The "October Lull" is those first few weeks of the month when bucks make the transition from early summer feeding patterns to the seeking phase of the rut. They move very little, and a lot of whitetail hunters give up until November. But not Jeff Below.
According to this Wisconsin whitetail fanatic, the lull is a fine time to take a buck, and the many big deer he's tagged during this period are proof. Below scores first by recognizing that bucks continue to feed and travel during the lull, as long as they don't know they're being hunted. So he keeps hunting as often as he can, investing a lot of effort in a given area or even targeting a particular buck—but he does it very carefully and methodically.
INCHING BACK THE STAND "I do something that I call creeping in," Below says. "For example, I may spot a buck in a remote field, or find a rub or a scrape there. So my first stand setup will be right at the field edge near a trail leading into it. Even during the lull, a buck that feels unpressured may hit that feeding area before dark.
"But if he doesn't show up, I'll move my stand maybe 50 yards into the woods, because he may be loafing in the edge cover before stepping out to feed. If I don't see him, I'll move a little farther back into the woods the next evening. I may slip closer to the bedding area on the same trail, or find a staging area or rub line that tells me where he's traveling. I've also found it helpful to make three mock scrapes in a rough semicircle upwind of my stand, every time I go out."
By inching closer to a buck's bedding area, Below slowly increases his odds of seeing that deer during shooting hours—while minimizing his odds of alerting it.
He stays out of thick cover to avoid making too much noise and to keep from bumping hidden deer. "I like to be in open hardwoods where I can see well and shoot 360 degrees around me." But within these areas, Below searches for structure. "Bucks walking through open woods will relate to stumps, big rocks, fallen trees, a line of brush, any little wrinkle that helps hide them as they travel," he says. "They also like patches of dark, cool timber, where it's open, but shaded."
KEEP AT IT Perhaps the main reason Below scores during the lull is the simplest: He keeps hunting. "I get out every day that I can," he says. "Don't get me wrong. I like the rut as much as anyone. And I believe lots of factors can increase or decrease buck activity. But I don't let those things dictate whether or not I hunt. If there's any chance a big buck will be moving, I want to be out there."
ON THE MOVE: A 12-point Michigan trophy walks cautiously through the open October woods.