For many outdoors lovers, October is a “tweener” month, meaning it falls between summer fishing and the legendary bird and buck hunting that starts in November.
Well, here are three avid outdoorsmen who think this month offers outdoors experiences about as good as it gets.
Prime turkey time
Missourian Ray Eye has a suggestion for what Kansans should be doing in October – fall turkey hunting.
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“I call Kansas the Disney World of fall turkey hunting, it’s so danged good,” said Eye, a noted wild turkey author, videographer and hunter. “You’ve got THE best fall hunting in America. Every time I’ve been out there it’s been that good.”
He credits good turkey populations, limited woodlots and virtually no serious fall turkey hunting pressure for his sky-high success rates on his trips to Kansas. He’s also amazed at the season that’s nearly four months long, with a limit of up to four birds in some turkey hunting units.
For Eye, it’s all about the calling. Unlike some experts, he doesn’t think you have to scatter a flock and then recall them to get a shot.
He’s very fond of saying, “They’re already there, why chase them off?”
Ideally he’ll scout to locate a roost, either by watching turkeys the evening before or looking for an abundance of turkey droppings under the limbs of a big creek bottom sycamore, oak or cottonwood.
“Get up really early, get in real tight and set up, like at the edge of the nearby field and start calling,” he said. “They’ll start talking back to you while they’re in the trees, then start dropping down all around you. It reminds me of the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.”
He’ll also scout an area from high ground, looking for flocks on the ground then sneak in as close as possible. Other times he’ll just take off walking and calling. Once he gets a response, he really pours on the excited yelps, cutting, aggressive purrs and clucks.
Eye relies on a wide variety of calling devices. He’s a master with mouth calls, but you’ll never find him without a sweet-sounding slate and a box call when he’s hunting.
He uses all of them, a lot.
“Don’t hesitate to call. You have to do more calling than you do in the spring because you’re challenging a bird for dominance,” he said. “That’s one of the neat things in the fall is that you get to hear all kinds of turkey vocalizations, not just gobbles.”
That doesn’t mean you won’t hear gobbles the fall, though.
Eye likes to get in tight on flocks of gobblers and get them fired up with excited gobbler yelps, cutting and gobbling. He suggests sneaking in close to a roost to listen to the deeper, calls made by toms. He also has the recorded real things and his imitations on his fall hunting DVD, “Legends of Fall.”
A few good mornings listening to the birds should be enough to get more people into the fall turkey woods.
“Seriously, Kansas hunters just don’t know how good they’ve got it for fall turkey hunting,” Eye said. “Kansas hunters need to be getting out there and taking advantage of it.”
Get to the oaks
While many trophy deer hunters anxiously await the November rut, Greg Pickett instead goes nuts — well, he goes to a particular kind of nut.
“They’re really hitting the red oak acorns a lot right now,” said Pickett, of Elk County. “I’ve had a (heck) of a season already hunting in those oaks.”
Tuesday, Pickett had a 150-class buck loudly munching acorns 16 yards away from the base of his tree.
“I may regret not shooting him,” he said, “But I’ve been having so much fun so far.”
A few days before that he had five bucks pass his stand in a red oak together, ranging in score from the upper 130s to a tad more than 160. He wasn’t able to take a shot.
Pickett said he scouts woodlands between known bedding and feeding areas, like food plots or soybean fields, looking for red oaks that are dropping acorns.
“You can usually tell the difference between what the deer have chewed up compared to what squirrels have just peeled,” he said.
To be sure, he’s at the hottest of the local oak. He usually carries climbing sticks and a hang-on stand on his back, and places it in the best looking tree on his daily scouts.
A lot of time most of the action maybe under one particular tree.
One evening this bow season, Pickett had a total of 25 deer come to feed under one red oak, though they passed by others. He also noticed it was the tree with the most squirrel activity, too.
“Those must be the trees with the sweetest acorns or they’re just ripening the fastest,” Pickett said. “All I know is they’ll all go to one tree and in about two or three days they may have it slicked clean and be on to another.”
Pickett said this is a particularly good year to be hunting acorn-dropping oaks because the drought has left little natural browse for the deer.
“These deer, they aren’t carrying any fat because they haven’t had much to eat,” he said. “That’ll start to change as more and more acorns fall. It’s sure been good so far though, for sure.”
Cold water, hot fishing
Bob Roberts’ friends joke that he fishes more than some great blue herons.
If so, he likes to do a lot of it in October.
“I would rate October as one of my top three favorite months of the year,” said Roberts, an all-around angler from Salina. “It ranks up there with the late spring months of April and May.”
While the fishing can be about as good as in the spring, there are some differences.
“The main thing to remember is that everything works in reverse in the fall,” he said. “The cold fronts that shut (fishing) down in the spring do the opposite in the fall. Those fronts drop the temperature and it’s going to trigger more feeding and the fish schooling tighter.”
Though the actual day of a huge temperature drop may not be productive, Roberts said the day following can often lead to good fishing.
He said fall fishermen will be looking for ideal water temperatures. For crappie, that’s often around 50 degrees and lower.
Anglers after white bass and wipers often like the water temperature to be about 60 degrees. That’s about what many local lakes have had for temperatures going into this weekend’s cold front.
While the crappie will often be tight to standing or submerged brush, whites and wipers will sometimes be chasing shad in the shallows in early October.
Roberts is a fan of watching for flocks of gulls diving where whites and wipers have pushed shad to the surface. He’s done well casting in the shallows, from shore or a boat, in the shallow ends of some lakes.
“One of the best spots for white bass is up the river arms,” he said. “I’ve had 100 fish days, easily, up in the Cottonwood above Marion. It can be fantastic when you find them.”
Roberts said there are times when a slower presentation seems to help success. He often fishes a jig below a bobber .
He also said the best fall action often begins on the shallow flats at the upper ends of lakes, where the water cools the fastest then moves gradually towards deeper parts of the lake.
He also said casting from along the dam always holds the possibility of providing great action.
Though pleasure boaters, skiers and those on personal water-craft won’t be around, Roberts said to not expect to have the entire lake to yourself.
“Seems like every year I see less and less guys worried about going hunting. They just stick to fishing even well into November,” Roberts said. “It’s definitely a great time to go.”