Some really good buck hunters I know don’t hunt their best covers and stands until around Halloween and into November, as the rut starts rocking. Their strategy is sound—put no pressure on the bucks until there are moving more with their guard down, and especially in daylight. But I don’t believe that kind of thinking and approach are best for most guys. You’re busy, and you hunt when you can.
If that happens to be now in early October, great. The woods are turning beautiful, there are fewer hunters roaming around than there will be in November, and there are good opportunities to get your buck.
My friend Grant Woods, one of the premier whitetail scientists in the U.S. and a seasoned archer who hunts much in October, offers this advice for hunting a big deer these next few weeks. As you will learn, it’s all about finding out what the deer in your woods are eating right this minute.
“If you’re not seeing bucks, you aren’t hunting in the right places. Deer change their behavior as they go from summer to fall patterns. Our telemetry studies don’t show any let-up in feeding activity during the so-called ‘lull’ in October, you’ve just got to find them.”
“One of the main reasons deer sometimes seemingly disappear during early bow season is a change in their diets. They are feeding more on browse and mast inside the cover where they aren’t as visible. Mast is a very strong attractant, and bucks will abandon their summer forage patterns when acorns start dropping. You may have patterned a buck during the summer on a lush field or food plot only to have him disappear when the season opens. That is usually due to a change in his diet. Find out what the deer are eating, and you’ll find the bucks.”
“One thing you can do is get inside a deer’s gut. Find out what the deer are eating right now. Use an antlerless tag (when and where legal) and shoot a doe to see what she has been eating. Or gut a buck or doe that a friend or neighbor shoots, and see what’s inside its stomach.”
Those fresh food fragments you find in a deer’s gut (acorns, grain, greenery, leaves, whatever) tell you where to hunt. Move your stands into areas thick with the specific feed that the deer are gorging, and you’ll spot more animals…and maybe shoot a good buck.