I'm returning to Oklahoma's Croton Creek Ranch to bowhunt whitetail in a couple days. Last year's Oklahoma hunt marked a decided change of heart for me regarding bowhunting the October Lull. Admittedly, when accepting friend Gary Sefton's invitation last year I signed on not so much in anticipation of the hunting -- which I guessed would prove hit and miss -- but because I enjoy Gary's company, as well as some of the other guys who would be along; Atsko's Mike Jordan, Pradco's Mike Mattly, and a handful of outdoor writers and editors I've happily shared camps with before.
There's no need to go into great depth about bowhunting early October. It's basic whitetail biology. Shortly after stripping velvet, whitetail bucks, mature bucks in particular, completely change patterns. They often relocate into entirely new core areas and move very little in general, during daylight hours more specifically. This really has little to do with hunting pressure, because this remains true even on lightly-hunted properties. Bucks are fattened up and basically saving their energy for the November rut.
I've been talked into a sampling of these early-October deals before -- in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Illinois, North Dakota, Nebraska, to name a few highlights -- with pitches something to the effect of "The bucks are out there and haven't been hunted yet." This is akin to the notion, while discussing Power-Ball lotteries, of "Someone's got to win." Without exception these hunts have proven slow, with long hours on stand in which squirrels playing nearby become the highlight of the day.
That was until Oklahoma. Of 12 bowhunters in camp that week last year, eight of us arrowed 3 1/2- and 4 1/2-year-old bucks and another guy missed an easy shot at a nice whitetail. Perhaps it was all a great stroke of luck, but I'm hoping mightily we can pull it off again this week.
There are a couple decided qualifiers which tip the odds in the bowhunter's favor in Oklahoma.
First, the Sanderfords, Croton Creek Ranch owners/operators, hunt their spread very conservatively. It's safe to say they don't rely heavily on outfitting revenue for survival unlike many outfits that shoot their properties flat simply to keep their heads above water.
The other two aspects go hand-in-hand. Oklahoma allows baiting and the state was experiencing a terrible drought last year. There was limited natural food available, so visits to feeders distributing corn and Buck Blitz supplemental feed attracted plenty of attention.
As luck would have it -- for this year's guests and myself in regards to our upcoming hunt at least -- Oklahoma is again deep in drought (like seemingly the entire nation). So I'm shooting my Bear Archery Anarchy compound and Fred Bear Takedown recurve religiously. I plan to tote both on stand each day. Anything inside 25-30 yards, I grab for the recurve. Outside that range and I've got the Anarchy shooting dead nuts to 60 yards.
I'll let you know how it goes. My guess is I'll have an exciting tale to tell.
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