October is one of the most underrated months for deer hunting.
September is popular because hunters can catch deer off-guard before they abandon their summer patterns. November is prime deer hunting season because the rut heats up, and bucks become more active during daylight and more mobile across the landscape, often giving hunters more opportunities to bag a big one than other times of the year.
In many parts of the country, deer hunters will refer to the “October lull,” a time when deer movement slows down, and hunting action gets less exciting than the first few weeks of the season or the peak of the rut.
However, according to The MeatEater, hunters can still find success in October by targeting some specific food sources in the field.
When archery season opens in September, most hunters focus heavily on the food sources that deer use all summer to maximize their chances of success. As the rut gets closer though, many hunters make the mistake of forgetting about food sources and focusing on other deer signs like scrapes and rubs. However, deer eat in October, and much of the pre-rut build-up in October is still focused around areas directly related to key food sources.
Scrapes and rubs don’t just appear randomly in the woods. Bucks make them in areas where they know other deer are most likely to see, smell, and visit them, so many of those other buck signs that hunters target tend to be concentrated around whatever food sources deer in the area are hitting hard during October.
Some of the top October food sources for deer around the country include Acorns, Corn, and Greenbriar/vegetation.
Acorns are perhaps the most classic of all deer food. Countless trophy bucks have been shot by hunters simply setting up a tree stand in an Oak grove where the forest floor is covered with protein-packed acorns. Not only are acorns nutritious and tasty for deer, but they also start falling from the trees about the same time that agricultural crops get harvested, so deer tend to focus most of their attention on acorn crops come October.
In fact, some deer experts believe that acorns are actually the primary factor for causing the “October lull” that many hunters experience. Research shows that deer actually don’t reduce their movements during October, but they may become less visible in agricultural fields and open landscapes because they spend most of October hidden in the hardwoods and feeding on acorns.
Focusing on acorns can be more challenging than focusing on other food sources, though. If you can pinpoint a few trees that are dropping heavy loads of acorns, that can be a great place to set up for a hunt, but oftentimes hunters must try and navigate an entire forest full of oak trees that are dropping acorns everywhere. That disperses deer across the woods and makes it harder to find an area where deer are concentrated within shooting range. But one thing is for certain if acorns are dropping, then deer will be eating them.
It’s no secret that deer love to eat corn. In states where baiting is legal, corn is the go-to supplemental food source for hunters. In states where agriculture is present, hunting cornfields is an extremely popular choice for hunters as well. Hunters can have success hunting cut cornfields where visibility is higher and kernels are scattered across the ground, but leaving the crop standing can also be an excellent option for bringing hungry deer into a field.
Standing cornstalks will reduce visibility and hide some deer in the field, but some hunting experts also think that the sense of protection provided by standing corn means that deer will hang out in those fields for longer stretches of time than they will spend exposing themselves in wide-open cut cornfields. Therefore, maximizing the amount of time deer spend in your cornfields will maximize the opportunities you have for a good shot at a big buck.
Cornfields also act as hubs for buck activity, as many bucks will move around the edges to create scrapes and rubs. In addition, standing cornfields provide deer cover for cutting across otherwise open spaces, and standing cornfields act as a travel corridor for deers in ways that cut corn does not.
Greenbriar & Other Vegetation
According to the Michigan State Deer Ecology and Management Lab, deer have been documented eating over 400 different types of plant matter. Even when corn and acorns are readily available, deer will still eat a lot of whatever “green stuff” is available in the woods.
Greenbriar is one of the most common woodland plant species throughout much of the United States, and it’s an easy plant to identify. Although Greenbriar does have thorns, they’re relatively soft and don’t deter deer from feasting on the stuff. As a result, the plant is a major October focus for hungry deer, especially in the Midwest.
With so much focus on food plots these days, many hunters don’t target natural vegetation nearly enough. However, many hunters will report that they often see deer feeding on native plants along the planted edges of food plots, so focusing on open patches or field edges can be a great way to find deer that aren’t necessarily hitting food plots or other food sources.
Most deer don’t just eat one thing, and they like some variety in their diets. But by focusing primarily on acorns, corn, Greenbriar, and other vegetation, you can maximize your chances of success while deer hunting in October.
For more information on how to shoot a big buck this time of year, check out this short film from the MeatEater crew.