reads as if they are hunting the peak of the rut in Pike County, Illinois. The dates that hunter was in camp was October 12th to October 16. Oh yeah. Ask him how he feels about the real truth regarding any type of October lull for whitetail deer. He’ll probably laugh at you.
Hunting Acorns during the October lull is the key. In deer hunting, hunting over acorns may be as close to a sure thing as you can get. But it's not quite as simple as merely hanging a stand in an oak tree and taking your pick of the deer as they parade by. It can be that simple, but there are some clear strategies you should know -- particularly if you're bowhunting in the early season when close shots are the rule. Hunting "the woods" presents its own set of problems and challenges, and can be intimidating to people accustomed to hunting over food plots. Let's look at different situations at various times of the day and year, and see if we can lessen the intimidation of hunting the acorn crop.
When acorns are on the ground, especially during the early season when deer haven't yet felt hunting pressure, the animals move throughout the day. It's not unreasonable to expect deer to bed down just after the sun comes up, and then return to feed on acorns a few hours later.
Setting up along a travel route between oak trees and bedding areas can be effective at catching deer moving during the midday period. But I've found that sitting in the middle of the oak trees is more effective, particularly when those oaks are on a hilltop. For some reason, deer seem to be attracted to hilltop oak stands between 2 PM and 5 PM. Let’s face it when the deer go to eating acorns during the October lull they are within the confines of the woods and feel much safer working throughout the woodlot as they feel safe. At those times, an acorn-covered hilltop is going to be my first choice.
Much can be said about acorn production in general terms, but there are very few absolutes. Oak trees with large crowns generally produce more nuts than smaller oaks. Excellent acorn years are sometimes -- but not always -- followed by poor ones. Rainfall, wind, frost, disease, and many other factors can influence acorn production. But depending on the species, the effects might not be seen for two to seven years later. Similarly, one tree might produce an abundant harvest while a similar tree a few yards away might be barren. This is when it becomes important for hunters to set up an ambush based on this food source. It's easy to tell when deer have been feeding on these acorns, as nearly every dead leaf around the trees will be tuned over. Since these oaks' nuts are much smaller than white oak acorns, they fall in between the leaves and become buried. Deer and other wildlife scavenge on them voraciously.
Sorry folks do not mean to stir the pot but I have never experienced an October lull for whitetail deer. When the white oaks start dropping acorns, the deer are there and feeding heavily. The problem we have is so many eyes it is hard to get close without getting busted, even in a treestand the slightest movement will get you busted. I have taken many great bucks during October.