After lazy weeks of fattening up on grain and acorns in summer and early fall, whitetail bucks get antsy and start to move around more in mid-October. Historical “rut curves” assembled by biologists over decades show that bucks really begin to rev up their scraping right now, around October 20. Better yet, the data show that 5 to 7 percent of a herd’s does are bred by bucks around October 21, give or take a few days. That’s not a whole lot, but good things happen when bucks start to rip more scrapes and prowl for the first estrus does. The more they are on their feet, the better your chances of seeing and shooting one.
Bonus: There’s little hunting pressure in the woods as compared to what you’ll find later in the peak November rut, so now is a good time to be there.
Best conditions: The thing that kills October hunting is warm to hot weather. But when a cold front blows in and drops the temperature 20 or 30 degrees, perfect. The cooler weather will kick deer into moving more. That will occur in the Eastern U.S. this weekend, where I predict the buck movement and hunting will get better. For example, after a week of 80-plus Indian Summer days here in Virginia, a front will blow through later this afternoon, and the low tomorrow morning will be 44. Although it will heat back up soon, the next couple of days should be good.
Best tree stand: If possible, hang a stand on an oak ridge within 100 yards or so of a corn, soybean or alfalfa field. Set up near a well-used deer trail or creek crossing if you find one. It is a good acorn year in many areas. Many deer will browse on the ridge before moving out to the crops at dusk, if they ever leave the ridge at all. Be ready.
Good Tactics: Try setting 2 scent wicks near your stand, one doused with buck urine and the other with hot doe. (Check your regs, with CWD disease a concern, some states have banned real deer urine, and you’ll have to use a synthetic scent.) When bucks start to prowl, they may circle in to either lure, to fight a rival or love on a gal. Have your grunt call ready and blow it occasionally. A buck might hear it and veer over. Good luck.