HALLOWEEN MARKS THE BEGINNING OF THE MADNESS
Right now, I'm staring at a photo of the big Kentucky velvet buck I shot earlier this season. It was my first—an achievement no doubt. But despite all of my excitement, appreciation, and thankfulness for having an opportunity to shoot that deer, I can't help but feel a tinge of sadness.
For the first time in years, I won't be hunting the Kentucky rut.
Luckily, I have the option of hunting other states. Also, I'll be spending a good chunk of the Kentucky rut filming my father and grandfather for Antler Geeks. Sharing deer camp with those two influential men is a tradition I always look forward to.
As for the rest of you deer hunters out there, it's time to fill your tag on a big one. And I'm not talking about a decent one. I'm talking Halloween-scary big. You know, one of those with trash, cheaters, kickers, and all that good stuff.
Here's the rundown on why you very well could kill a big one this weekend...and how you're going to do it.
THE WEATHER FACTOR
The weather—for most states east of the Mississippi River—will be great the next few days, especially on Friday and Saturday. A cold front is moving through just in time to make Halloween right for deer hunting in that region of the country. Sadly, midwestern states such as Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska already have/are seeing the effects of that front passing through and won't have that window of opportunity this weekend. But that doesn't mean a deer can't be killed. Keep hunting regardless of the weather. After all, it is Halloween weekend.
In many areas, temperatures (lows) are predicted to drop by as much as 15 degrees within 24 hours and as much as 26 degrees within 48 hours. That will happen sometime between October 28 and 31, depending on specific location. Light rain is in the forecast for those days in many areas, too. Throw in a possibility of a good barometric pressure, and you have a mixing pot of daylight deer activity ingredients. Smells like success to me.
WHAT DEER ARE DOING RIGHT NOW
There are three phases to the whitetail rut: seeking, chasing, and tending. During the seeking phase, scraping and rubbing activity peaks, and bucks begin actively seeking estrous does. During the chasing phase, mature bucks are no longer seeking but chasing does hard. The tending phase is the period where bucks are breeding does.
Right now—for most of the country—we're quickly approaching the rut. But we aren't there…yet. And that's a good thing for your hunt plans.
By the end of October, bucks are restless but still holding to their pre-rut patterns. That said, they're much more likely to move during daylight hours due to their pent-up frustrations. Does aren't coming into estrous yet. Mature bucks know the big dance is still several days away, but their testosterone levels peak around the first of November. That's what makes Halloween weekend so good: Bucks' urge to procreate peaks just before the bulk of the does'. They're susceptible.
Now is the time to kill a buck working his pre-rut pattern during daylight hours. Once the chasing phase kicks in, all bets are off. There's no telling where that big buck you've been watching will be.
YOUR PLAN OF ATTACK
Every buck is different. That's why individual scouting efforts and trail cameras are your best advice. Bucks will likely continue to follow whatever patterns they've been on the last week or two. The only difference is they'll likely do it in daylight. Analyze whatever trail camera photos and in-the-field sightings you have. Don't overthink it. Listen to your gut. If you don't have a good one pinned down, there are several places you can seek out big bucks.
Staging areas are the best spots to try. Odds of seeing a buck running across a wide-open cornfield aren't high. But seeing a buck in a staging area—such as a CRP field between a block of timber and food plot, or, an acorn flat between a bedding area and corn field—isn't unlikely.
Another quality stand site option is the fringe of a buck bedding area. Most bucks are getting up earlier in the day. Waiting for them by the bedroom door could prove to be productive.
Don't forget rut sign. Using a rub line or string of scrapes to your advantage isn't out of the question. Don't hunt directly over the sign, though. Get between the sign and the bedroom.
One thing people seem to forget about during fall is water. An afternoon hunt over a water source located close to a bedding area can be dynamite. Studies have shown most deer go to water before food. Bucks have to drink, too.
Last but not least, hunt secluded food sources. Does are beginning to get harassed by young bucks. They'll start avoiding open areas more and more. That's when you see does hitting smaller, more secluded food sources. Big bucks know that and often visit those areas to check for the first estrous doe.
Halloween is almost here. And with it comes a great opportunity to kill a big deer. Best be in a tree when potential turns into opportunity.