Bowhunting October Bucks: 4 Things to Remember

Today’s blog comes from Mike Hanback of Big Deer TV.  Mike has been writing about whitetails since the 1990′s and is considered by many as an expert on the subject.  For more information about Mike, you can follow him on Twitter, find him on Facebook or visit his website at

A few days ago in Minnesota, Andrew Nielsen got a glimpse of a heavy white antler moving in a thicket 60 yards from his tree stand. It took the huge buck 10 excruciating minutes to make his way close to Andrew’s stand. The hunter kept his wits, stayed calmed and waited. When the 188-inch drop-tine monster (pictured below) finally showed his vitals at 15 yards, Andrew drilled him.

Andrew and his 188 in buck!

It goes to a point we made in “Giant Whitetails,” a book I co-authored a few years ago with my friends Mark and Terry Drury: “deer move very slowly in early October…because of the warm temperatures they’ve been battling all summer…that along with their extreme sensitivity puts them in super slow-movement mode…might take a buck an hour…. He’ll often stop to scent check every twig, branch, leaf.”

If you spot a shooter these next few weeks, don’t rush it.  Relax, watch the buck as he comes in, and turn and move slowly into solid shooting position. But don’t jump the gun and draw too early, you’ve got time. Take deep breaths and wait until the buck is within 30 yards and behind a tree or brush. It might take him 10 minutes or longer to get there, so don’t freak out.

Three more things to remember:

TOP STAND: Ian in Wisconsin, a blogger at my BIG DEER website, shot a big 10-pointer the other day. He blogged: “I was set up on a ridge between a standing corn field and a thick bedding area, on a white oak flat…a buck named “High Roller” came into 15 yards and I was able to put a shot on him. Went 100 yards and piled up.”

A setup like that—on an elevated ridge with mast and cover, within 100 yards or so of a corn, soybean of alfalfa field–is THE BEST stand for early to mid-October. It may be killer in either the afternoon, as it was for Ian, or morning. Does and bucks will stage on the ridge in late afternoon before moving out to the crops at dusk; when acorns fall heavy and fresh, the bucks might eat on the ridge and not go to the field at all. In the morning, you are set up perfectly for a woods ambush as bucks filter back to bedding thickets.  Plan quiet access to and from the ridge from a downwind route. Hang a stand where you can see well, and on a trail, draw or green edge that might funnel a buck close for a bowshot.

BEST WEATHER: The first two or three days after a cold front blows through in mid-October and drops the temperature from, say, 65 degrees to 35, are prime, man. Bucks that were slow and sluggish a few weeks earlier get spunky and start moving, rubbing and scraping with vigor. You’ll often have to deal with moderate wind on the backside of a front, but live with it because the high-pressure that builds in for the next few days will put bucks on their feet. Head to your best stands near crops or acorns.

BEST WEEK:  You probably think a dark moon is best for bowhunting big deer. Well, I am working on a new if unscientific theory: Many mature bucks move best and quite a bit in daylight hours during the full-moon phase that is closest to the rut. I am seeing that more and more as I hunt and film across North America.

That full moon is October 29 this year, and I expect the Halloween week of October 27 to November to 3 to be awesome. Sit your best stands all day if you can hack it, because you might see a giant any time. Some big deer will be killed between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm that week, take my word for it.

Good luck!