The Calm Before the Storm

It was 83 degrees on Monday, and in the mid-70s all last weekend, so my wife, Michelle, and I took a few days to spend some time together and prepare for the much-anticipated deer hunting ahead. We took our 4-month-old son—Anse, our first—with us on Sunday to check some trail cameras and make a few mock scrapes (including the one in the photo here). Those scrapes are a near-instant hub of deer activity right now, though most of it has been at night.

Friday is Halloween, and also the anniversary of our first date, back when Michelle and I were juniors in high school. On Monday evening, we were eating some fresh backstrap from the doe she'd killed earlier this month. "I'm going to enlist a grandmother to babysit Friday afternoon," she said. "I want to hunt. I think if I could pick a favorite day of the year to sit in a stand, it would be Halloween."

I asked her why, expecting some sentimental explanation harkening back from our teenage days. Michelle replied, "Because that's always the day when bucks go nuts. Duh."

I've seen some great rutting activity in years past during the final week of October, and have filled multiple buck tags on Oct. 28 in particular. But catching that activity requires time in the woods, and for me, almost a few inevitably slow sits before the first "magical" one of the season. And that's how it's been the past two days. A fierce cold front blew through the Mid-South on Tuesday, bringing a steady, all-day drizzle and plummeting temperatures. On Wednesday, the sky was clear with a stout northwest wind and highs in the 60s.

I sat in a ground blind overlooking a small food plot that's been a hub of doe activity all season, expecting to look up at any moment and see a bruiser standing 30 yards away. But he didn't show. In fact, I saw a doe and a fawn picking leisurely this evening, and they were the only deer seen, both afternoons combined. It's been two of my slowest hunts of the year.

But that's about to change. Without fail, at least in my experience, if it hasn't started "happening" just before Halloween, it will shortly afterward. Not many does will be in estrus yet, but a few will—and that knowledge will drive every buck in the area a little crazy. And if you spend enough time in the woods in a good spot, you'll see them.

Michelle's right. Halloween is one of the best days to sit in the stand. It can provide good hunting in its own right. But it also marks the beginning of so much more.