October means a lot of things to Michigan outdoor enthusiasts. There are the glorious colors of the leaves as they turn from green to various shades of red, yellow, orange, and brown before falling to the forest floor. There are tremendous fishing opportunities as salmon make their final push. Streams, rivers, and lakes come alive with fish grasping for one last feast before the winds of autumn bring the freeze of winter. For the deer hunter, however, it is the first opportunity to chase the elusive whitetail. Michigan’s archery season is a great opportunity to harvest a deer and this year is proving to be pretty good for hunters across the state. Here are some of the harvests sportsmen have recorded so far, and some things to keep in mind as you head for the woods.
A Southwest Michigan monster
Three Rivers, Michigan resident Chris Evenhouse had a heart-pounding hunt for a buck he’d been watching since August. The buck, which green-scored 205 non-typical, almost gave Evenhouse the slip.
“We’d been watching him and hoped he’d show up, but I wasn’t going to get my hopes up,” Evenhouse said. “I had a good idea which trails he was using and I slipped in during a heavy rain a week before the season and hung a couple of stands. It was a real small area he was moving around.”
On October 21, Evenhouse slipped into one of the stands he had hung, being careful to not blow the deer out of the area. He suspected the deer were using a grassy area for bedding down, and his stands were just roughly 90 yards away.
“I kept eying the grass, and I swore I saw a big tine sticking out of the grass,” he said. “After I got settled into the stands and got my pack hung, I looked back and couldn’t see that time anymore, just grass. Then I looked back again and saw this huge deer body just standing there. When he moved his head, I knew it was him.”
For an agonizing 25 minutes Evenhouse watched the buck slowly work its way toward his stand. As the buck neared, Evenhouse was able to draw his bow.
“His head and rack were visible, but his vitals were behind a bush,” Evenhouse said. “Then I noticed a perfect shot, or so I thought. I put my pin on that spot and fired.”
The arrow sailed right over the buck’s back. Evenhouse was devastated. He was sure he had blown what might be his only chance, but the buck didn’t run far. In fact, it only went a few yards before spinning back to see what the noise was. Evenhouse used the opportunity to reach for another arrow from his quiver.
“I knew I could get another arrow because he couldn’t see my arm behind the tree,” Evenhouse said. “I didn’t even look, I just grabbed an arrow. I got it up to nock it and I panicked—I grabbed the one arrow in my quiver with a field tip!”
Now Evenhouse faced an even greater challenge—what to do with the useless arrow. If he dropped it, it would scare the buck. Then he noticed a pocket on his backpack that he could stick the arrow in. With it stowed, he got another arrow from his quiver, this time with a broadhead. He was able to nock it and draw again for an improbable second chance on the buck of a lifetime. This time he made it count.
“I was so happy,” Evenhouse said. “I couldn’t wait to share it with my dad, Ron Evenhouse, and my friend Paul Kruger. It was Paul’s property where we got the buck.”
Hot and cold
Bowhunting in October presents a number of challenges, all of which add to the enjoyment. The month usually has a strong mix of warm and cold weather. It’s not uncommon for Michigan hunters to hunt in t-shirts one day and parkas the next. The swings in temperature and weather patterns have a big impact on deer movements and hunter success.
Michigan outdoor personality Mike Avery, of Mike Avery’s Outdoor Journal radio show, said that reports he’s been getting are following the typical weather patterns.
“It was pretty slow mid-month, but just starting to pick up toward the end of the month with the colder weather,” Avery said. “Warmer temperatures during the last week won’t help. The big thing is the rut. As it starts to kick in, bucks will become more active regardless of the weather.”
The rut is the great equalizer for Michigan hunters. It’s the time of year when all the patterns that showed on trail cameras go right out the window. During the pre-rut, hunters can fool bucks with rattling horns, scents, and more, as the bucks start to establish their dominance in an area and begin the process of seeking out does.
Pre-rut activity worked well for Rich Lagerquist, a Jenison resident who hunts with his family and friends in Manistee County. After a busy work week, Lagerquist got to his stand late on October 24. He was eager to share the buck with his family.
“I learned how to hunt from my grandfather, Rich Fredricks,” Lagerquist said. “I took the buck over to show him, letting him know I did just as he told me to. ‘Shot it right through the heart.’ My grandfather’s response was, ‘Holy s**t!’”
Lagerquist said that he has noticed a dramatic increase in the quality of bucks with Michigan’s antler-point restrictions in place in select counties. Even with just one year of hunters passing on smaller bucks, the size and quality of deer being seen this year shows that it is working, he said. It worked for Lagerquist’s friend Brian Rayburn as well. Rayburn, hunting in the same area as Lagerquist shot a nice buck the week before.
Michigan’s archery season runs from October 1 through November 15, when it shuts down for the firearm season. Archery opens back up December 1 and runs to January 1, giving Michigan archers plenty of opportunity to have a buck story of their own.