Looking to tag out in the toughest month? Keep an eye on the weather forecast and hunt when conditions take a turn for the worse.
When it comes to hunting whitetails, October is a throw-away month for many hunters—at least the first three weeks, anyway. This mindset stems from overblown credit given to the dreaded “lull,” and the fact that a lot of whitetail-hunting advice is dispensed from hunters who live in states such as Iowa, where the firearms’ season doesn’t interrupt rut-time bowhunting.
For the rest of us, who still wish to sit in a stand every chance we can and make the most of valuable hunting time, October gives us a chance. This is especially true when the weather gets downright nasty. Deer, now sporting their winter coats and not overly concerned with rutting activity, will move more during periods of weather that seem far more conducive to staring skyward in search of approaching mallards than climbing into a stand.
To capitalize on the best-of-a-worse-case scenario, pay close attention to the weather and plan your October hunting time around the following:
COLD FRONTS, HOT HUNTING. This past summer, throughout much of the Upper Midwest and nation in general, we dealt with near-record heat. The scorching daylight temperatures didn’t do much for deer movement; however, like all warm fronts, it came to an end. What rolled in after the heat was a cold front, which is always good news for whitetail hunters. What sometimes follows a first cold front, though, can be an even better gift—another cold front. When temperatures that can range easily to 80-degree daytime highs suddenly drop into the 40s, you’ve been gifted a perfect opportunity to climb into a stand. In fact, during a very specific string of “piggy back” cold fronts I started getting frequent texts and phone calls from hunting buddies about encounters with big bucks. This was no coincidence. Conditions felt like the second week of November, not mid-October, when conventional wisdom says that the deer hunting should flat-out stink.
DUAL-PURPOSE RAINS. Precipitation in the light to heavy category will get deer on the move. True downpours that cause arc-building thoughts might be worth sitting out, but you better try to get into a stand as soon as the rain lets up. Deer will move then, if they haven’t already. Better yet, unlike cold fronts, rain keeps other hunters out. This is a bonus for those of us hunting public land or pressured private ground.
TOO HOT FOR THE COMPETITION. Regarding hunting when others won’t, it really does pay to hunt during those hot days of October. I know they are the least appealing, but your competition is likely to agree…and stay home. A single day with sweat-inducing heat might not be worth it, but a sustained heat wave will offer an opportunity and it’s very simple: Sit the water. Creeks, ponds, rivers, puddles, cattle tanks or any other place where the deer can stay in cover and slake their thirst are good bets. To up your odds, consider sitting water close to a green food source such as alfalfa or hay.
You’ll have the woods to yourself when it gets truly hot, and provided you play the wind to keep your sweaty, stinky body from tipping off approaching deer, you’ll be in on action. This is the least fun time to hunt. However, the misery will only last until you see a mature buck working his way toward you. Then those thoughts of crisp November mornings will drop through the trapdoor in your mind to make room for the present need to range, settle the pin and send an arrow on its way.
TAKE ON THE OCTOBER CHALLENGE. Without a doubt, mid October isn’t the best time to kill a mature buck. They are still out there, though, and they will move during daylight. This gives you a chance, especially if you take the time to follow the weather patterns and capitalize on the changing conditions. It only takes a single deviation from normal patterns to get bucks on their feet. In the end, the only absolute certainty is this: You won’t tag one if you stay home like the rest of the weekend warriors.