I love the month of October. From the Texas/OU game to the first frost on the pumpkins to the raking of leaves to the sipping of hot apple cider to the sounds of wild geese migrating overhead to the doorbell ringing thanks to trick-or-treating children on Halloween night, the 10th month on the calendar just might be my favorite.
It’s also one of the best times of the year to chase a monster whitetail buck in many parts of deer country, sometimes including the Red River Valley. If your intent is to treat yourself to an October whitetail complete with a gnarly rack of scary dimensions, then here’s a list of three deer hunting tricks to play over the next couple of weeks:
Sit a waterhole: Sure, there’s already been a few chilly mornings this fall in much of the Red River Valley’s deer country. But undoubtedly, a few more warm days are still yet to come.
When October warmth reenters the picture, water is often a key consideration for deer hunters hoping to quench the thirst of a big buck once and for all.
One cool move to consider making is to hunt a waterhole, particularly here in the arid southern Great Plains where October temps can still soar upwards of 90 degrees or more.
In fact, the Lone Star State’s one-time typical state record bow buck fell to such a trick. That whitetail, a monster nine-point Texas buck net scoring 173 7/8 inches, fell to Vernon bowhunter John Wright on the first weekend of October back in 1998.
Where was the “Wright” spot for the top Pope & Young typical bow buck from Texas? You guessed it, a waterhole.
Hunt the highways: Deer highways, that is. In other words, the game trails, habitat edges and funnels that whitetails use daily to traverse between evening feeding spots and overnight bedding areas.
How do you find such a busy thoroughfare in the deer woods without bumping a buck into nocturnal seclusion? Observe first, hunt later says my bowhunting pal Jim Lillis of Sherman.
“You can scout and use your binoculars a lot and look for traffic,” said Lillis. “Then I’ll set up in those areas, trying to get on the travel routes and corridors between their feeding and bedding areas.”
“I’ll spend a day on a high spot if necessary with my binoculars just to get a feel for how the deer are moving.”
Find the chow hall: Like many hunters I know, most whitetails are always on the lookout for a good place to eat.
Longtime Lubbock, Texas bowhunter Ronnie Parsons, who has more than three dozen Pope & Young whitetails on his woodsy resume, uses this tactic to his record book advantage.
But just finding a spot with potential whitetail grub isn’t always enough; Parson believes that a hunter must find the preferred food source, too.
“There are some acorn trees that seem to produce a sweeter acorn,” Parsons said to me a few years ago.
“The deer know which acorns are the best. There may be one deer around one tree and ten around another. That’s the one you need to be at.”
If the deer on your hunting ground don’t key in on acorns, they still are likely to have a preferred food source.
Find out where the most popular October whitetail chow hall is where you hunt and you’ve taken a big step towards filling the freezer with venison.
And maybe even putting up a set of scary big whitetail headbones onto your wall, just in time for the spooktacular arrival of Oct. 31.