Last post, I wrote about considerations in applying for tags during the early seasons–August and September.  Moving into October, this can be the toughest month to find big mule deer across much of the West.  However, it’s also the best month to obtain a rifle tag, so it’s hard to ignore.  States like Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho offer the bulk of their licenses in October.

While October as a whole might be tough, there are still two specific times during the month than can be good, and even really good.

  1. If opening day occurs during the month and it’s the first gun season for deer, it can be fairly good the first few days.  In most mule deer country below 11,000 feet, the bucks are still on their summer range (this means preseason scouting can up your odds). While other variables might be at play, like changes in diet and thick winter coats coming on, I think the variable most affecting behavior of the older bucks is you and me. That’s right–it’s our noise, scent, and sight that sends the big bucks into the cover until the November rut.  Look for areas that have little hunting pressure due to remoteness, private land, limited licenses, or a combo of the three.  If you arrive early, scout without spooking deer or you’re actually decreasing your chances.  When the hunt opens, hunt as hard (but carefully) as possible the first few days knowing that with each passing hour, bucks are likely to become harder to find.
  2. After opening day, about the only time I’ve done well in October is if it snows, especially if it’s a really BIG storm.  Besides making bucks easier to see, storms force them to feed longer to meet energy needs.  If the storm is a multi-day bruiser, you might even catch old bucks out at all hours of the day. Storms also send most hunters to the tent or home.  Many think the hunting is best right after the storm and will plan to come back then.  While they might be right, there is usually just a few hours up to about a day of good hunting after a storm.  After that, the bucks get harder to find and the crunchy snow makes it difficult to be quiet. You need good clothing, fire starters, a compass or GPS (fog can turn you in circles fast), and preferably to know your area very well.  I’ve killed my two very best bucks in big October snow storms, one on the 4th and the other on the 20th.  Both those bucks appear in this post.

Next time, I’ll cover how I hunt the toughest month to get a tag: November.

In the meantime, check out goHunt.com. They specialize in hunting information for the DIY hunter. I use their draw odds calculator a lot this time of year and feel it has the most to offer. Learn more here:

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Read more about all-things-mule-deer-hunting in my book, Hunting Big Mule Deer. Signed copies are available in the Rokslide store, or you can go Amazon for faster delivery.

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Robby Denning
Robby Denning started hunting mule deer in the late 1970’s, only missing one season in 35 years. At 25, he gave up the pursuit of all other big-game to focus on taking the best bucks possible. He began hunting the West on a DIY budget hunting an average of 30 days a year for mule deer. Robby loves the hunt as much as the kill and the entire process from research to scouting to hunting. He’s killed four bucks over 200 inches in the last 15 seasons, mostly on easily-obtained tags. He owns a public-land scouting service and runs a private-land outfitting business helping other hunters in their pursuit of deer and elk. Robby has scouted and hunted literally thousands of square miles of mule deer country and brings a wealth of knowledge about these experiences with him. To him, the weapon of choice is just a means-to-an-end and will hunt with bow, rifle, or muzzleloader – whatever it takes to create an opportunity to take a great mule deer. He is also the author of "Hunting Big Mule Deer" available on Amazon. Robby believes all of creation is from God for man to manage, respect, and through which to know its Creator