Yup, it’s getting to that exciting time of fall. Buck sign is appearing at alarming rates, trail cameras are popping off, and whitetail hunters are waiting with baited breath to hear the earliest cold-weather prediction. I have to admit—I’m one of them. I always tell myself the true grind is figuring out how to kill deer early, but I can’t say that I’m not stoked to hunt the erratic temperature drops in the last half of October. The pre-rut is almost here, folks. It is almost here!
Cold Front Rut Previews:We all hope for extreme cold fronts in October. Sometimes, October cold fronts are barely even noticeable. But, let’s say Monday is in the mid-70s and drops to the mid-40s (with a predicted high of low-60s) overnight. That’s an extreme front. If there was a better time to call in sick from work, other than COVID-19, this would be that time. This is a good time to hunt typical rut funnels that you would normally hunt during the peak of the rut. Bucks are testing the waters. There aren’t many better things for them to do to stay warm than to take a lengthy stroll down the longest ridge, or through the deepest, thickest saddle they can find.
The Ambush: In my recent article about scrapes, I wrote about “buck bedding scrapes” where a buck will literally make a scrape close to preferred bedding to watch and wait for an unsuspecting doe. The last 5 days in October will be the best opportunity to take advantage of sitting between a bucks bed and the scrape that’s being carefully watched. Be very careful with your wind during access. Yes, bucks are beginning to let their guard down, but they are still animals of instinct. Anything less than stealthy, cautious access could mean a lot of white tail-flags in your future.
The Hot-Not-Hot: A minor cold front that goes from a high of 65 one day to a high of 55 the next may not seem all that important. But a deer will notice. A deer will also recognize that it’s not easy running around in mild temperatures decked out in a full winter coat. They’ll need to slow down and rest from time-to-time. During fronts like these, find isolated cover with an element of water. This type of feature creates a great stopping location for a homebody buck that’s starting to roam farther from home.
The Low Lying Fruit: Everyone knows that creek bottoms are often chalk-full of an intense concentration of deer sign. Maybe a lot of that sign is made at night. However, during fall warm spells, creek bottoms are the perfect way for bucks to avoid unpleasant weather, intermingle with does also looking to escape the heat, and benefit from the safety of advantageous swirling winds. These areas could prove to be difficult to hunt, so live in-person wind mapping is very important if you want to find success in a creek bottom.
The Return-to-Bed Sneak: This is a simple concept—but hey, we all get caught up in minor details from time-to-time. Perfect for the very last few days of October (maybe earlier), the idea behind this technique is to find a major food source. Big bucks, as you can imagine, are interested in the fact that does utilize large food sources during the wee hours of the morning. Locate the farthest mature buck bedding you can find away from a food source and get settled in there an hour or two before shooting light. You may just beat a good one back to his bedroom.