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GRANT: It will be October soon, and some hunters are already dreading the early and middle portion of that month. They refer to that period as the “October lull.”
GRANT: Today I’d like to share there’s no reason to dread hunting during the early and mid-portion of October or for any period as far as that goes.
GRANT: Hunters always list seeing deer as one of the primary sources of enjoyment when surveyed. It makes sense that if hunters aren’t seeing as many deer during any portion of the season, they wouldn’t enjoy it quite as much. But I believe with a better understanding of deer biology, we can all see deer throughout the season and enjoy every week.
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GRANT: Deer season opens in some portions of the whitetails’ range while bucks’ antlers are still covered with velvet. I frequently get to hunt in Kentucky – and their season opens during early September – and almost every buck I see when hunting there has velvet-covered antlers.
GRANT: Last year, while hunting in Kentucky during the first week of their season, I saw the same bachelor group of velvet-antlered bucks returning to a food plot almost every afternoon. These bucks were clearly on a food/cover, food/cover pattern.
GRANT: A deer’s feeding behavior that time of year makes it relatively easy for hunters to pattern deer. We simply look for a great source of growing plants that are high in protein. This might be a soybean field, a new food plot, or maybe a native vegetation area that was recently burned and it’s green and lush.
GRANT: Once we find the food source, the next step is figuring out how we can approach, hunt, and exit that area without alerting deer.
GRANT: This pattern continues until bucks shed their velvet and even a week or so after.
GRANT: During late September/early October, there are two big changes that occur in the deer’s world. The first is that bucks shed their velvet and that’s associated with a massive change in hormones. During that period of time, the testosterone level is starting to increase in male deer.
GRANT: Secondly during that time of year, a deer’s nutritional needs and, therefore, their preferred food sources change.
GRANT: During that time of year, many warm-season plants, such as soybeans, alfalfa, and even native plants that are high in protein, start to mature. It’s what we call hardening off, and they’re simply not as palatable.
GRANT: The increase in testosterone causes bucks to start sorting out the dominance hierarchy in a given area. They’ll start sparring, may elevate to fighting, and some bucks will disperse and use a different portion of their home range.
GRANT: Probably some folks are saying, “Oh yeah, I told you there’s an October lull. Those bucks are dispersing, and I can’t see ‘em anymore.” But remember all the bucks in an area are going through the same thing. So maybe that buck disperses and uses a portion of his home range in an area where you don’t have permission to hunt or you simply don’t walk. But other bucks are doing the same, and they may move into the area where you hunt.
GRANT: During the growing season, producing antlers and milk requires a huge amount of protein, and most plants that are high in protein grow in open areas where they receive full sunlight throughout the day. Again, think of soybean fields or maybe a prairie or a meadow that’s been recently burned and new vegetation is lush – packed with protein – and it’s easy to see critters feeding in that area.
GRANT: If you’re like me and you hunt in an area that’s primarily covered with a closed canopy forest, then during the summer deer are congregated in areas that receive sun throughout the day – food plots, recently burned areas, recently timbered areas. And it seems like, gosh, it’s easy to see deer because their preferred food source is in limited areas and we know where to go to find deer.
GRANT: Once the antlers are finished growing, the velvet sheds, and does are finishing nursing fawns or the fawns have grown so much that they’re getting most of their diet by foraging on vegetation, there’s a big shift in their nutritional needs. They all shift from seeking primarily protein-based food sources to those sources full of carbohydrates. Energy is king at that time of year.
GRANT: In ag country, corn is a great food source that’s high in energy. So deer feed in those standing corn fields, and, even worse, standing corn is pretty good cover. So they feed and bed, feed and bed in the same area – sometimes only leaving to get a drink or they got nudged out, and it’s very difficult to see or hunt deer in standing corn.
GRANT: It’s not mere coincidence that in those areas the October lull ends about the time farmers are harvesting corn.
GRANT: That same pattern is true in areas that have a lot of standing timber – especially if that timber includes a lot of oaks. There can be acorns everywhere. And deer can simply feed and bed in the timber – never coming out the openings, which makes it very difficult to see deer.
GRANT: It’s my personal observations that in areas like Western Kansas where’s there’s a lot of milo, hunters don’t talk much about the October lull. Because in that milo field, which is a great source of grain, it’s right there at the height that the deer want to eat, and it’s not covered like a cobb of corn is. It’s easy for deer to get to. Those hunters don’t worry about an October lull. They know exactly where the deer are. And where the deer are feeding, they’re easy to see.
GRANT: Likewise, in areas that only have scattered acorn trees – they’re not big blocks of contiguous forest for thousands of acres – those hunters can pattern deer easy. Those acorn trees – maybe there’s two or three in a fence row or little corner of woods – when they start dropping acorns, they’re like a feeder going off. And the deer are gonna seek those acorns, and a hunter can find sign and pattern deer easily.
GRANT: Once I understood more about a deer’s nutritional needs during early and mid-October, surprisingly enough, they became a lot easier to hunt.
GRANT: As I matured as a hunter and as a deer manager, it became easier to manage habitat knowing these limitations and actually manage for great hunting locations.
GRANT: No matter the habitat type, many researchers have shown that deer move more on average each day during the pre-rut. The reason is simple. Before the pre-rut, deer are seeking primarily food, cover, and water. Those items aren’t moving much, right? Deer don’t have to seek. They go from cover to food, cover to food.
GRANT: But during the pre-rut, bucks are seeking a moving target. They’re trying to find a receptive doe, and it takes more time to find a moving target than to find something that was the same place yesterday and the day before.
GRANT: Even though on average deer cover more ground each day during the pre-rut than they do during the early season, understanding deer biology for that period of time can help hunters see more deer. And I’ll share tips about hunting during the pre-rut in a few weeks.
GRANT: There are many factors that influence deer behavior and hunter success. If you’d like to check out the techniques we’re using, simply follow us on our social media.
GRANT: I hope this information helps you see and harvest more deer. Venison is a great natural resource to share with family and friends. But more importantly, I hope you take time every day to enjoy Creation and be quiet and listen to the Creator’s will for your life.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.