On October 16 a few years ago, Mark and Terry Drury of Drury Outdoors were pumped. A front had rumbled in from the north overnight, dumping an inch of rain and dropping the temperature 30 degrees. The hunters had stayed out of one of their favorite Illinois spots all month, but now the time was right. They climbed into stands near a hollow where some deer always bedded, hoping to ambush a buck moving out to a nearby crop field. The plan worked. That afternoon Terry videotaped Mark tagging a 61/2-year-old 12-pointer that scored 160. It was one of the best bucks the Drury boys had ever shot in October.
“We live for the first cold front of October,” says Terry. “That blast of cool weather makes the deer move-remember, they’re already wearing their winter coats. Old bucks start to lay down more sign and begin to nudge does around.”
When you see a drop of 20 to 40 degrees forecast on the Weather Channel, take a few vacation days. Deer sometimes move well the day before a northerly front, but the two high- pressure days after a front blows through are best. You might have to deal with 15 to 25 mph winds, but it’s worth it, since bucks will finally move earlier and harder toward food sources.
Keep watching major trails into feeding areas, but tweak your setup in a couple of ways. Hunt downwind of a trail blazed with the most fresh rubs, and the first scrapes. This rut sign could be the work of a heavy-racked buck. Studies have shown that in an area where the age structure of the bucks is good, deer 31/2 years old and older lay down most of the first serious rut sign.
Set a stand where you can see out into a food plot or across an oak flat or ridge. You want to see and pattern any monster bucks that come out of the woodwork to push does around on a cool dusk. If you spy Mr. Big working the next ridge or cutting out into a field 100 yards away, sneak over there tomorrow and hang yet another stand.