There is so much discussion concerning exactly when to be in the woods…WHEN is the pre-rut, rut, etc. For me personally, I only hunt cold fronts; meaning that I completely disregard the moon as well as avoid any certain calendar day of the month…for example, “I always have to be in the woods on 11/5, or Halloween, or 11/9”. My oldest bucks with a bow in MI or WI during the last 20 years have come on a great variety of dates between 10/12 and 11/8. However what did almost all of them have in common? They were shot within 2 days of a major cold front. That being said…there is another incredibly important factor in when to hunt: Are you hunting the local bucks that reside closely in and around your parcel borders? -or- Are you hunting bucks that generally reside on other hunting grounds as you rely on them to leave from those areas to travel to the location that you hunt?
Are the bucks your are watching local?
*If they are there in the summer…and gone by late Sept/early Oct and you only get pictures of them in the middle of the night…or not at all, they are probably NOT local.
*If you have fall food and fall cover, and your are seeing/getting pics of them during October, they are local.
*If you hunt funnel parcels where you expect to shoot a mature buck on his feet traveling between large parcels of food and cover…you are NOT hunting local bucks
*Mature bucks don’t just disappear and only move a few hours during the middle of the night, Instead they pretty much mirror the local deer herd where they reside except for maybe being just a big behind and socially shy.
Once you determine if you are hunting “Local” or “Non-Local” bucks you can then determine when to hunt them! Local bucks can be hunted highly effectively if hunting pressure is reduced, and you carefully choose exactly which stand to use, when…in OCTOBER. The absolute best time to hunt your local bucks are the 1-2 days following the October cold fronts. When you get to the 20th of October and you experience a major cold front…make sure to get into the stand on the backside/quiet/cold side of the front and expect to kill a local pre-rut giant. A 10/10 cold front can be outstanding, but when you add in the element of the pre-rut the quality of the hunt is even better! I have experienced personally the last 12-13 years that if I didn’t kill a buck during this time…I messed up! Meaning spooked deer, missed deer…mishaps, etc. However, there are less parcels out there…only a fraction, that have the fall combo of food, cover, and low hunting pressure that allows a mature buck to call home.
If you are hunting “Non-Local” bucks, look more towards the early November cold fronts. If the 6th of November is a great moon day buck there are temps in the 80s…don’t waste the sits if you can be flexible with your vacation time. My lease partner Karl comes out the last week of October through 11/2 this year. No matter if he has come the first 10 days of November, the last 10 days of October, or somewhere in-between, we feel he has typically about 3-5 days of actually good hunting. But, he is driving over 20 hours from GA so he doesn’t have a choice. The reason he choose to slant his time mostly towards the end of October? Because we are hunting local bucks and he gets sick of a big one getting shot before he arrives.
A local buck knows his home extremely well and the older he becomes, the more set in his ways he becomes. He doesn’t expand his territory with age, he refines his territory, meaning he relates more and more to the most secure of his patterns. That makes him easier to kill as he ages, IF you take the hunting pressure out of the equation of which he is incredibly responsive to. Literally, you do not typically get a 2nd chance unless you have a large enough parcel to move to another location. But, a local buck I believe likes his local spots. He is safe, secure, and he knows HIS doe herd. However, towards the end of the rut he gets antsy. He has exhausted his local does, he still has the itch…and he cruises! And it is at that time that a mature “Non-Local” buck maybe vulnerable. Typically if you don’t have local bucks you won’t stand much of a chance during October unless that bucks is pushed to you, or food sources are drastically altered to make him shift his patters (a picked corn field, for example).
Knowing when to hunt has a lot to do with what kind of bucks you are hunting…and then it boils down to not burning out a stand locations until you get a cold-front at the appropriate time.
You Can Greatly Increase Your Buck Hunting Time With a Local Buck Parcel!
*With a local buck parcel, you may lose a buck or two especially during the mid to later 1/2 of the rut while they are cruising, but if the food and cover stays attractive you get to hunt those bucks the majority of the hunting season.
*With a non-local buck parcel you need to rely on fairly small window of the entire hunting season to possibly kill a mature buck.
The difference can mean realistically hunting mature bucks on 1 parcel 80% of the entire bow season or longer…and on another parcel 10% of the time or less you have a realistic chance. Either way though…it pays to know what time of the year to place your efforts in.
If you are hunting local bucks you will experience a LOT of rutting activity following the late October cold fronts. It is very deceiving because guys will say they are covered up in bucks on 10/25 where on a parcel across the state guys are having a hard time finding a scrape on. I don’t think it is a factor as much as the timing of the rut, compared to the type of bucks you are hunting/where they are living. Then, in early November pretty much everyone sees bucks which is all-relative to what they typically see and determined by the daytime highs. On good local buck parcels you will actually see activity levels FALL in early November. Our daytime pics typically peak during the last week of October but some of the decline in early November is partially due to the fact a few bucks are dead.
Whether you are hunting local mature bucks or non-local bucks, it is a factor you should attempt to figure out. If you are hunting local bucks, don’t miss a quiet sit following major October cold fronts (even Sept if you are in another state than MI). However if you are hunting non-local bucks…set your sites following the first major cold front in November for consistent success.
For me? I will be trying to take a giant prior to my buddy Karl’s arrival on October 25th. Not to necessarily to beat him to the punch, but to take advantage of some outstanding October hunting on some local giants.
So are you hunting “Local” or “Non-Local” giants?