Bowhunting Tactics For October
October has finally arrived and you can’t wait to get in your treestand with your bow. Bowhunting in October can be tough for the bowhunters, but a lot can be learned by being in the woods during October and you just might harvest your buck of a lifetime. Here are a few tips for bowhunting in October and I hope they help you harvest your deer this season.
Food Sources For Deer In October
Bowhunting in October usually means locating bedding areas and travel routes from the bedding area to the feeding area of choice. While there is much debate on what causes the so-called October lull some researchers claim that deer movement never slows during October but that the deer move from agriculture to the mast. When acorns begin to fall and persimmons and other mast crops begin to hit the ground, deer will change their pattern to take advantage of this.
I remember as a boy watching several bucks in a field for a week or more like clockwork. Then when the season rolled around they were gone. I always thought they just knew it was deer season, but now I think they just changed their food source and scattered throughout the area and breaking up the bachelor groups I was seeing in the fields. I was hunting them where they were. A lot begins to happen in October with territory establishment like light sparring between lesser bucks.
Deer also grow their winter coat in October. This is why I think that deer movement slows during October. Deer overheat with their new coat. Don’t let this slow you down. You can still be successful during October. It can also help prepare you for November when the rut kicks in and, for me at least, all the magic happens.
Locate Acorn Producing Oak Trees Early
Learning what mast crops are in your area is crucial to bowhunting in October. Locating acorns before they drop can pinpoint the perfect stand site when they do begin to drop. More importantly, you can locate the oak trees with plenty of acorns when the deer are still down in the ag fields. This can eliminate the possibility of educating the deer that are sure to find this tree when the acorns begin to drop. I like to take my binoculars into the woods early. Scan the oak tops for acorns.
Once you locate a couple of good acorn producers take note of where these oaks are located. If the loaded oaks are high on a ridge this is where you will find the best mast drop throughout the season and you know to hunt the ridges. If the acorns are found down in the creek bottoms and swamps, then you should focus your hunts there. This will also give you a jump on the hunters hunting field edges.
Locating an oak, loaded with acorns, especially white oak, is like finding a gold mine in October. If you don’t see any acorns on the ground don’t worry, they will be dropping soon and possibly have been dropping a few every day. Deer know when the acorns are dropping and will immediately leave the ag fields for a new food source.
They will travel from oak to oak eating the acorns as they drop, leaving none for you to find. The great thing about hunting over acorns during October is that oaks are only dropping a few acorns a day and this will force the deer to move from one tree to the next and eventually to yours. I have been fishing on more than one occasion when an acorn dropped, making a loud crack when it hit the ground and a deer would run out of the thicket and find that acorn and eat it.
Locate Deer Scrapes In October
If you find a scrape in early October make a note. Early scrapes are usually left by mature bucks as they begin to broadcast their presence earlier than younger bucks. This is because mature does come into estrous earlier than younger does. This is by design. It is mother nature’s way for the most dominant buck to breed the most dominate doe in the area. This helps keep the strongest genetics possible for the herd. While this activity is going on it usually goes undetected because a small amount of deer is a part of this early breeding. One thing for sure, you have located the home range of a mature buck. Hunting his scrape line in October can definitely pay off. Also, be sure to hunt the area during the November rut. That buck is most likely around, that is if you didn’t get him in October.
Long Distance Scouting
It can be hard to do when you’re itching to harvest your first deer of the season, but if you want to locate great stand locations, long distance scouting can really pay off. A great place to scout long distance is on a bluff overlooking a likely travel route from food sources. This usually works best when the deer are still on the ag fields. If they have switched to the mast, then they will be meandering through the woods. The idea is to watch from a safe distance. Make sure the wind is right, and watch where the deer are actually traveling. You might be surprised, most deer will use a certain spot to cross a creek or skirt a brush pile.
Observing this from your long-distance perch allows you to pick a stand site without tromping through the area. Each time you enter an area you leave your scent, jeopardizing your hunt. In my younger days I would just walk the field and determine where I wanted to hunt by the sign I saw. There is no substitute for seeing the actual deer moving in and out of an area. So many times, the trail I set up on was not a trail that the deer were using, at least not during shooting light. By the time I got where I needed to be, I had already hunted it a couple of times. Every sit diminishes your chances, especially on public land. It might use up a hunting day or two, but I now realize that a little long-distance scouting can pay off during October.
Evening Hunts Best In October
Many hunters hunt fields in the evening. It’s the hardest thing for me to do. When deer are on a feed to bed pattern and moving to the feeding area in the evening it’s best to stay out of the area in the mornings. Deer will travel a very short distance from the feeding area to the bedding area if they haven’t been bothered. You risk spooking deer when going to your stand before daylight.
It’s much easier to slip in undetected when the deer are bedded in the thick stuff. In the morning the deer are on their feet in the open field. You risk spooking them as they make their way to bed. If you know the bedding area is a long way from where they feed then hunt the morning, but hunt the edge of their bedding area and get there early. Don’t let the morning go to waste. Hunting new areas can help you find some really good stand sites.
Any month is a great time to be in a tree or just in the woods. October can be a challenge at times, but it can also be very rewarding. Whether you prefer to pattern deer during the early season or you devote your efforts more towards the rut, October can be a valuable time afield. More than once I’ve harvested deer while enjoying the smell of a cool October evening waiting for the rut. I can’t wait.