During archery season each year, there is a stretch of time when we seem to be at the "wrong place at the wrong time" and experience a spell of zero deer movement. We call this time, "The Lull," an almost complete cessation of daytime whitetail activity.
It's more than being in a bad stand.
We all do that.
And it's not just making the wrong choice of a hunting area on any given day.
We all do that too.
This is different.
The bonafide Lull is when we sit in our stand, seemingly forever, (in reality a couple days) and deer movement is non-existent; not a tail, a snort, or a foot stomp. And our deer hunting buddies concur, and say the same thing.
Or ask the same thing, "Where'd the deer go?"
There may be minor brief "lulls," and we all experience those in the deer woods too.
And these may be caused by recent changes in land use, other hunters, ATVs, weather, etc.
But in this specific context, "The Lull," is a special, annual, and unique behavioral phenomenon of the white-tailed deer.
Ironic as it may seem, The Lull would be as important for the bowhunter to be able to predict as The Rut.
Why is that?
We all know that The Rut is the high point of whitetail activity. And common hunting knowledge proclaims that The Rut is the best time to be in the woods because we have the best chance to have "an encounter of the whitetail kind."
If we can predict The Lull, as we do The Rut, then theoretically at least, we can then know when not to be in the woods.
That is, if in fact the deer are not "moving" or "on the move" during The Lull.
Ironic too that it is not "a given" that this premise that deer do not move during The Lull, is true.
Now some may say, "If the deer are not moving, then it would be a great time to scout."
And others may say, "Just hunt, any time; you never know. The deer are always there."
But a valid assertion here, without getting too distracted from our point, is that it's just as important to "rest" your stand, at least in the deer woods of the Southern Tier of New York state and the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, as spending agreed upon marginal time in it.
The number of whitetails seen from a free-range deer stand declines in direct proportion to the number of consecutive days spent in that stand.
Hunting all the time can be counterproductive.
Hunting is not a benign activity.
Every moment that we are in the woods, especially scouting and moving around, finds us laying down scent and alerting deer to our presence, not only where we are but where we have been.
And don't think that whitetails don't check out our stands after we climb down and leave the woods at dusk.
Regardless of the success we see the TV hunters, shooting from their elevated cabins have, hunting wild, free-range whitetails is a different ball game. "It ain't that simple."
And a few savvy bowhunters during the preseason actually spend time in the woods adjacent to where they are hunting.
This pre-hunting season human activity pattern (working dogs, cutting wood, hiking, scouting, etc.) lays down scent and "forces" the deer to move through the preferred area in an adjacent woodlot where the stands are set up, but left alone for weeks.
This tactic, not very common, sets up the stand for confident deer movement.
The possibility theoretically does exist to evolve a successful strategy for hunting The Lull.
But there has not yet seemed to be a Lull tactic espoused in the popular electronic or print literature for hunting The Lull.
The Lull seems to coordinate with the days surrounding the First Quarter of the second full moon after the Harvest moon.
Many avid bowhunters, over the year would concur that The Lull occurs every year in the deer woods during archery season, as sure as The Rut does.
And we know that The Rut is timed partly by photoperiodism or the amount of light striking the whitetail's pineal gland in their brain, affecting the release of hormones and other glandular secretions...behavioral modifiers.
Could The Lull be also partly affected by the amount of light striking the back of the eye too?
If The Rut is the high point, could The Lull be the low point in time?
We are led along this line of reasoning to the point that The Lull would be about two weeks prior to The Rut (actual breeding time.) And this falls into the normal time period of the Pre-Rut, when conventional wisdom says is the best time to be in the woods.
During a period of time bucks in a bachelor group hang around does that appear to be coming into estrus. This is the time when we might see half a dozen bucks, from one three-and-a-half year old eight-point, a couple two-and-a-half year old bucks and maybe a couple yearlings, chasing a doe around her sisters, female cousins, and fawns.
That doe does not run far, maybe just around the field. The bucks grunt as they half-heartedly chase, hook branches on the edge of the field, and spar with each other.
This "chasing" is really more of a buck-thing, acting out dominance, not breeding roles with all the intensity that they will soon evidence during the breeding time.
Maybe this is part of the rut cycle is the way they get "cranked up" for the real thing. Or it's a pre-rut ritual, designed by nature to set the stage for the real rut.
Maybe they need to interact as part of their social dynamics.
This group, comprised of from six to 12 or so deer "moves" along from a feeding area to a bedding area and is quite unique.
For this short period of time, this "co-ed" group comprised of all age classes; does, yearlings, old bucks, old does and even fawns of the year is observed and cries are prematurely heard throughout deer country, "The rut is on!"
This is that time of year when both bucks and does move together. Other than this time, bucks move together in bachelor groups and does of course hang out in their small family groups, or in winter, herd together with a couple older does grouping up, combining their small units.
Yearling bucks, the "wild cards" often orbit this co-ed group also called the Whitetail Breeding Nucleus (WBN,) or strike out on their own. They are the exceptions. Researchers even have a term for this specific one and-a-half year old's behavior; yearling dispersal. When we see a yearling buck, it tells us nothing about what is going on.
And that's when it is "feast or famine" out there.
I've run into a number of these WBN's over the years while bow hunting during the Lull, just prior to the rut. The bucks and the does are not simply hanging together in a "staging area" but are slowly moving from their nighttime feeding area to a bedding area. Or they leave the bedding area and move towards the feed. This is not to say that every single one of the deer in an entire hunting area are grouped up in one spot.
But there seems to be a pattern here just before the rut or the "chasing time" kicks in; and call it The Lull.
Feast or famine. If we are in the action, it's great. But if we are not, which is much more often the case, we call it The Lull.
It's the quiet before the storm.
The whitetail's gun is loaded, and nature is ready to pull the trigger on the deer's biological imperative that we call the Rut.
Oak Duke: email@example.com