Navigating the October Lull
If you subscribe to the popular deer hunting theory of the October lull, we have some bad news for you. The lull is officially here, and we're only in the beginning of it all. Just when we thought that warm early-season weather was exiting stage left in exchange for prime hunting conditions, the October lull rears its ugly head.
If you aren't familiar, the October lull is a famed period during the first two or three weeks of October when deer movement seemingly dries up. Big bucks go into hiding and the overall deer movement just slows down. There is definitely some truth to the October lull, but there is a whole lot of myth to it as well.
Numerous studies, both professional and amateur, have attempted to determine if the October lull is truth or myth. Most of the findings actually suggest that a true lull in movement is more myth than anything else. Deer movement actually increases ahead of the November breeding cycle.
What actually changes is when and where deer move, which obviously impacts observed movement from your blind or treestand.
A Visibility Issue
Contrary to the old hunter's folk tale, deer do not up and move away during the middle of October. They are simply adjusting with the landscape, and we have to adjust with them as hunters. As crop fields defoliate and get harvested, movement patterns change. As acorns explode and native browse becomes ripe, movement patterns change. We also have to remember that daylight hours begin to dwindle, so we have that to navigate as well. All of this equates to a visibility issue. Deer are still moving during the famed October lull. In fact, they are eating more food now than at any point in the season. Trying to pack on the pounds before the rut and a long winter. They are simply moving in areas where hunters are less likely to see them, and possibly moving a lot after nightfall.
We hit on this a decent amount in the point above, but it's worth repeating. October is a month of massive change in the world of a whitetail deer. Think about it. They begin the month on more of an early-season pattern, with a lot of greenery and warm temps. The middle of the month can be a mixed bag of weather, and the greenery starts to dry up. By the end of the month, it's generally cool in terms of temperature, crops are all but harvested, and the mayhem of the rut is kicking off. A lot of the negatives surrounding the so-called October lull actually stem from this period of massive transition.
It's super important to note those transitions and hunt accordingly. You may have seen a giant buck munching away in a green soybean field for months on end during the summer. He's now hammering your neighbor's clover plot because it's nice and green, while that soybean field is yellow or even completely harvested by the farmer. See where I'm going here? You have to make that transition with the deer. It's a big reason why so many bowhunters plant green food plots. It's what Mark and Terry Drury call the green-to-green transfer. As deer transition from feeding on green crops, they're looking for that last available greenery. You can be sitting pretty if that last available greenery is in your food plot. The same can also happen if you lack green food sources but have a ton of acorns. Whitetails will transfer from beans to acorns in a heartbeat. Be there to account for that transition.
Strike When It's Right
It's entirely true that you can't kill a deer from your couch. No matter what period of the season we're talking about, you have to be in the field to harvest a deer. We all know that. At the same time, this touchy transition period that we experience in October is a time when it's best to tread lightly. You can do a lot of harm for the prime weeks ahead by hammering the same location relentlessly during the October lull. Remember that the deer haven't gone on vacation. They are just moving differently. If that big buck that I am after is moving at night, I think it's best if I wait to put pressure on him until I have a decent chance of him moving during shooting hours.
However, it's super tough to know when that daylight movement pattern will begin. You can look to your trail cameras, but everything tends to be in hindsight. You also have to intrude in some regard to collect that SD card. So, I like to take something of a hybrid approach to the middle of October.
Let's face it, we all want to be out there. Leaves are changing, the temps are cooling, and it just feels like deer season. Nobody wants to sit at home and think about what could have been. At the same time, we have to remember just how easy it is to burn a stand out during this month. Thus, I like to strike when the iron is hot. It's really not that hard.
If the weather, and remember that the weather is the ultimate trump-card in deer hunting, is right, then I'm going to have my butt in a blind or a treestand. It's that simple. October lull or not, I'm hunting when the conditions are right. Looking for those coveted cold fronts and high barometric pressure. That also means that I'm sitting back and letting things be when conditions are not right. This week is a perfect example.
The first week of October has been slamming us with 80-degree highs in my area of Ohio. I've elected to let this warm period pass by in anticipation of prime conditions starting on October 12. Bypassing any unnecessary pressure and putting myself in position to hunt hard when the weather is right.
It's all in the details when you're hunting the transition period known as the October lull. While we can't be afraid to hit the field when conditions are right, we have to be smart. Accounting for the changing landscape along the way.
We can talk all we want about how bad the October lull is, but you and I both know that we will see giant bucks popping up on social media timelines. When the weather gets right and the month of October rolls along, whitetails are going to do their thing.
An October lull may just be a popular excuse for unlucky hunters. A popular excuse for those who fail to adjust, or at least for those who fail to pick up on all of the change happening across the whitetail's range.