The picture above was taken by one of my trail cameras over a month ago, but it helps illustrate a common problem deer hunters will encounter in the next couple of weeks; bucks that were once highly visible and ever-active suddenly get tough to find. This challenging period has been cursed as the “October lull,” and you can get some good campfire discussions going about whether the phenomenon is true or just a handy excuse to explain a lack of buck sightings.

Here’s my take: I think the lull is true for some bucks, in some situations. In last week’s report, I mentioned the oncoming leaf fall. I believe that the suddenly-open canopy can make a stretch of timber where a buck once felt safe to be a scary place for him to travel. I also feel that some bucks–particularly older deer–are exceedingly lazy and will “camp out” near a secluded food source and not move much. Any animal behaving like that is one tough customer, regardless of our tactic.

But for the most part, I think the lull is just a convenient excuse for hunters when they can’t find deer. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been royally skunked during early October, but I’ve also been whipped in all the other months that deer season is open, including the chase phase of the rut!

So here are my theories about what happens during the “lull”: One of the classic scenarios of late-summer bucks (like those in this photo) is that once they’re in hard antler, the guy group breaks up. If you’re targeting an individual buck in the same area and can’t see him from stand, odds are high that he’s relocated, possibly to property you can’t hunt. Second–and as our reporting team has pointed out–food sources (like the bean plot in this picture) change quickly in the fall, and it can take constant searching to find the new hot ticket. Finally, if you’re focused on an older buck, never forget how lazy they can be.

I was fortunate enough to tag a buck near my home last week, and from all appearances he was a highly active animal. In truth, the buck was bedding on a dense hillside, then walking no more than 150 yards to a cut cornfield in the afternoon. Certainly a vulnerable animal, but only if you lucked into finding his pattern…which I did.

The takeaway? Many hunters across the region will back off their effort right now. I totally understand, given that upland bird and waterfowl seasons are opening. It’s also true that, if you have limited time to hunt, the best period lies ahead. But make no mistake; you can tag a monster even after you’ve just flipped the calendar to October.