National Summary: Cool Weather Spurs Buck Activity and Sign-Making

Even though we’re smack in the midst of the dreaded “October lull,” our reporters remind us that we shouldn’t need frenetic buck activity to be excited. And heck, if you think you’ve got it bad right now, just read South reporter Josh Honeycutt’s recent post about the closure of deer season in South Carolina, thanks to hurricane-induced flooding. I’ll take the October lull over that any day.

Honeycutt also shared a great scouting tip about “blitzing” an area with trail cams, in hopes of nailing down buck movements. I’ve been doing something similar on one of the farms I hunt, and it’s an interesting process that shows how some areas are used frequently by one or more bucks, but other nearby areas are not. For example, I’ve got a pair of pretty 8-points that are frequent visitors to a secluded mock scrape but have yet to appear on another mock that’s only 150 yards away. I don’t have a clue why they hit one and not the other, but the “why” of scouting isn’t nearly as important as the “where.” Once I get a buck consistently hitting a scrape, I start analyzing surrounding terrain and cover to decide on likely ambush points, and as Honeycutt notes, moving trail cams around can assist in this process.

In my experience, October is a month when weather influences whitetail movement as much as any other factor. This issue popped up in most of our reporters' recent posts. The Mid-South’s Will Brantley noted that recent rains and cool fronts have spiked deer activity and resulted in daylight trail-cam pics of good bucks. Cool weather also made for an exciting opening week of bowhunting for Brandon Ray in Texas. While the big bucks aren’t showing up here yet, does and small bucks are up and moving, and I’ve long felt that when overall deer movement is good, mature animals will soon follow. The majority of big bucks I’ve killed (or had an encounter with) showed on days when every other deer seemed to be on its feet.

In the northeast, Mike Shea recently reported an increase in rub lines, which I’ve long regarded as the most exciting form of buck sign. Scrapes are sexy, but they’re also a hub-type sign that bucks can approach from multiple directions. Rub lines tell you the exact path that a buck walked; all that’s left to do is to arrange a meeting with its maker. Shea’s video of coyotes on the hunt was an excellent reminder that we are not the only predators in the deer woods. Many times we wonder why we aren’t seeing a buck we’ve scouted, and the natural tendency is to think our sloppy attempts have bumped him. In truth, there are plenty of other factors that can throw a buck off course (or even knock him out of an area for awhile), and persistence is usually the critical ingredient to ultimate success.

Dogged determination emerged (once again) as the key to a couple of successful hunts profiled last week. The first was the awesome stalk of a mulie buck relayed to us by Great Plains reporter Dave Draper. One of these years I’m going to pull off just such a feat, and I hope it goes down exactly as it did for Dylan Tramp. And West reporter Brian Strickland told us about the patience of Shawn Beckstrom, as he hunted for “Curly,” a dandy Wyoming whitetail worth the wait. Second-guessing and doubt are built into so much of deer hunting, it’s great to see when a hunter overcomes the hurdles and manages to score.