Fooling a Whitetail’s Nose
Whitetails are the most sought-after big game animals in North America. From the northern corners of Maine to south Texas, millions of hunters take to the woods, prairies, fields and rolling hills in pursuit of wrapping their tag on a big-bodied, big-racked whitetail.
Countless hours are spent around campfires, tables and pick-up trucks retelling their stories of the big buck that magically appeared from nowhere, the arrow that flew true and the big-necked bucks hanging on the meat pole. Past bucks killed years ago tend to grow from one season to the next through the stories told. This is all part of deer hunting. The camaraderie shared among fellow hunters is priceless.
But, before any of this can take place, we must get through a day’s hunt without being busted by the nose of a monster whitetail. Do not be fooled by the nose of an old doe either. These big does with their motherly instincts are as tough, if not tougher, to fool than any buck roaming the Earth. There are two types of odors hunters must contend with, human odors and scents intended to help attract deer to your location.
Odor control all begins with personal hygiene. There is no room for scented soaps and shampoos in the deer woods. Even if I shower the night before a hunt, I always shower the morning of the hunt too.
Many commercial manufacturers sell unscented soaps specifically for hunters, and I recommend investing a few bucks to buy some.
Deodorants must be scent-free and are readily available for purchase. There is no need to smell like all the fragrances that many deodorants offer. Even these tiny odors will be picked up by a whitetail’s powerful nose.
Also, forget about slapping on some Old Spice or any other cologne. Leave all this smell good stuff for date night with your spouse.
Rubber boots are necessary when hunting, but do not put them on until you are ready to make you walk to the stand. The rubber will not leave odors behind like leather boots do. Depending on the temperature, I wear either insulated or un-insulated boots. I like to have my pants tucked into my boots while walking to and from my stand if I can. The fabric will leave behind more scent than the rubber will.
I drive to my hunting destination in an old pair of tennis shoes and never wear my boots until I am ready to start walking. Any foreign odor that I might encounter will transfer to the rubber. Just like your clothes will pick up the greasy odors of the diner and the gas station, so will your boots, maybe not to the same magnitude as the fabric will though.
Gloves are another important piece of clothing, even when just walking to and from your stand. Your skin is full of oils that easily transfer from your hands to any limb or bush that you push to the side as you are walking. Wearing gloves sprayed with scent neutralizer will greatly reduce any odor you might leave behind.
The most important weapon to fight odors is scent neutralizer. A product I began using last season is Dead Scent. Dead Scent Hunting Elimination effectively and silently eliminates smells caused by human, household, and game deterrent odors, along with, smoke, and other organic sources. What you are left with is hunting clothes and even your gear that is scent free but with an essence of salt that helps attract deer.
By now you have a pretty good idea n how to keep the bad scents to a minimum. Let us take a look at how you can use scents to attract deer.
Walk into any sporting goods store you are likely to be overwhelmed by all the attractants on the market to attract deer. It seems more are showing up every fall. I cannot help you weed out the good from the bad, but I can help you use scents correctly to increase your odds at a mature buck.
I begin my attempt to attract deer to where I will be hunting well before I ever get to my stand. Most of you have heard of drag rags. It is simply a rag soaked in an attractant or urine you pull behind as you walk to your stand. In a perfect world, a curious buck will notice the aroma, follow the scent trail, and show up at your stand.
Dragging a rag behind you works, but it has its flaws too. They often must be refreshed before you get to your stand for maximum results. And they seem to get caught on every limb, bush, and small tree you pass by.
One of the most popular methods to attract deer, especially during the rut, is using scent wicks. You can lure deer to within range by hanging scent wicks fifteen yards to either side of your stand. For the best results place the wicks crosswind from the tree you are hunting out of. That way the deer will smell the wicks before they smell you. Simply dip the cotton wick into the bottle of attractant that you are using and place the wick in a tree or bush.
After about 90 minutes of being on stand I like to add a little deer scent to the air. ScrapeFix’s powder attractants are great for this. With a squeeze of the tiny bottle, hundreds of scent molecules are released into the air. Because the tiny particles do not break down, you will not need to do it again while on stand.
Most deer lures bought by hunters in the United States are doe in estrus. However, during the last days of the seeking (rubbing and scraping increases), and the first days of the chase phase (the first doe comes into estrus), a good buck scent works best.
Build a mock scrape or locate a real scrape near your stand location. The key to a mock scrape is a licking branch and the scent of other deer. The last couple of years I have relied on ScrapeFix to make this happen. ScrapeFix comes in both powder and liquid form in a variety of scents depending on your wants and the time of year it is. ScrapeFix is designed to last for weeks before having to be refreshed.
Why are scrapes so vital to success for many of us? Simply put, deer rely on them during the rut to communicate with each other. In the whitetail world, they are used all year long. Whitetail deer can precisely identify sex, age, social status, and the approximate time a doe will come into estrus by visiting these scrapes.
How do you make a mock scrape? Look for funnel areas and travel corridors leading to feeding areas. Being careful not to leave any human scent in the area, scrape down an area using rubber boots or a stick about 2-3 feet wide down to bare earth, clearing leaves and debris away. This will provide a visual cue as well as a scent cue for the deer. It is essential to have overhanging branches (licking branches) as the deer will use these to rub their head, nose, and antlers to stimulate glands. Deer produces scents from glands located on their head, legs, and hooves. Deer lick these branches to leave scent and to attain scents left by other deer. I rely on the complete ScrapeFix system to accomplish all of this by placing some scent on the scrape and a little on the licking branch. What scent I use depends on the time of the year it is.
Beating a deer’s powerful nose is impossible. All we can hope for as hunters is to fool it the best we can. Taking every precaution you can when scouting, hanging stands and hunting is the first step in combating a whitetail’s nose. Next, use attractants to fool a deer into believing that another deer it is interested in is in the area. There are not any perfect solutions to using scents affectively all the time. A buck might be spooked by the scent of another deer, or he might catch your odor, but the odds are still in your favor of beating his powerful nose.