Whitetail Hunting photo

Photograph by Mark Raycroft

November gets all the ink about tagging a trophy…but if you know the whereabouts of a mature buck, October is the month to kill him.

Think about it: In a few weeks that buck will be bouncing across the landscape, searching for and chasing down does. Right now he’s still living in his home range and as active as he’ll be there all fall. It’s the best time of all to wrap your tag around that buck’s rack. You have four ways to do it.

Talk Him Up
Calling and rattling are tactics many hunters save for the rut, but bucks can actually be more responsive to them now. Remember, rutting bucks are often moving fast and are thus less able to hear your calls—plus, they frequently have a destination in mind (or are trailing a doe) and are likely to ignore grunts, bleats, and horns. Start working any buck you see with grunts and bleats, and make sure you’re banging antlers together, especially on calm, crisp mornings when bucks are likely feeling frisky.

Bring in a Rival
If you’re saving that decoy for next month, dust it off and put it to work. Testosterone is pulsing through bucks right now, and the simple sight of a rival is often enough to bring them running. So stake a buck decoy in an open area—a field edge or food plot for evening, open timber or a CRP field in the morning—and face it toward a buck’s likely approach. Keep your rattling antlers and calls handy, too; nothing seals the deal on a calling sequence like a decoy staring down an aggressive buck searching for an intruder.

Speed-Scout for Patterns
Patterning an early-season buck usually requires glassing, but you can accomplish the same goal now without ever spotting the buck. Rubs and scrapes will explode as October progresses, and finding lines or clusters of either is the perfect tip-off to a killer stand site. Speed-scout logging roads, oak flats, and the edges of food sources for concentrations of buck sign. Solitary rubs and scrapes are often made on a whim and quickly forgotten, but when a buck is tearing up an area, that’s clearly one of his favorite spots. When you find one, set up on it ASAP.

Hunt Live Decoys
It’s easy to get tunnel vision as the rut approaches, focusing solely on buck behavior and sign. But never forget that the increase in a buck’s activity is solely designed to locate that first estrous doe, and he’ll search relentlessly until he finds her. That makes setting up near a primary food source used by area does an excellent strategy for evening hunts. Whereas avoiding morning hunts was a good idea earlier in the season when bucks bed well before sunrise and your chances of spooking one are very high, that’s not the case now. Hunting in early morning, from a stand placed between a primary food source and a doe bedding area, is an excellent October method for tagging a bruiser out cruising.