It was my final morning being able to hunt during the opening weekend of archery season in North Dakota this past September, and I had a decision to make.

I had seen a good number of does and fawns on all my sits so far, but the key to getting a buck at this time was going to be about getting close to his bedroom.

The terrain I hunt in North Dakota is flat agriculture land along river systems. It is a sea of corn, soybeans and some sugar beets that provide not only huge food sources, but many options for bedding too.

I’m not running any cameras out there, and my scouting that week told me that the deer had pretty much shifted off of the soybeans and were feeding in the corn.

The odds felt stacked against me in terms of getting on a deer I wanted to shoot that final morning in September, so I decided to hold off. Scouting for later in the year would likely serve me better.

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There is a huge oxbow on the Red River that I have grown to love hunting out there, but it had cattle in it during the 2020 season. It had been almost two years since I stepped foot in there when I went in on a hot afternoon on Sept. 5.

The first thing I wanted to see was how the cattle had impacted where deer might be bedding. I actually think they helped make this an even better spot a year later. The areas of ragweed I knew as great bedding from prior seasons had come back especially thick through the summer.

I had just crested a small hill on the terrain when a small buck jumped up about 50 yards from me from a lush area of low cover near the eastern edge of the oxbow next to the riverbank. A doe quickly followed, and then the big buck bolted as I took a few more steps. It looked like a 10-pointer -- high and wide. Definitely one I would be happy to take.

I got down into that buck’s bed that was easy to find in the ragweed next to a piece of deadfall. He was certainly protected well in terms of being able to see anything coming at him from about a 75-yard radius with the elevated terrain around him.

I followed a subtle trail out of the ragweed and over the hill before preparing the first tree that was out of his sight. My access should be good for a north-based wind here with a ravine that will keep me low on the landscape going into the wind.

Getting tight to bedding in locations that allow you to access that spot undetected is a great approach at any time of the season, but it becomes even more of a great play right now in late October. Bucks are getting on their feet a little earlier now and might be slipping back to bed a little later in the mornings.

This particular spot will be more of an evening-hunt location. A few hundred yards from there in the northwest tip of the oxbow is my morning spot location for an east or southeast wind.

Two years ago, I discovered an area that was torn up with huge scrapes right where the timber starts to thin out next to overgrown ragweed. I had a good wind to hunt that general area during the 2019 season in late October, but the river had flooded.

There was no way I was getting on that water in the dark, so I decided to throw every rule I preach about access out the window for a morning sit after I got eyes on a great buck the night before. I basically threw my hands up and said, ‘Maybe I’ll get lucky. Just try it.’

All that did was reaffirm to me the importance of smart access. I blew so many deer out entering the tree from the road that morning as they were coming back from feeding in the adjacent fields. I would have been set up just off that scrape as they returned to bed had I been able to enter at the tip of that oxbow with the wind in my face from the river.

I scouted that exact spot in early September this year, and sign of that scrape was still there. It had certainly been hit hard again during the 2020 season even with the deer sharing that area with cattle.

Nothing is guaranteed, but I will have my kayak with me this weekend ready to paddle up the much-shallower river to sneak into that tree well before first light if I can get that southeast wind.

If I had to suggest just a couple things to look for during this last week to 10 days of October, it’s a community scrape next to a known bedding area. If you were able to find this area during prior scouting, then knowing how to access it effectively and whether you can safely get in better during a morning or evening plays an important part in the strategy.

If you have not scouted out a spot like this already, get in there now. Finding torn-up scrape lines made right now likely won’t do you any good during the gun season of November.

This last week in October can be the best week of the season for bowhunters. It’s time to be aggressive and get into the woods to set up on the sign they are laying down right now.

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor for the Alexandria Echo Press Newspaper, which is part of the Forum News Service.
Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor for the Alexandria Echo Press Newspaper, which is part of the Forum News Service.