Three vicious rubs marked a trio of cedars, and a pair of scrapes nearby smelled of earth and musk. Buck sign like this is common in early November, but in October’s first blush—when the maples are just peaking and goldenrods earn their name—it’s always a surprise.
I suspected it was made by a nocturnal buck. But later, having quit a slow sit nearby, I was hiking back to my truck before dusk when I spotted a deer at the field corner where I’d seen the sign. I knew I was looking at its creator—a slab-bodied buck with a towering rack.
The next day, Oct. 8, I hung a stand there for my father, and he talks about that hunt to this day. Twenty minutes before dark, a 150-inch, chocolate-horned 8-point emerged from a thicket, worked over one of the scrapes, and jumped the fence into the field. By the time my father gathered his wits, the buck was out of range and walking away. But Dad hit his grunt tube, and the big 8 spun a 180 and pawed the ground like a bull ready to charge. He made three scrapes like this, in the middle of the field, and then walked slowly to within feet of my dad’s stand tree. Only by the time he got there, it was too dark to shoot.
Hot Does, First Sign
Stuff like that is not supposed to happen at the beginning of this month, widely known as the October lull, when hunters assume bucks—especially mature ones—burn daylight on their bellies and move only in vampire mode. Most guys either focus on shooting does or grab a grouse gun or muskie rod and “wait for things to get good again.”