As October arrives, breeding behavior kicks off in whitetail country, and hunters can expect bucks to move to a fall pattern, in which the habits of their slick-headed companions will make a huge impact on their daily drive. 

With the exception of the fall breeding season, bucks live with bucks and does live with does in perfect harmony, feeding and loafing in the same places. But when the hormones start flowing, everything changes, and deer begin to reassess their company. Hunters looking to score big with a heavy-horned beast in early fall need to keep tabs not only on buck movements, but on the congregations of does in the area. 

The approach of breeding season controls buck and doe movements each fall. The peak of local breeding activity begins in October and can last as long as December in different parts of North Carolina and begins in October and can last until the middle of November in South Carolina.   

While bucks are the main target for hunters, does play a crucial role in the overall picture. Doe management is an integral part of the hunting strategy for Austin Morell of Latta, S.C., who finds a way to bring home at least one trophy each year.       

“If you have the does coming in regularly during the rut, the bucks will show up,” Morrell said. “But keeping the does from being spooked is just as important as keeping the bucks unaware of your presence.”

When does go nocturnal and come in to feed on corn piles, food plots and agricultural fields after dark, bucks will be out at the same time. 

“If you spook the does every time you get down, you will educate them, and they will go nocturnal,” he