By Alex Comstock
The October lull and nocturnal bucks. Two terms deer hunters like to use a lot during this time of the year to blame their hunting woes on. But what if neither of those existed? Like in the way you might think them to exist. There's something to be said for reduced deer movement in early October, but that doesn't mean you can't still be in the game when it comes to hunting mature bucks. I talked to one of the best at doing so at this time of year, Dan Infalt, and Dan provided a lot of insight pertaining to how you could still be a successful mature buck hunter this time of year. Read our Q&A with Dan below to see not only how he consistently tags mature bucks in early October, but how you can too.
Q: Before we get into what makes you such a successful deer hunter during the month of October, why do you think so many hunters struggle to find success during the front half of the month?
Dan: I think the main reason people struggle during this time frame is because they are using rut tactics before it's the rut. I also think they struggle because patterns change so fast early season, you have to be out there changing with it. Weekend warriors have a hard time because of this. They go into the woods with last weeks intel. A lot can change in a week during the early season. My advice to hunters struggling with this would be to take good notes because patterns change the same every year, and you can be ahead of those changes by looking back at your past years journals.
Q: What do you think is the number one connotation about October hunting that people have to get out of their head to help them be successful?
Dan: The October lull and nocturnal bucks... plain and simple. If you're hunting food edges, trails, and funnels, then yes there is an October lull for you. But if you're hunting close to bedding, mature bucks are still moving in daylight. I have killed a lot of big bucks in early October, and I can say that I have noticed there is much better and earlier movement in mid-September, or late October, but the bucks are still killable in early to mid-October by hunting close to bedding. I want to clarify, my suggestion would be to hunt close to bedding the rest of the season as well because you will get on to older, and more well schooled bucks by hunting close to bedding all year, it's just that in early October it's a make or break deal.
Q: When it comes to you, and your early October track record, what’s the most important thing that stands out to you in terms of how you are able to consistently tag mature bucks during this time frame?
Dan: Knowing buck bedding intimately. Also a lot of scouting. Knowing where the bucks bed, and then scouting and seeing the sign tells me which ones to concentrate on. One good example would be how I hunt a certain area when I am seeking a certain buck. I may have a destination in mind when I leave the truck, but I do not do the straight line down the trail navigation most others do. Instead, I scout my way to my evening stands, and from my morning stands. I check out certain transitions to see if sign goes in and out, I walk close to a bedding area and see if sign picks up. I walk past a rub line to see if the rubs are worked, I check feeding areas to see if a certain food is being used. I try to stay ahead of the curve and know what's going on in the woods, rather than just sitting in trees like everyone else. And if I see hot sign on one of those long trips to the stand, the plan gets changed and I hunt it now.
Q: How do you factor other hunters into the equation this time of year? Do you ever use information on where others are hunting to make a decision on where you will be hunting?
Dan: Usually other hunters are not a factor. If I do see any fresh sign of other hunters where I planned on hunting, I go to plan B. If you're hunting mature bucks, you should not be running into other hunters very often or you're not in the right place. Big bucks do not get big by hanging out where hunters hang, they find the 5% to 10% of the land where it's over looked. If you're running into hunter sign everywhere you look, it's one of two things. Either there are no big bucks in the woods, or you need to do some more scouting to find and hunt those forgotten spots.
Q: Something that gets talked about often is the “October Lull” and in my mind it is often used as an excuse. You touched on this a bit earlier, but what would you tell someone who blames their lack of success on the “Lull”?
Dan: I would tell that person that they are probably hunting the same way all the time and that he/she has to move to the deer instead of waiting for the deer to come to them. There is no such thing as a completely nocturnal buck. You gotta get within the movement window to have a chance.
Q: In lieu of the previous question, do you notice any difference in deer movement during early October in any capacity?
Dan: I touched on it earlier, but yes I do. But the way I hunt it's not a huge difference to me, but a person trying to kill big bucks hunting funnels, food, sign, or trails?... Yea, they're going to struggle. I notice my sightings are earlier in regards to darkness before and after that time frame. Which, I would like to clarify, I have heard a lot of different descriptions of when the October lull occurs. Some call mid-October the lull. I call mid-October in the Midwest pre-rut. To me, the lull is about October 1st to the 15th. A lot of guys that say there is no lull, probably only hunt a state that opens October 1st, so they only see it get better after opening day. If you hunted a state that opens in early September, you would see a huge difference in movement. You also get the crowd that claims it's pressure, but I see it on managed ranches as well as public.
Q: Do trail cameras factor into your October hunting strategy in any way?
Dan: Yes. I use trail cameras at food sources, in funnels, and at buck sign to get an idea of when and which bucks are in the area, then I hunt them back at the bedding areas.
RELATED: Read Hunting Bedding Areas During The Rut with Dan Infalt
Q: Do you hunt at all based off years past information or are you hunting strictly based off information you’ve learned during the current year?
Dan: A large amount of my hunting is based on the past because I often see patterns change almost right down to the day of seeing it in years past. Bedding areas often get used for a food source or doe activity, those things repeat themselves year after year. People tend to think they know what deer are feeding on. Over and over again when people ask me to look at a property, they will point out the crops and acorns like they think that's all deer eat, but in reality there are all kinds of plants deer seek out and you will never be on top of all of it, but you can figure out annual bedding and movement patterns.
Q: What’s the most important piece of advice you would lend to others to help them be successful harvesting mature bucks during the first part of October?
Dan: Get more aggressive, and go in for the kill on the 1st hunt. And know when to move on to the next spot, next deer, next area. Sitting on the same property over and over, and staying back not to over hunt it is exactly what everyone else is doing. If you do the same, expect the same results.