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.

 

New Research: Deer Jumping The String

grant deer drop jump stringMy friend Dr. Grant Woods, one of the top whitetail scientists in the world, recently produced a must-watch video with some new observations about deer jumping the bow string.

Grant worked with an engineer and avid bowhunter who devised a computerized device to record the sound of a bow going off, test the speed of gravity, etc.  Sounds complex, but when you watch and listen to the video it’s much clearer.

They set up a range…took shots at 20, 30 and 40 yards with bows that shot between 258 and 315 fps… and recorded the data. Then they watched many video clips of actual hunts, with deer ducking and twirling as they heard the sound of bow shots. Grant and team put it all together and came up with a few observations:

When a bow goes off and a deer hears it, many of them instinctively drop toward the ground, but some do not. Some old advice is still good advice—aim at the lower third of a deer’s vitals on every shot. Deer drops, you get middle or high lungs. Deer does not drop, your arrow pierces lower lungs and heart.

With their shot tests in this study driving home the point how much a deer might drop—maybe 6 inches to more than 10 inches at 40 yards—Grant and colleagues studied the demeanor and position of deer that ducked the string on the hunting videos. They noticed that alert deer (pressured, sense something is not right, etc.) are much more likely to drop at the bow shot than a calm deer. It’s always best to shoot at a deer that appears calm and unaware of your presence.

This is new and major: Grant noticed that a deer with its head down tends to drop more and faster than a deer with its head up. The theory is that with its head down, a deer can easily drop its front end, then throw his head up in a flash as it wheels and bolts away.  This happens so often that Grant will now try to avoid shots at deer with their head down.

With the data and observation driving home how much a deer might drop, Grant says he will now be re-evaluating his shots at whitetails. He goes so far as to say he hopes to keep most shots 20 yards and under, and will carefully evaluate 30-yard shots. He says a hunter has to be extremely careful about taking a 40-yard shot, and now he’ll likely pass at that distance.

Watch the video.

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.

2 Awesome Bow Stands

hanback w Milk River buck

Forget the rut for now. The first days of your archery season in September or October can be a great time to whack a 10-pointer. The bucks are relatively docile and locked into their summer/early fall bed-to-feed patterns. So long as you don’t press them too hard, they’ll keep moving reasonably well at dawn and dusk. Tweak these setups to your land and tag out early.

The Choke Point

One September I hunted in sprawling alfalfa and corn country where you could see deer coming and going for miles. The only way to have a fighting chance with a bow in a big spot like that is to narrow the country down, way down.

During the middle of the day when the deer were inactive, I looked around for two hours and sized things up. Then I tucked a tree stand back in a shady edge where a tractor path crossed a strip of weeds. There was a thin strip of timber upwind of my stand, and another strip 40 yards east of the farm road. I figured any deer that came off the alfalfa the next morning would gravitate to this choke point. If a shooter walked through there…

An hour after dawn, I glassed two racks a mile away. It took them a while to get to me. Around eight o’clock, the bucks hit the dirt road and walked down it. They turned, took the weed funnel between the tree strips and walked broadside 30 yards below. I nailed the 8-pointer in the lead.

To me, bowhunting for whitetails is all about edges and choke points, or spots where old roads, strips of trees, pockets of weeds and other terrains and covers converge. The more of these “fringe areas” the better. Deer walk the edges year-round, and they especially use them when traveling to and from food sources in archery season. Set up where three or four strips and edges meet, and you’re apt to smoke a good buck like I did that morning.

Corner a Buck

Anytime I hunt a crop field I look for the nearest fence and walk it out to the corners. You can never scout too much, just be low-impact about it. Inevitably I find a corner with a lot of deer sign—tracks, a trail and maybe tufts of hair on the barbed-wire where deer are jumping it.

A fence corner is a natural place for deer to travel, and a natural spot for you to set up. A prime corner to hunt will have lots of brushy cover, and at least one stout tree nearby for a stand. But if the sign is there and cover is sparse, I’ll play the wind and set up a small brush blind 35 yards or so off the corner. On the ground makes it tougher…and all the sweeter if you stick your buck in the corner.

2018 Deer Season Kicks Off With Big Velvet Bucks

manitoba 2018

One good thing about Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is that once early deer seasons open up, big velvet bucks start popping up on your phone. From what I’ve seen so far from this anecdotal evidence, 2018 is shaping up to be a good if not great year for big racks across North America.

The buck above was killed in Manitoba, where archery season opens in August. I’ve seen a few big deer from Saskatchewan too, but Alberta has been the best, with hunters having shot several deer pushing 200 inches. This portends more huge bucks will be killed in Canada in 2018 as the rut comes on and rifle seasons open in November.

Tennessee held its first velvet buck hunt in August, and some good deer were shot. Once again, monsters were shot in early September in Kentucky, though I have not seen as many posted as last year. New Jersey, a sleeper state for archery whitetails, has produced some nice bucks.

manitoba 2018 2

It has been an unusual summer of 2018. I’ve talked to hunters across the country who have gotten far fewer big deer on their trail cameras than in summers past, though with the velvet now off more good bucks are starting to show up. It’s been like that here in the Virginia Piedmont, and I think all the rain we’ve has this summer has something to do with it.

Actually, the fact that it has been so wet in so many places this year is another reason I predict the hunting will be good this fall. Good moisture years grow big racks.

Better yet, there were minimal reports of EHD anywhere in the country, and with the first frosts coming on that threat has largely passed.

Bottom line: You have a good to great chance to shoot a big deer this season, so hunt hard and safe. Good luck!