I grew up reading everything that I could get my hands on about hunting. I would read about hunting moose and other big game in different places, but what I enjoyed the most was reading about deer hunting. I was fascinated by the whitetail deer, and could hardly wait until I was old enough to hunt them myself.
One of my favorite books was “Shots at Whitetails” by Lawrence R. Koller.
Growing up in North Ga. in the 60’s there were not a lot of deer but my dad Alwyn would hunt with his brother and dad and some friends a few times each year. A few years later when I began deer hunting Dad started hunting more. He would take four weeks off from his job at Dupont every fall to hunt. He would generally take off the 2 weeks before Thanksgiving and the 2 weeks after. In addition to hunting and working for Dupont, Dad also was involved in church activities where he served as an Elder.
Helen, my mother was a stay-at-home mom when I was young. She took care of my brother and me and several other kids. When I reached teenage years Mom went to work outside of the home. In addition to working and doing the things that mothers do, Mom was always cooking and having family and friends over for dinner. It would be interesting to know how many people over the years have set around her kitchen table and ate a meal. Mom was also supportive of our hunting and would even get up and fix breakfast and coffee for us before we headed out on our hunts. She would do that today, even at 74 years old. Mom and Dad are very special people in many ways, not only to me but to many others as well.
Both of my Granddads and all of my uncles on both sides of the family were hunters. Hunting was a family heritage, which has been handed down from generation to generation, so hunting was a way of life. Some of my uncles raised bird dogs and hunted quail. We also raised beagles and hunted rabbits. Back in those days there weren’t any computers or Nintendo games, so our family had the opportunity to enjoy spending time together hunting and doing other outdoor activities.
We didn't have a lot of material things, but we were a loving and caring family and we always tried to take good care of one another. Christmas was a special time it was a time when all the family would get together. We would have Christmas with my mother's parents on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day, we would go to my dad's parent’s house. Sometimes my brother and I and our cousins would get toy guns for Christmas. I remember getting little six shooters and other guns like an old muzzleloader like Daniel Boone’s. After Christmas dinner my brother and I would play Texas Rangers and Jesse James Gang, and cowboys and Indians with our cousins and have a good time.
One Christmas when my brother Lebron was about 10 or 11 and I was about 8 or 9 we found new BB guns under the tree. They were made like the lever action Winchester 94’s. I remember Dad saying “You will have to treat those BB guns like they are real guns if you ever expect me to buy you one to hunt with.” Dad wanted us to be careful and not hurt one another or our friends and he was teaching us gun safety. Lebron and I used those BB guns like they were 300 Winchester magnums and we passed Dads test. A couple of years later Dad bought us a shotgun, Lebron got a 16 ga., and I got a 20ga. Over the next few years, Dad and Mom trusted us to use these shotguns and a .22 rifle to hunt small game in the woods around our home.
Then I remember getting to go deer hunting for the first time. It was the fall of 1972 and I went with my Dad, Lebron, and a friend. The area we hunted consisted of cattle pastures, agricultural fields and hardwood and pine forest. The property was located in Northwest Georgia on Lookout Mountain, which was not far from our home. I did not have a rifle to deer hunt with so I borrowed one from one of my uncles. It was a bolt action 30-06 that he got while he was in the military. The clothes that I wore consisted of sweat pants and a sweat shirt, an old pair of blue jeans, a flannel shirt and briar proof pants and jacket that I had worn while hunting rabbits. Even though we only hunted one or two times that year and I did not see a deer and I was using a borrowed rifle and my clothing was not suitable for hunting whitetails, finally getting to go deer hunting was truly a dream come true.
I really enjoyed deer hunting and I wanted a rifle of my own. So remembering how much my brother and I liked the lever action BB guns we used when we were younger our first deer rifles that we bought were lever action Marlin 336’s. Mine was a 30-30 Winchester and Lebron’s was a .35 Remington. We worked on a construction job after school hours and during the summer months and bought these rifles in the summer of 1973. We sighted the rifles in and were ready for the upcoming deer season.
In the summer of 1973 my Dad obtained permission from a man that he worked with to deer hunt on his property. The property was located in Northwest Georgia on Lookout Mountain in Dade County. I was excited and looking forward to hunting. Opening day I would be hunting with my Dad and another man named Wayne Arthur. I had been deer hunting a couple of times in 1972, but I did not see a deer. I had been told by some of the older deer hunters that there was no use to hunt during the full moon because the deer would move all night then stay bedded down all day. They would say Tomorrow is going to be a good day to hunt because it is the dark of the moon. Or There's no use staying on your stand very late in the morning, because the deer are bedded down. Or The deer only move early in the morning and late in the evening. I was lead to believe that early morning was the best time to hunt.
Then there were those who said, Only bucks snort. Then there was the constant saying that deer only travel with their noses in the wind. I didn't know about any of those things, but I knew that I was going to spend my life deer hunting.
I looked at my watch and it was 1:P.M. From my stand, I had a good view of the thick cover on the creek bottom below me. On the adjoining property I could hear the deer drive that was going on. As the drivers made their way through the timber, they sounded similar to a small high school marching band. In the South it is referred to as a deer drive, in other parts of the country is may be called pushing the bush, or something similar. Suddenly from out of the laurel along the creek a small 11/2 year old buck came running out. I quickly moved my iron sighted 336 Marlin .30-.30 rifle into position and downed the buck in his tracks. I’m confidant that shooting thousands upon thousands of BB’s from that old lever action BB gun helped me make this shot. I was very proud of that deer because it was my first buck. I feel that the first deer is special and will always hold a place in the heart of a deer hunter regardless of the size of the rack or the lack of one. It is a true trophy in every sense of the word. Mine certainly was and still is today.
That hunt took place on November 3, 1973. That night at home I wrote down the activities on the deer hunt. Information like the time I hunted, the time deer were seen, the weather conditions, moon phase, rut activity and temperature were documented. Since that day in 1973, I have recorded this information on every hunt that I have ever been on. Now after countless days in the field and thousands of deer sightings while hunting in the rain, snow, clear skies, extreme temperatures on both ends of the scale, from high winds to tornadoes and everything in between, you can imagine I have accumulated an enormous amount of data and information. My hunting journeys have carried me throughout the Southeast, the Midwest and into Canada.
I have learned from each and every hunt and each one has its own special memory. Here are a few examples:
On a hunt that took place on December 26, 1975, I took a good Georgia buck. The secondary rut was going on, the weather conditions were not very comfortable, it was cold, and a light rain was falling. One thing that made this hunt so special was the fact that my Granddad was with me. It was one of his last hunts. He passed away not long after this hunt ended.
Then there was a hunt on November 14, 1985 when I was fortunate enough to take a good 9 point buck. The rut was in full swing, but the temperatures were on the warm side almost to the point of being hot. Of course, it was a clear sunny day.
On December 17, 1994, there was a very large buck that got away from me. Again the rut was on going, and the buck managed to move around behind some does and slip away from me. This was another one of those cold rainy days.
Then on December 10, 2000 on what I would call an almost picture perfect morning for deer hunting, I managed to take one of my best Georgia bucks. The actions of the 10 point buck as he chased a doe back and forth along a ridge reminded me of a quarter horse and its rider working a herd of cattle. The skies were clear, the temperature was cold, the wind was light to calm, the moon phase was in the first quarter and the rut was at its peak.
From 1998 until now, I have been fortunate enough to hunt in Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Ohio and Canada. Weather conditions have ranged from record highs to record lows, to record snowfalls. In 1998, it was hot shirtsleeve weather in Illinois and it got very warm in Canada on my 2002 hunting trip. In 2000, 2003 and 2005 the cold that the North and Midwest are known for set in. During 1999 and 2001 it rained so much that good rain gear was a necessity if you were going to stay on stand. Although I hunted in a wide variety of weather conditions, on these hunts I managed to take some of the best bucks of my hunting career.
On November 4th 2006 I was fortunate enough to take my best Georgia buck to date. It was a clear cold frosty morning during the full moon.
So after recording this information for the last 35 years, I have been able to see certain patterns emerge. As I have stated before “nothing is absolute in whitetail deer hunting or their behavior there will always be uncontrolled factors that outweigh the norm in certain situations”. The charts and information that I have documented and complied over this time span will show that there are certain times and certain conditions when the deer movement will be at its peak. Of course, if we have a chance to go hunting we should take advantage of that opportunity regardless of the date, time of day or weather conditions. A hunter never knows when the buck of a lifetime may trot across a clover field or slip though a creek bottom below their stand. But if someone were to ask me When is the best time to hunt? I would look at the data that covers a 35 year period and would be able to draft a hunting forecast. It most likely would read as follows: Light to calm wind, clear sky, low relative humidity, temperature normal or slightly below, during a full moon and the days that follow and when the seeking and chasing phase of the rut overlaps. When each of these conditions are present at the same time, your chances of seeing a mature whitetail buck are higher than at any other time. Knowing these times and conditions will give you a definite advantage in your pursuit of the greatest game animal on the planet, the whitetail deer.
KILLING THE MYTHS
There were many things that I was told about deer hunting by well-meaning hunters that was told for the facts and I don't think the hunters were lying to me or trying to deceive me in any way. I think they were trying to be helpful; they were passing along old fables or things that were observed on occasions and heralded as the norm.
One of the big things was There's no use to hunt during a full moon because the deer will move all night then stay bedded down all day. I hunted during the full moon because any time I had the opportunity to go hunting, I was going to go. The old saying, A bad day hunting is better than a good day at work is alive and well with hunters who can't always choose when they can hunt, so they and I hunt when we can. As I hunted more and kept records of all of the pertinent conditions that affect deer movement, I began to see a definite pattern that would forever dispel the fact that it is a waste of time to hunt during the full moon. The last three and a half decades of deer sightings during all moon phases show that 33.65% of the bucks seen from my stand during that time was seen during a full moon. That's one out of three!
Another thing that I was often told and which I soon realized was a myth is the same thing that many hunters have been told: There’s no use staying on your stand very long because all the deer are bedded down. I would stay on my deer stand later in the day because I love to hunt. I also began to see and kill some of my better bucks at times other than early morning. As the recorded deer sightings begin to establish visible patterns, I became totally convinced that late morning is one of the best times to see a mature buck. My charted deer sightings over 35 years clearly show that 34.05% of deer seen were seen between 9 A.M. and Noon. That's one out of three. Also, half of the bucks seen during the full moon were seen between daylight and 9 A.M. but 31.48% of the bucks seen during a full moon were seen between 9 A.M. and Noon. Talk about an incentive to stay on stand until at least noon during a full moon! Today when I plan a hunt during the full moon, I know that my odds of seeing a mature buck are good. The full moon phase has become one of my favorite times to hunt and I definitely am going to stay on stand until I kill a buck or it gets dark.
Some of the old time deer hunters would say Tomorrow is going to be a good day to hunt because it is the dark of the moon. This old hunter's myth proved to be right on target. My documented and charted deer movement patterns indicate that 47.82 % of bucks seen during the New Moon were seen between 9 A.M. and Noon. Also 48.18 % of the bucks sighted during the Last Quarter Moon were seen during the same time frame. This is a serious indicator that anytime your are on a deer stand, it is not a good idea to get down before noon.
Another old deer hunting fable is Deer only travel with their nose in the wind! A spooked deer will circle and get his nose in the wind, because he trusts his nose above all other senses. His survival depends on detecting predators or any danger that may be present. But when deer are not spooked and doing the things they do during a normal day, the wind may have little bearing on what direction they travel. What is down wind in one location in the woods may be completely different only a short distance away. The wind swirls and shifts on a continual basis and if a deer moved with his nose in the wind, they would get no where. They would wind up traveling in circles. When I worked for the Forestry Commission we would do controlled burns. We were on the radios talking from different locations. At one place, we would have a Southeast wind and at the same time on a ridge a short distance away there would be a Northwest wind. This is normal in the woods. A buck traveling across the woods would be doing 180's all the time. What deer do most of the time is travel across the wind. Bucks will often quarter with the wind or into it. Deer do like to bed down with the wind at their backs where they can smell anything behind them and use their eyes and ears for anything in front of them. Spook a buck and he will immediately circle to get down wind, but he will go wherever he desires regardless of wind direction.
Only bucks snort! This old deer tale most likely was coined by a hunter who spooked a deer and not being able to see the deer, he wanted to think that he had gotten close enough to spook a buck. Have you ever heard a hunter say I heard a doe snort? It is a proven fact that all deer are vocal, some more vocal than others, but all deer snort. My pal Tommy Garner and his wife Wanda raised deer for more than six years. Their observation living with the deer year 'round every day is that the does and fawns do a lot more snorting than the bucks do. When a deer snorts, they are responding to something they have seen or smelled. The loud snort is when the deer forcefully exhales air, often to clear their nasal passages. If you are close enough to see this, you most likely see a cloud of white come out of the deer's nose. Immediately, they will inhale air in an attempt to catch the scent of whatever had them upset. Again, most of the snorting that goes on in the deer woods is done by the does and young deer. There are other fables, old hunters' tales and just pure ole' lies that surface whenever deer hunters get together.
These are some of the most common and I hope you can now lay these to rest and concentrate on the truths of hunting the whitetail deer. There is much more information contained in this book that will help you be a better hunter regardless of your experience in the deer woods.
SCOUTING AND TREE STAND PLACEMENT
Scouting is the very best thing that you can do to shift Lady Luck in your direction, but all of the scouting that you do will not pay off if you do not place your stand in the right place. Stand placement seems to be the downfall of most hunters including experienced hunters and guides, and proper stand placement means being able to see and shoot out of your stand. There have been many stories of hunters who had the buck of a lifetime walk in on them, only to have to watch him disappear into the brush because they had failed to trim a limb where they could shoot in that direction or couldn't turn around because of a limb or other obstruction that could have and should have been removed beforehand.
One such heartbreaking story is of my first trip to Saskatchewan with my cousin Brian Hickman. The stand that the guide put him on was in the area where a tremendous buck had been seen several times. The buck would gross in the 190's. The buck came in on Brian, but there was a limb that he could not shoot over or around. He watched the monster Canadian whitetail disappear without getting a shot. If he had been a lefty like me or had he been ambidextrous, (able to shoot with either hand) he would have been able to shoot the deer. Brian did kill a nice buck that scored 165 B&C later in the day, but he probably still has nightmares about the one that got away. In this instance, it was the professional guide who had left the limb on the tree that cost his client a record book buck.
I always set my stands up in three different ways; (1) for bowhunting (2) shotgun/muzzleloader (3) rifle. This is because the three different weapons represent a different effective shooting range with the bow being a close range, one shot weapon. The muzzleloader and shotgun have a limited range, but they have a greater effective shooting range than the bow. What I want to do when setting up my stand is to set up where the game will present a shot in my comfort zone (inside the distance that I feel comfortable making a good effective one shot kill).
Regardless of what I am setting up to hunt with, there are several things that I do to ensure that things go right: I select a tree with smaller trees like dogwoods around. By doing this, I am better concealed from the deer because there will be some foliage between me and the ground.
I trim my tree and shooting lanes when the leaves are on. This should be self explanatory, but many hunters don't trim the foliage when the leaves are on, and like in the fall of 2007 where there were leaves still on the trees longer than normal, find themselves sitting in a stand that they cannot see from.
I hang my stand on the north side of the tree. By being on the north side of the tree, I have the sun either to the right or the left. The north side of a tree is always the dark side of the tree, allowing me to use the shadows and the trunk of the tree itself for concealment, which in turn allows me to get away with more movement without being detected.
I place a bright eye at nose level when facing the tree on my treestand. This way, when I reach the proper height with my climbing stand in the dark, I will know I am on the right side of the tree at the proper height to take advantage of my shooting lanes. This may sound too simple, but there have been times that hunters have climbed a tree in the dark only to realize too late that they are not in the right position to use their pre-stand placement trimming.
Leave no trace going to or coming from my stand. If possible, I want to be able to reach my stand without crossing the trail or trails that the deer will be traveling, and I do not want to disturb the area where the deer are going to or from. If I could make myself completely invisible to the deer, where they could not see, hear or smell me, I would do so. I make every effort possible to not disturb anything in going to or from my stand. After I select my stand sight and get things ready, I do not walk through my area looking for new sign or to see a new rub or scrape. If you walk into your area and leave any telltale sign behind, the deer, especially the older mature bucks will know that you are there. This takes away the element of surprise. The only time I want a deer to know I am there is when my arrow or bullet finds its mark. I strongly feel and my documentation shows that the first time I hunt a stand will be my very best opportunity to kill a mature buck off of that stand.
Setting up for Bowhunting When I choose an area where I want to hang my stand there are several things that will influence me in my decision of where to set up. I want to be able to take advantage of the deer activity by looking at the area, the sign in the area like trails, tracks, droppings, scrapes, rubs, and most of the time this is going to be in a deer funnel area. A deer funnel often is created by the terrain and the one that I Iook for in rolling terrain is an agriculture field on two sides, a strip of woods between the two fields, and hopefully, there will be a creek running through the timber. If possible, I want a bedding area close by. I will choose my stand site in the most narrow part of the funnel. Since I am a lefty, I will set up to be able to shoot out of the stand left-handed. I want to be on the prevailing wind downwind side of the trail that I expect the deer to come from. For bowhunting, I want a clear shot at 17 to 20 yards.
Setting up for muzzleloader/shotgun I basically will be looking for the same thing that I do in bowhunting, but I want to set up to extend my coverage area to at least 200 yards. I prefer the deer to be within 70-80 yards (my comfort zone) but I know my weapons well and can capitalize on a 200 yard shot with them. I want to be able to cover more edge areas, so I will set up were my visibility is better to take advantage of deer movement as far as practical. With a firearm of any type I want a stand with a rifle rest. I feel much more comfortable and absolutely love shooting a rifle or shotgun from a rest. This ensures me that I will be steady and on target when I squeeze the trigger.
Setting up for rifle hunting With a modern firearm, I feel comfortable shooting at long distances. I want to set up in an area that I can see as many edges as possible, and I want to be able to see long distances if possible. I want to take advantage of deer traveling in any direction, I want to be between a feeding area and a bedding area. When the rut is on, I like to see a lot of deer, because where ever the does are, the bucks will not be too far away. Eventually, the bucks will come looking for the girls. I know my effective range, I will have a rifle rest. I totally believe that the first shot will and should be your best shot. I don't have a problem shooting a follow up shot, but I want my first shot to be right on target.
Take the time and effort to place your stand in an area that shows lots of deer movement, and you will seriously shift Lady Luck in your direction. My pal Tommy Garner often spends 10 days scouting for every day he spends in a stand. He has no desire to set in a stand where he has not spent the time to make sure it is in the right place. He wants to be at the right place at the right time. Proper stand placement will allow you to do so as well.
MAKING SENSE OF SCENT CONTROL
What I was going to do was absolutely not by the book. I had found some early falling red oak acorns yesterday in a short scouting trip in early bowseason. The rut would not begin to affect the bucks for several weeks, but the first falling acorns would. The problem with the place the acorns were falling is that the bedding area that the bucks were using was right against the group of red oaks that were dropping their fruit during the first few days of bow season.
The way that the terrain was situated in this particular spot made it to where I would have to cross the bedding area on an old logging road to get to the oaks. This would mean that I would have to not spook the deer while going to my stand. Besides that, today the wind was out of the north-northwest, which would carry my scent directly into the bedding area. Nonetheless, I headed for my chosen tree with my climbing tree stand strapped on my back and my Mathews in my hand. I slipped as quietly as possible, moving very slowly, doing my best to imitate a sprit that is not really there and leaving no trace of my passing.
I had been in my stand for less than twenty minutes, which was directly upwind of the bedding area, when I saw a nice buck following the same trail I had just walked in on. He was moving slowly as he munched on the red oak acorns. Each time he put his head down, I would think that I was going to get busted, but each time he would raise his head with an acorn in his mouth. When he crossed the twenty-five yard mark, I slowly raised my bow and waited for him to turn to the right or the left. He was a beautiful, sleek basket racked buck and when he decided to turn to his left and take a step forward with his right front leg, I sent a Muzzy broadhead straight through his lungs. I heard him fall after running only fifty yards. How did I manage to get to my stand, hunt up wind of the buck's bedding area and have the buck not know that I had just walked down the same trail that he was following? Scent elimination!
Those of us who watch lots of outdoor television, hunting DVD's, read hunting magazine, and other areas of outdoor advertising are keenly aware of the need to do something about the human scent. There are a number of manufacturers who produce high quality, scent controlling, scent destorying or scent blocking garments. I believe that the garments contain most of the scent on the covered portion of the bodies where it is worn because of the granular activated carbon which most of them contain. but I also believe that you have to do more than put on a scent containing suit and hit the woods. These garments are capable of being contaminated with foreign smells from the outside by coming in contact with things which are not scent free. If you are wearing deodorant, cologne, aftershave, washed with scented soap, brushed your teeth with toothpaste, played with the dog, gassed up your truck or most anything else that has a scent or foreign odor which is transferred to your body or clothing during contact, a deer will smell that unless you destroy or neutralize that scent.
Deer have incredible noses and they trust their nose more than any other sense. A deer may hear you and not spook. A deer may see you and not spook. A deer may see and hear you and not spook, but if they get the slightest whiff of human odor, they will immediately spook without hesitation. Their nose is similar to or better than a dog’s and the following account of a narcotics dog is true. It happened on the border between Mexico and the United States....A road block was set up to intercept drug shipments being brought into the United States from Mexico. An eighteen wheeler was stopped and a narc dog was lead on a leash around the big rig. The dog stopped at the fuel tank and indicated that he had scented drugs. The aluminum fuel tank held close to two hundred gallons of diesel fuel. The fuel tank was drained and in the bottom of the tank, a package wrapped in plastic was found. The officers opened the package to inspect the contents. They found that inside the plastic, the package was wrapped in aluminum foil. Inside the foil was cocaine. The dog had smelled the cocaine through the aluminum fuel tank, through the diesel fuel, through the plastic and the foil. This almost seems impossible, but this goes to show us the incredible sensitivity of a dog's nose, which is very similar in capabilities to a whitetail deer.
This account should prove a major point that there are few things that can be used effectively as a cover scent that will camouflage or disguise human odor without first greatly reducing or eliminating the human smell. One exception is skunk scent which has been scientifically proven to coat the inside of a deer's nose making it much harder for other scent molecules to be detected. On the other hand, deer stay alive and interact daily in relation to scent, making the use of scents is a great tool in deer hunting, especially in the rut. When a buck gets his nose full of a doe in estrous it is almost more than he can stand. There is little that we can do to fool a deer’s nose, but we can eliminate or destroy as much human scent as possible, which will make it much easier to go undetected by a deer’s keen sense of smell and make the use of cover scents or attractant scents much more effective. I will say that the proper use of a scent suppressing or scent-containing garment for hunters is a good thing, but they are more effective when used with in conjunction with scent eliminating or scent destroying agents like Scent-A-Way spray.
I have spent my adult life trying to find something to help me get closer to whitetails without being detected. One of the most frustrating things to me is to spend hours or days patterning a good buck, set my stand up in the right place, then have the deer start in to my well chosen setup only to hit my airborne scent or ground scent and spook. Many years ago, before there were any scent control products on the market, I would shower with baking soda, wash my clothes in baking soda, brush my teeth with baking soda, and wash my boots down with the same. It helped somewhat, but I was never satisfied with the results or with the process. Quite by accident, I bumped into the man who was one of the first to market a scent-destroying agent that was feasible for the hunter. His name is Billy Vernon of Wild Wood, Florida and the inventor of Scrape Juice. Mr. Vernon challenged me to use his products while following his instructions for their proper use. After using the scent destroying products for a while, I was impressed with the results. The problem was that at that time, the little company was based out of Florida, and there was little access to their products in Arkansas. It was only after companies like Hunter's Specialties developed scent destroying products and made them readily available to the hunter did scent control become a reality for me and many others.
Even with the advent of scent control products, there is a regiment, which must be followed closely to make the system work. My regiment includes (1) taking a shower using scent free soap (2) drying off with a towel that is scent free (3) washing all of my clothes in scent free soap (4) drying my clothes in a scent free dryer using scent free dryer sheets (5) placing the clean clothes in a scent free bag (6) spraying my boots and all other equipment with a scent destroyer (7) putting my scent free clothing on at my hunting destination (8) but only after spraying everything down again with a scent destroying spray like Scent-A-Way. I have used Hunter's Specialties Scent-A-Way products for years and I trust it on every hunt. If I do my part, the scent destroying agents in the scent free detergent, soap, shampoo, conditioner, dryer sheets, travel bags and other scent free products will do theirs. I know that there are other scent neutralizing agents on the market that work, but I am very content with the Hunter's Specialties products.
This seems like a lot of aggravation to have to go through before and during each trip to the woods (and if you hunt morning and evening, that means at least two showers every day) but it is the only way to stay as scent free as possible. The addition of the Scent-A-Way wet wipes has helped to stay scent free in the field for longer periods of time.Though I have been winded on a few occasions, the deer normally either never know that I am there or they know something is up, but do not know exactly what is wrong. I killed a deer with a bow that was down wind of me that got a little antsy, but which did not spook until my arrow zipped through its vitals. I knew that I was as scent free as I could possibly get, and was puzzled about what the deer smelled. I finally realized that the deer smelled the camo face paint that I had on at the time. It was the only thing that had not gone through the scent removal process and I could faintly make out the smell when I sniffed the container.
I have been busted by deer when videoing hunts, mostly because there is always more than one person in a stand at the same time when capturing a hunt for television or hunting video. When more than one person is present in the stand or setup, both of them have to follow the same scent eliminating process to make it work and the odds of a deer smelling something that they don't like increase greatly. Also, all of the equipment carried and everything else has to be scent free or it simply will not work.
In most of the places that I have hunted whitetails, there is a pre-dominant down wind direction, but the wind shifts from minute to minute, sometimes several times a minute unless there is a strong high or low pressure system somewhere near. The thermal currents are tricky too, so going to the extreme with scent elimination is the only way that I feel that I can meet a deer on his own turf and have a chance to get in bow, gun or camera range without being detected if the wind is wrong. You can not skip a step in the scent elimination regiment and expect to not get busted by a deer’s nose.
Another thing, Lynn and I do not wear our hunting clothes for any other purpose than hunting. You normally will not see Lynn out in public in anything camo, but you most likely won't see me out without something camo on. Actually, I don't think I have many clothes that are not camo, except for jeans. The kicker is that the camo clothes that I wear in public are not my hunting clothes.
I have used another thing with success. It is a daily pill taken by mouth that reduces the scent that the body produces from the inside out. Though the manufacturer says that it eliminates one hundred percent of human odor, I simply cannot agree. It does help reduce the amount of scent that your body produces and I have put it to the test on several occasions. The scent reducing agent is called Invisipill and it has not caught on with the hunting fraternity as of yet, and may never do so because it seems a bit far fetched. I can honestly say that it helps.
Many, many times during my hunting career, I have been very close to deer on the ground and in stands. Eliminating as much human scent as possible has helped. Though, it may not be possible to totally eliminate one hundred percent of human odor, especially if we stay on stand for long periods of time, we can greatly reduce it. To understand the way scent travels in the air columns you could think thick smoke being moved along with the thermal current or a very slight wind. The bigger the cloud of smoke, the more it spreads as it drifts down wind. Now, think of reducing the cloud of smoke by ninety percent or more. The area the smoke is affecting is much smaller, and it disperses into nonexistence in a much shorter distance. That is exactly like the column of scent that we emit and by reducing the column of scent, we have a much better chance of not being detected by the incredible noses of the whitetails, elk and other wonderful game animals who possess some of the most sensitive noses in the animal world.
DEER LURES AND SCENTS
Wanda, there are five bucks that just came out of the brush on the south end, I said as I dialed the focus ring on my binoculars. There are a couple of pretty good ones in the group, but they all look like young bucks. Hey look at this! There are two fights going on at the same time! Look at that! Wow! Here comes the biggest one across the field. He has his nose in the wind. He is looking for that hot doe that he smells!
It was the first day of modern gun deer season. Wanda had hung a Scent Machine on the fence nearby and every three and a half minutes it would spray a mist of Hoe Doe Pee into the air. The scent had drifted across the large hay field to the steep, brushy hillside. The five bucks came out of the brush with their noses in the wind in an attempt to find the hot doe. When they didn't see her, tempers flared and four of the five bucks squared off for a serious shoving match. The biggest buck in the bunch chose to follow the scent. I watched him walk more that two hundred fifty yards across a wind open field, directly to the Scent Machine. Wanda, you might want to look at this buck. He is a pretty eight pointer with long tines, I said to my hunting buddy as the beautiful whitetail buck closed the distance to fifty yards. He is a two year old, isn't he? Wanda asked as she looked the sleek buck over. I don't want to shoot him. He will grow up and be a much better buck in a couple of years. Eventually, the buck eased into the brush on the east side of the field and disappeared.
That Hot Doe Pee had those guys worked up, huh? I said as I considered the fact that we had five bucks leave the brush, enter a wide open hay field looking for the hot doe. This was not the first time we had great results using airborne scent, but it was the first time we had enticed that many bucks out of the woodwork at one time.
Later in the day, after moving locations a few hundred yards, we were again set up on a field (actually it was the north end of the same field, but the ends were separated by a line of trees and a road). Wanda had of course hung the Scent Drifter on a cross fence and there were some does in the field. This particular field still had round hay bales scattered about. We set up in the tall weeds without constructing a blind. We simply got comfortable in the weeds and scattered cedar bushes.
About sundown, Wanda softly whispered A good buck just jumped the fence. How big is he? I asked because I could not see from my position. He looks like an eight point, she replied. I quietly shifted my position to where I could look around Wanda and see the deer. I almost went into cardiac arrest! The buck was a mature barrel chested, thick necked, rut pumped deer that was at least 5 years old. Shoot that buck! Shoot him! I hissed as quietly as possible. I can't shoot him for the weeds. He'll have to move a little, Wanda whispered back. It almost bugs me that she remains so calm at a time like this and she is always amused that I get so excited. Here was a pig of a buck with a neck that looked like a 5-gallon bucket walking across a green field and she still has not raised her gun.
The buck started across the field in our direction going across the wind. There were does in the field and when they saw the buck, they decided to leave. The buck stopped and watched the does trot out of the field. He knew none of them was the doe he was looking for. The one he was searching for and was sure that was close was ready to be bred. He knew because his nose told him so. He had left the security of the thick tangled up creek bottom that had become his refuge for several years. Now he was on a quest to find the hot doe.
As he started across the field, he hit a fast trot which is typical for old bucks when they are caught in the open. Shoot that buck! He is gonna be gone in a heartbeat I hissed at Wanda as I watched the huge bodied buck headed for the woods on the other side of the field. About that time the buck stopped and when he did Wanda's rifle roared. The buck made it into the woods, but he didn't go far. As usual, Wanda had pulled a perfect shot. In a few minutes we were taking pictures of Wanda and her buck. He was a good one and we both agreed that without the use of air borne scent she would not have killed him.
Deer are very social animals and their lives are filled with vocalization and scent communication every day. The proper use of scents at the right time is a tremendous tool in the bag of tricks that many hunters use to be more successful. From the pre-rut through the late season a scent that replicates a doe in estrous is very hard for any buck to resist. Sometimes they will forsake their security to seek out the hot doe that their nose tells them that is there as the half dozen bucks that we know of that came to the air borne scent that one November day.
Misting is not something new, it has been around for a long time. Some of the best deer hunters in American have been spraying their favorite deer scent into the air for many years with good results. Misting the scent lets it get up off the ground and drift with the air currents, where ever they may go, like into the tangled up creek bottom where Wanda's old buck was holing up. It brought him out, because he trusted his nose. We were using a unit called a Scent Machine that was designed to use canned scent in an aerosol type can. The problem with the particular unit was the fact that their small company was the only one who produced scent in this type dispenser, so the availability was limited and I have no idea if they are still in business at this time.
There is another unit now on the market called a Scent Drifter that is designed to use any type scent right out of the factory bottle. The Scent Drifter is battery operated and heats the scent, which helps it to become air borne, rising into the air currents and drifting where ever the wind may take it. This is more effective than simply spraying the scent into the air. The fact that it is so adaptable for most any type scent makes this scent dispenser a much more practical and effective unit.
Of course, Lynn and I, like many other hunters across North America have used cotton balls, wicks, drag rags, saturated boot pads and other scent dispersing devices for many years with good results. I am totally convinced that the proper use of scents at the right time is one of the most effective ways to lure a mature whitetail buck into shooting range. If I had to choose only one scent to use, I would opt for one that replicates or is taken from a doe in heat because beginning in the early fall until the late season, there are does that come into heat most anywhere there are whitetails. Though there are other good scents on the market, this type is the one that works the best for me and it will work for you, too.
Neither Lynn nor I use scent every time we go to the woods. The conditions and timing have to be right. We both have had deer to spook from scents, but they are always does. The problem is that often the does have a good buck following them and when the does spook the buck goes with them. When we are hunting in a high deer traffic area like travel corridors and all of the conditions are right for maximun deer movement we do not use scent. What would be the reason to take a chance of spooking a real live buck decoy ( a doe) if they were going to come past our stands anyway? We simply do not want to take that chance.
Scents are a wonderful tool that you should have in your arsenal of whitetail hunting tactics, but they should be used when the time and conditions are right. The proper use of scents at the right time will put more bucks on your wall, adding to your experience and confidence.