A good day to hunt whitetails this fall is any day you can get off work. But knowing that some days will be better than others, we went through the calendar, analyzed moon phases, predicted the weather as best we could, took into account the historical breeding patterns of whitetails, and predicted when the rut hunting will be best in the two big months of October and November. Plan your time off to include some or all of these days and get ready to tag a bruiser.
- One morning in October 2009, Minnesota bowhunter Scott O’Konek ran his climber up a tree in the dark and waited. Soon after daybreak, a doe crossed 120 yards from his stand. The sight and smell of her caused a giant buck (Scott never knew he was there) to rise from his bed and follow. The doe and buck moved closer but then vanished in brush. Scott shivered and worried the monster was gone. But then, there he was, quartering-away at 44 yards! Scott had one chance, and he made it count with a perfect arrow. The amazing 32-pointer with the massive brow tines net-scored 227 3⁄8. After weeks of lazing around and fattening on crops and acorns, mature bucks get antsy and start to move a bit in mid-October. If you study the historical “rut curves” assembled by biologists for the northern two-thirds of North America, you’ll see that five to seven percent of a herd’s does are bred around October 21st. That’s not a lot, but for the bowhunter, good things can happen when bucks start to prowl for the very first estrus does. Just ask Scott O’Konek. A huge bonus: There’s little hunting pressure in the woods as compared to November. I’d rank October 21st as ninth best in our survey, but it’s definitely worth a shot if you’re a hard-core bowhunter who can get off that Monday. Best conditions Indian summer in many areas, and bucks will move only marginally well in the warmth. But if you get lucky and the first significant cold snap of the year blows in from the northwest and drops the temperature 20 or 30 degrees: perfect. The cooler weather will be a harbinger of things to come for the deer, and their activity will pick up. The moon will be big and bright on October 21st. Don’t like that? Think again. The latest science from a North Carolina State University study finds that during a full moon deer move less at night and more in the day than you think. Bucks are active earlier in the afternoon, too, so get on stand early after lunch. Top Stand Hang a stand on a hardwood ridge within 100 yards or so of a corn, soybean, or alfalfa field. A pond or creek makes the setup all the better. Set up near a trail, green edge or the like that might funnel a buck for a bowshot. Some does and bucks will browse on the ridge before moving out to the crops at dusk. Plan a quiet, hidden, and downwind route to your ridge post so as not to blow any deer out. Go-To Tactics Set two wicks near your stand, one doused with tarsal, the other with hot doe. When bucks start to prowl, they may circle in to either lure, to fight a rival or love on a gal. Have your grunter ready and call to any buck you see out of bow range. He might hear it and veer over.