The “October lull” has become a catch phrase for not seeing bucks during mid-October. Too much early season scouting and bowhunting pressure causes this unfortunate phenomenon.
Throughout the spring and most of the summer, whitetails go about their business largely undisturbed by human intrusion. That changes abruptly a few weeks prior to the bow opener.
This is when hunters tramp over the whitetail’s domain while scouting for sign, hanging stands, setting up ground blinds and clearing shooting lanes. The sudden influx of human traffic and the pungent odor we leave behind puts the deer on high alert.
The deer become much more cautious and spend less time moving in daylight. Trophy bucks shun sunlight like Count Dracula. The onslaught of hunters during the first week of the bow season aggravates this problem.
Bow hunter John Eberhart, of Weidman, Mich., strongly believes that the October lull is a major handicap, especially on public land where he has taken nine of his 27 Pope & Young class whitetails.
“Over the past 25 years, I’ve killed only one big buck during the October lull,” Eberhart said.
Eberhart will hunt food sources for the first few days of the bow season. If he hasn’t had success by then, he abandons his good stuff until the pre-rut kicks in.
Hunting during the October lull makes trophy bucks even more inclined to stay put until dark, Eberhart stressed. It can also alter the feeding movements of does in the area.
“You want the does to keep following their normal feeding patterns,” Eberhart said. “When the pre-rut kicks in, the does will bring the bucks to you.”
How does Eberhart overcome the urge to hunt during the October lull? He doesn’t. He hunts secondary areas and properties where some of his friends don’t heed the October lull.
In the Midwest and northeast, the pre-rut begins in late October and carries through the first week of November. This is when Eberhart moves in for the kill.
“I have one standing rule when hunting public land,” Eberhart said. “If I can access a location in an upright walking position, I will not hunt there no matter how good it looks.”
Eberhart reasons that if he can walk into a hunting area where buck sign is prevalent, he will have company. Mature bucks avoid easily accessible places and take up residence where hunters refuse to go. Eberhart often dons hip boots or waders to reach these reclusive bucks.
A Tree Saddle (which is no longer made) has given Eberhart a distinct advantage for more than 10 years.
“There is no way a hunter using any conventional metal stand can compete on the same property with someone of equal skill level using a Tree Saddle,” Eberhart said.
A Tree Saddle hangs from strong nylon straps that support a hammock-like seat made of neoprene, leather or nylon mesh. It looks precarious, but it isn't. The Tree Saddle serves as its own climbing belt and safety belt.
When used properly, you are never at risk of falling.
Ask Eberhart why he dotes on the Tree Saddle and he'll tick off a list of advantages:
- It has no creaky metal platform that can spook deer.
- It can be set up quietly near bedding deer without spooking them.
- Snow and ice can't form on a Tree Saddle in foul weather and crunch underfoot as with a platform stand.
- The Tree Saddle adapts to trees that are too large or small for hang-on and climbing stands.
- It can be used with leaning trees.
- Since the lightest model weighs only 2.5 pounds, it is ideal for pack-in hunting.
- It will never be stolen because it is always with you.
- Another hunter can’t take advantage of a prime tree stand location that you worked hard to find and prepare.
“Another big factor is that I get 360-degree shot mobility,” Eberhart said. “There are no dead spots.”
That's because you face the tree in a Tree Saddle and the nylon strap allows you to swing from side to side or twist around as needed to shoot in any direction.
Eberhart is currently experimenting with a new hanging-style tree stand, the Areo Hunter Harness from New Tribe (newtribe.com).
Eberhart claims that he takes at least 50 percent of his bucks in the middle of the day during the pre-rut and rutting phases.
“Mature bucks wait until the other deer bed down in the morning. Then they get up at midday and scent-check bedding areas and scrapes for estrous does,” Eberhart said.
This daylight activity is more prevalent on heavily hunted lands, Eberhart claims. That's because pressured bucks have learned to stay on the low-low during the morning and evening because this is when hunters are in the woods. To avoid spooking hunter-wise bucks, Eberhart gets on stand 2 hours before first light and stays put all day whenever possible.
October Lull Exceptions
“As far as I’m concerned ... any hunter that has somewhat consistent success at taking mature bucks during the October lull is without question not hunting in a pressured area,” Eberhart said. “That is a fact that is not up for discussion with me. In areas with heavy consequential hunting pressure, it is extremely rare to see a mature buck during daylight hours during the October lull.”
Click image to view the Overcoming October Lull photo gallery
Editor’s Note: John Eberhart has produced a three-volume instructional DVD series titled “Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails” and an instructional archery DVD titled “Archery Mechanics.” He has also co-authored “Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails,” “Precision Bowhunting” and “Bowhunting Whitetails The Eberhart Way.” These products are available at: www.deer-john.net.