Bucks Keeping Females Hidden Nearby at the Start of the Rut Might Explain the ‘October Lull’

It happens every year. Some hunter hits the woods every day for a week straight to a seemingly deer-free zone. An area full of does, fawns and the occasional buck becomes a lonely place of frustration.

Once a big buck thinks a doe is about to go into estrus, the intensity ramps up tenfold and strange things can happen.

I have heard it called the “October Lull.” 

Others might just call it a string of bad luck. Still, there are the seasoned veterans who will blame it on everything from the moon to the changing weather patterns. I have to admit that at one time I was one of those “veterans” who believed that as well, but that changed a few years back.

It was a warm afternoon late in October when I witnessed something I had never seen before. After hunting all these years with my bow, I thought I had seen it all. I was mistaken.

The hunting had been pretty uneventful, and I found myself sitting in a hedgerow between two fields that deer liked to frequent. I was comfortable and thought to myself that although the deer seem to have disappeared for the moment, I was absolutely sure I would not see any whitetails in my living room, so I was enjoying the warm afternoon sunshine when it all happened.

I was looking in the direction of a silo located not far from me when all of a sudden, a nice big doe stood up from her bedding place. She had been lying in a little thicket that didn’t look like it would hold any deer at all. Then, as she decided she wanted to go for a bite to eat, a huge, and I do mean huge buck, stood up and immediately went over in her direction. She bedded right back down and, to my surprise, the big boy went right back to where he was bedded down earlier and lay there. Incredibly, the two whitetails were about 70 yards from me when they totally disappeared back into the thicket. I knew they were there, but for the life of me I could not see them at all.

This whitetail game of cat and mouse went on for some time, and I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the events unfold. Every single time the doe stood up, the buck immediately pursued her. And every time he headed in her direction she would have nothing to do with him and he’d just lie back down in the thicket.

As I sat there, I watched a beautiful eight pointer walk within 15 yards of me totally unaware of my presence. He had smelled the doe in heat and was looking for her. That was the one and only time I saw the big buck leave his girl, and that was only for a few minutes. 

I could have easily killed that eight-pointer, but the other buck might have been a new state record. He was an absolute monster, the buck of my dreams.

I simply thought I could wait him out as I let the eight-pointer walk. When he saw the big boy coming towards him with his ears back, he decided he would have nothing to do with that doe. He moved on and offered another 20-yard quartering away shot. I passed.

Finally, after an hour or so, the doe relented and let the big buck mount her. It was over in seconds. Then she was allowed to graze in peace. Of course he decided to walk in a direction that offered no shot for me.

I just sat there with my jaw in the mud as I watched that magnificent creature stroll away. He had no idea at all that he came so close to having a bad day.

I went to school that day. I had just witnessed the so-called “October Lull.”

At certain times a buck will find a doe that’s near heat and keep her confined and away from other bucks in the area. It might be many days before the doe actually allows the buck to mate.

Of course not every buck in the area will keep their does at the same time, but I think it might be enough to bring down the numbers of whitetails roaming the woods considerably.

Some bow hunters out there will argue this is just not true.

Just recently, I was reading an article about a successful hunt in October. At the end of the piece, the author closed with the line-“What October Lull?”

For me, what I witnessed that afternoon gave me all the proof I needed that, indeed, it does exist. It all made perfect sense to me that every year at about this time, I would not see as many deer as I did a week earlier.

The rut is brought on by lack of sunlight, so it makes sense that most does (not all) go into heat around the same time. As one comes into heat, the dominant buck in the area will keep her in a location until he mates. Afterward, they will both stay in that small area for quite some time.

You should realize that this is a small window in the whitetail world. It may only be a few days up to a week long, but during the October lull it is hard to find deer movement. 

For those bow hunters who only hunt on weekends, they may never experience what I am talking about. However, a die-hard bow hunter, one who tries to get out in the woods every day of the season, probably has experienced this October lull, too.

We should thank our lucky stars that this will last only a short time. Could you imagine if half the season was gone before we see good deer movement again? That would not be good. The bow season is short enough already so let’s enjoy every day we can out in the woods. 

If you are one of those hunters that witness this phenomenon remember it will pass.

—story by Lou Marullo


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