Frenzies of October Whitetail Hunting

Whitetail does won’t be in heat until early November. Yet, in a couple of weeks (mid-October) antlered bucks will begin their usual 2–3 week frenzy of making musk-laden antler rubs and ground scrapes. So why do they do this? Because cooler nights and peaking testosterone have inflamed their genetically influenced passion to mark intended breeding ranges with visible and musk-laden signposts. By this time, one enormous and aggressive buck will have conquered all other bucks in battle within its 1–2 square-mile home range, becoming the dominant breeding buck. No longer tolerant of other antlered bucks after weather cools, it will force them to flee off-range where most will remain and keep a low profile until November breeding is over. Until breeding begins, especially during hours whitetails normally feed, the dominant breeding buck will cruise its breeding range daily, searching for lesser bucks that dared to sneak back, visiting all does within its range (anxiously anticipating the first whiff of doe-in-heat pheromone) and renewing musk odors on all of its scrapes and many of its rubs — regarded as no trespassing signs by all other bucks. Between the onset of this activity and the onset of breeding in early November, there is no better time to hunt the largest of bucks living within your hunting area (bowhunting), keying on freshly renewed ground scrapes adjacent to deer trails with fresh deer tracks measuring 3-1/2 inches or more in length and/or fresh droppings measuring ¾ inch or more in length.

Typically, however, the discovery the abundance of freshly made or renewed ground scrapes at this time touches off a frenzy among deer hunters: using so-called “buck lures” to attract bucks to real or fake ground scrapes. Hunters have finally come to realize, however, wherever whiffs of airborne doe-in-heat pheromone are carried by the wind, odors emitted by the nearby hunter using it are also carried, alerting or alarming all downwind deer. This in turn has touched off still another frenzy among hunters: using gimmicks and potions claimed to eliminate or mask human odors.

Throughout the latter half of October, few things are more important to a dominant buck than keeping its musk odors strong at each of its scrapes. The only things that will keep a buck from regularly renewing each of its scrapes at least once every 24–48 hours are unseasonably warm or stormy weather or knowing a hunter is waiting in ambush near one. The more a hunter does to lure a buck to a scrape, the more likely and the sooner the buck will discover the presence of the hunter, usually occurring without the hunter’s knowledge.

The very best way to hunt near a scrape is as follows: 1) only hunt near a freshly made or renewed scrape, 2) stay well away from the scrape and adjacent trail, adding nothing to them including your trail scents, odors emitted from your breath and skin and the strong odor of rubber emitted by your rubber boot soles, 3) approach them from downwind or a crosswind angling toward one of your cheeks only, preferably beginning 200 yards away, and 4) sit silently and without discernable motions in a tree stand or on a stool at ground level without bare skin showing and where your silhouette is well hidden downwind or crosswind of the scrape. If a buck doesn’t show up within two days, it knows you are there, meaning it’s time to move to a new, recently made or renewed scrape.

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