Whether myth, or science fact, how you can be successful this time of season!
The “October Lull” is almost a part of folklore, or legend when it comes to whitetail hunting. Some say they’ve seen it, others, that it doesn’t exist. But does it exist, if so what causes it, and what can you do to be successful in this challenging part of hunting season? Let’s break it down take a look!
Disclosure: As with any topic of debate, let me first say I’m presenting my perspective, which is based on what I’ve observed, researched, and absorbed over 25 years of hunting. It is not an exact science, but more a body of information that seems to point to a strong conclusion, with valid evidence that I think all hunters can gain from.
Lull Defined: For this article, the October Lull will be defined as the time period after summer, and before the pre-rut period, where bucks seem to disappear or are not very visible. Maybe you’ve seen them in fields all summer, and they don’t show again in your area until late October when they have breeding in mind. This time period is usually (depending on part of the country) from about the first week of October, until the last week or few days of October. In my home state of Michigan, this is typically right after the first few days of opener (October 1st) until about the 25th or so of the month.
Public vs. Private - a BIG difference: First, when we are talking normal, unpressured whitetail behavior, this is very different than discussing hunted/pressured whitetail behavior. This factor, I believe, affects the “October Lull,” more than anything. Other factors, such as bachelor buck group breakup, changing food sources, and establishing home ranges, combine with this to give us the “Lull” effect. It is real, and the degree of severity may fluctuate based on these factors, but again is highly dependent on how much hunting pressure is in your area.
Private: Let’s first look at private land, or a perfect scenario of no-pressure whitetail. How will the deer behave with no hunters around? Well, they will definitely change behavior after the summer period and velvet is off. Bachelor buck groups will break up, and bucks will define home ranges, many of them changing locations and “disappearing.” This is natural. Also, as food sources change, so will their feeding habits. Ag fields (beans browning up, etc.), will be less attractive, and mast like acorns will be a preferred source. And yes, some bucks possibly just like to move at night more, especially mature bucks. This seems to be a hard-wired, self-defense mechanism that might not be as prevalent in no pressure situations, but is still there and may takeover at any time. So even on low to no pressure areas, finding these deer, especially bucks will be more difficult, and daylight movement might decrease moderately. However, depending on the individual buck (each having his own personality), they may still make appearances in daylight as they should feel more comfortable to do this.
Public: High pressured areas are a whole different story. Not only do we have the factors above changing deer behavior, and making them harder to see or find, but we have the instinct to stay alive kicking in high gear. As I said, I believe this is the dominant factor to the observed “October Lull,” and what makes sightings decrease the most for hunters across the country. We simply have hunters hitting the woods hard core, and the deer predictably feel this and react. Wary bucks, are seeing, hearing, and smelling hunters in their home, and react immediately. Zero tolerance.They head to hard to get to areas, and decrease movement by at least 1/3rd according to studies. So, not only are they naturally changing patterns due to becoming solitary, changing food sources, and natural instincts, but they are now forced to make drastic changes to stay alive, thus decreasing sightings dramatically for hunters that do not realize this or change their tactics.
Beat the October Lull?
Depending on your area, there are several decisions for you to make:
1. Stay Out. This might be hard for some to face, but statistics are not on your side during the October Lull. Instead of heading out, maybe you should be at home prepping for late October instead of adding more pressure to your favorite spots. Or you can try some very low-impact, or throw-away spots that you do not care about too much if you do screw up (that buddy’s spot who screwed you up last year..). Yes, it’s hard to stay out of the woods curing hunting season, but many very successful hunters hunt less, and produce more because of a little self-control, and knowing WHEN to be in the woods (waiting until prerut/rut activity and picking the best days/conditions).
2. Find the food. If you just can’t do #1, then find the new food source. This could still be an Ag field they are hitting at night, but also check for dropping acorns (especially near heavy cover/bedding where they feel secure to make a daylight appearance) as well as fruit trees. The key here is finding how they are getting to it (maybe not hunting over it) and finding a quality interception point where you can get in and out undetected. Again, if you hunt a high pressure area, you’ll need to be closer to bedding, if hunting low-pressure, you may be able to hunt over the food source depending on activity in your area.
3. Scout and stay vigilant. Many times I’m so busy hunting, I lose sight of what changes in behavior are really taking place. So, don’t forget to get out of the stand some, and put some boots on the ground scouting. Find where the hotspots are now, not where they were this summer or last week. These can change on almost a daily, at least weekly basis, especially in heavily pressured areas. When you start to see fresh sign, hunt it immediately before it changes once again.
4. Find that Cold Front. It seems that no matter the time of year, if we get a drop of 10 or more degrees, this triggers deer movement. If you one coming, take full advantage of it along with the scouting you’ve done and be in place to catch a lull buck on the move!
5. Enjoy it. Realize, you may or may not score on a nice buck during the “lull,” but enjoy the time you have in the woods, gather as much information as possible (gathering knowledge and learning for next year to hopefully put the pieces together better), and know that time spent preparing now will help you deliver when things change dramatically in a few weeks, and we’re past the dreaded “October Lull!”
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