October Deer Tip: Hunt Mast And Browse

GreenacornslrSome good hunters I know don’t hunt their best stands until around Halloween, and then they hunt them hard for the next 3 weeks. Their strategy is sound: put no pressure on bucks until they start rutting and moving more in daylight hours.


Good in theory, yes, but I don’t believe that approach is practical for most of us. You’re busy…you hunt when you can. If that happens to be in October, great. The woods are beautiful, the weather is nice and there are fewer people in the timber than there will be come November. There are opportunities to get your buck, and here is one thing to keep in mind.

Grant Woods, one of the premier whitetail scientists in America and a seasoned archer who hunts as many days as he can in October, says to key on what the deer are eating  now.

“If you’re not seeing deer in October, you aren’t hunting in the right places,” he says. “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.”

According to Grant, the main reason deer seemingly disappear during early October is a change in their diets, and subsequently a change in their movements.  In summer and throughout September they fed often in crop fields, where they were visible. “But now many deer feed on browse and mast inside the woods, and they aren’t as easily seen,” he says. “Mast is a very strong attractant, and bucks will abandon their summer forage patterns when acorns start dropping. Find the mast and you’ll find some bucks.”

Most hunters know to look for acorns. But an overlooked strategy is not to focus enough on thickets in the woods, and the cover and browse they provide for deer. As they mender through the October woods between bedding covers and mast trees and fields, bucks veer here and there to walk through thickets, where they linger and nibble leaves, buds and stems. Look for trails with recent tracks leading to and from thickets; fresh rubs and scrapes nearby make the setup even better. Play the prevailing wind, and hang a stand for an ambush.


DIY Deer Project: Wood Pallet Ground Blind

Saw this and thought it was a cool way to save a few bucks.

As the story indicates shipping pallets are usually free, as many businesses just want to get rid of them. You haul them off and everybody’s happy:

pallet blind 1 pete young

The one-man, full-height blind consists of 6 pallets, two 2×2 corner strips, and a handful of wood screws….  have all your pieces cut (including shooting windows) and ready to assemble prior to going into the woods with it. Then all you need is a cordless screwdriver and you can erect the blind at your hunting spot…

pallet blind 2

For a roof add a couple of wood slats and a scrap piece of tarp…staple roofing felt around the inside to make it warmer…wrap your DIY shooting house with camouflage burlap or netting…add on more pallets to expand and create a two-man blind.

There’s a blueprint for the pallet blind click here to see it.

Story and photo credit: Pete Young


October 20: The Best Deer Hunting Starts This Weekend

laruebuckiowaHistorical “rut curves” assembled by whitetail biologists over decades show that bucks really begin to rev up their scraping around October 20. Better yet, the data show that 5 to 7 percent of a herd’s does are bred by bucks on October 21, give or takes a few days. That’s not a lot, but good things happen when bucks start to rip scrapes and prowl for the first estrus does. The more they are on their feet, the better your chances of shooting one.

The big thing that can kill October hunting is warm weather. But when a cold snap blows in and drops the temperature 20 or 30 degrees, perfect. The cooler weather will kick deer into moving more. That is happening in many areas right now, so plan to get out there.

Stand to try: this weekend: Hang a stand on an oak ridge within 200 yards or so of a corn or soybean field. Set up near a well-used deer trail or creek crossing where the wind is right. 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.

Tactic to try: Try setting 2 scent wicks near your stand, one doused with buck urine and the other with hot doe. (Remember to check your regulations; with CWD 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.

Nebraska Giant Bow Buck, 196 Inches!

ne 2018 giantAndy Morgan, co-host of American Archer on Outdoor Channel, shot one of the largest whitetails ever on film with bow and arrow last week in central Nebraska. The giant green-scores 196 5/8, and is believed to be at least 7 years old.

Morgan, from Dayton, Tennessee, has been hunting Nebraska for 15 years. He encountered this buck as a 3-year-old, but passed on him. Andy didn’t see the deer for the next 3 years, and thought he was gone. But the giant popped up on a trail cam earlier this year, and he knew immediately this would be his target buck for the 2018 archery season.

Andy got his opportunity a few days ago and capitalized. He shot the buck at 46 yards from a tree stand he had hung just a couple of hours earlier. It was a perfect double-lung, and the deer ran 200 yards before dropping.

Takeaway: The best way to kill a big deer sometimes is to go on sneak attack for a quick-strike ambush. If you have evidence a buck is walking in daylight, don’t be afraid to go in, hang a stand, and hunt right then and there, like Andy did for this giant.

Way to go man, great job and awesome buck.

Will There Be Two Deer Ruts In 2018?

I saw this article by Oak Duke, a writer and hunter from New York, and I think he might be onto something. Oak wrote:

The 2018 whitetail rut should unfold as a mirror image of the 1999 and 2010 events, very early for bow hunters, and then great for those of us who carry a gun into the deer woods in New York and Pennsylvania.

2018 will feature a bifurcated rut … two-pronged.

Oak’s theory revolves around full moons. In September, the moon was full just two days away from the Autumnal Equinox. He says that when this celestial conjunction occurs (the moon and the equinox at the same time) we witness early rutting activity:

Deer hunters best be prepared for what is going to occur, a very early and abbreviated main spike in rut activity prior and through Halloween this upcoming season. A second major peak will reach its crescendo around Thanksgiving, a traditional late rut in the wheelhouse of the gun season.

va buck check early scrape 2018

I see signs that this is indeed occurring, and I have Spartan trail-camera images from here in Virginia to back it up. In the image above, a buck checks one of 10 very early scrapes we found along the edge of a power line. In the image below, two bucks square off in a sparring match near the scrapes (note body of buck on the left, mature).

va bucks 2018 early sparring

Check the date and moon on both photos—September 22, the date of the Autumnal Equinox, and the moon is nearly full!

So yes, there is evidence that an early mini-rut occurred in mid- to late September. While Oak Duke believes this will continue into Halloween, I’m not so sure about that. Starting around October 1, from wireless cameras I have set out in several states, I have noticed a discernible decline in buck sightings and rut behavior.

But I agree wholeheartedly with Duke that a second major peak (the primary rut) will occur around Thanksgiving, when, not coincidentally, the moon will again wax full on November 23. I blogged about this in my 2018 Big Deer Moon/Rut Guide, click here if you missed it.

Bottom line, while the first rut of 2018 is long gone, the second and better one is still 6 weeks away. Good luck!