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Whitetail Deer Scents and Lures Part 2

by Darrin Bradley 2

Waltzing out of the timbered draw into the cut cornfield, over 100 yards away, a buck appeared. Within seconds, I realized he wasn’t the “shooter” I had been waiting on over the course of the past several weeks. The buck I was hunting had become the local “magician”, by providing us with a disappearing act only Houdini could mimmick. I was fortunate enough to have spotted him on one prior occassion, with his foot long tines, and impressive inside spread. My hunting party had nicknamed the large-framed ten point, “Dad”, and everyone wanted ruin his magic show with an arrow of their own. As the sun began to descend over the Western horizon, a large animal jumped the tightly strung barbwire, and began heading my direction quickly. As quickly as I became excited when I realized it was “Dad”, I became nervous. The wind direction was not in my favor, and he was closing the distance between us very fast. My harvest was now in the hands of Scent-Lok Suits, and Hunter Speciality’s Human Scent Neutralizer. The grunt call had worked, however human odor can be another story. “Dad” stopped at ten yards. I released my arrow into the largest whitetail buck I have ever had the opportunity of harvesting at such a close range. Moments later I was collecting my fourth Pope and Young Buck. In the midst of all the excitement I reflected upon what I had learned about commercial scents, as well as minimizing human odor.

When I began bowhunting whitetails several years ago, I experimented with a variety of scents. I traveled to a local deer show and faithfully purchased $180.00 worth of commercial scents. One of the products I purchased was corn scent. The product instruction suggested that I apply a generous amount of the scent to my boots. This manufacturer further claimed the corn scent would attract monster whitetail bucks. On several outings, I applied the “magic” corn scent as directed. The result was nil. On one particular evening, I was positioned high atop an oak tree overlooking a cornfield. I applied the corn scent in an attempt to lure in a big buck. At that moment, the realization hit me. If the 30 acre cornfield beneath me wasn’t enough to lure in a big buck, certainly a few drops of corn scent wasn’t going to do the trick . I had been taken. I poured the corn scent down the kitchen sink when I returned home that evening. I opened a can of corn, from the kitchen cabinet and poured the juice from the canned corn into the empty scent bottle. I gave the bottle of bogus “corn scent” to my companion, prior to the evening hunt on the following day, as a gift. “This scent is amazing. Apply it to your boots, and the whitetails will come a-runnin,” I stated, desperately trying to fight back a smile. He applied the scent, generously, to his boots. I placed him in my best stand location. Upon meeting him at dark, he was wide eyed. He had seen many deer that evening and wholeheartedely believed it was a direct result of using the bogus corn scent. He eagerly asked where he could purchase more of the product. Feeling like a modern day carpetbagger, I finally told him the corn scent was a hoax. We had a good laugh on the way home.

Cover up scents are devised to cover up, or mask human odor in an attempt to keep deer from detecting the hunter. Some examples of cover up scents include, fox urine, racoon urine, pine , oak tree , and skunk. It has been estimated whitetail deer can smell up to 10,000 times better than a human being, and are able to distinguish over 50 different scents at the same time. Over the past five years, I have not used any type of cover-up scent on 136 hunts. My “success” percentage without cover-up scents is 73%. I have also recorded the outcome of hunts in which I used cover-up scents, in effort to measure the effectiveness of these products. I was 72% successful when using cover-up scents. This study would suggest cover up scents are not useful to the hunter. Deer can smell over 50 different scents at the same time. I contend when a deer is walking through the timber it can smell a cow off in the distance, an acorn under his feet, a nearby cornfield, the cover up scent applied to your boots, and you as well. It just makes sense. I would further suggest, a whitetail deer can be alarmed by cover up scents which evoke danger responses. These would include predator urines, and the scent of skunk. Deer avoid predators. The scent of a predator is alarming. A skunk only sprays when danger is present. Additionally, if the hunter continues to use the same cover up scent over and over, deer may be able to associate that scent with the hunter whereby they may pattern your movement in the timber.

My view is certainly not “the Gospel”. Many other opinions are present in the hunting world. Cover-up scents may be more effective than my studies reveal. Many hunters use cover-up scents to package hunting clothes in. Hunter Specialities currently promotes the use of scent wafers for this very purpose. Joe Pundzak, Marketing Director, Hunter Specialties, suggests the implementation of the Deluxe Scent Safe Travel Bag for clothing storage. The bag is air-tight, and can be puchased with fresh earth cover scent wafers. After washing hunting clothes in Scent-A-Way Laundry Detergent, one needs to immediately place the clothes in the air-tight bag with a scent wafer. The result is clean, unscented, hunting clothing, which is permeated with the aroma of fresh earth.

Another type of commercial scent exists on the whitetail hunting market. Attractant scents are designed to lure deer. These include doe in heat urine, dominant buck urine, and scents of whitetail food favorites such as apples, and acorns. I have heard many testimonies in regard to their success. Hunters swear they have watched bucks follow a scent line to their stand location. I have used attractant scents on 26 seperate hunts over the past five years. I have lured only one buck with attractants during my hunting career. On a recent hunt video shoot with Tim Hooey, North American Fish and Game, he indicated one must know how to use the product, choose a good product to use, and understand the purpose of attractants. I had always believed these attractants were designed to lure in bucks from long distances. This expectation set me up for disappointment. Tim uses attractants for two primary purposes. To lure in bucks that might pass over a scent line leading to his stand, and also for detraction purposes. When a whitetail comes within bowrange, they often pass by quickly. This minimizes shot opportunties. I have discovered, with an attractant on the ground within bowrange, they often stop to investigate, and get distracted while doing so. This provides the hunter with a more advantageous shot opportunity.

Believe it or not, some companies produce better products than others when it comes to scents. I prefer scent products manufactured by Hunter Specialties, Wildlife Research Center, and Tinks.

There is good news to share in regard to scent control. Modern techonology currently offers effective tools for those hunters wishing to minimizing human scent. Bacteria is the culprit which produces human odor. The object in scent reduction is to minimize the amount of bacteria we emit in the field. I have experimented with scent neutralizer products by spraying dirty socks, old hats, and even dirty ashtrays. Within minutes, the odors disappear. I am familiar with homeowners that use these same neutralizers to remove odors caused by house pet urination and defication. Human scent neutralizers are extremely effective in minimizing human odor. Utilize them on each visit to the timber. I prefer Hunter Specialties.
On your next visit to a grocery store, walk to the isle which display laundry detergents. Take a deep breath. Household laundry detergents produce strong odors which are foreign to the whitetail environment. Do not wash hunting clothes in household laundry detergents, and you will reduce the whitetails ability to detect your prescence. Wash hunting clothes in commercial hunting detergents. Commercial hunting detergents will kill bacteria while reducing ultra violet colors emitted from dyes. I used baking soda for years until I discovered it does not kill the bacteria which creates odor. Baking soda only absorbs odor. Baking soda does not reduce ultra violet colors either.

During the 1998 archery season, I was positioned close enough to a hunting companion that I could see him throughout the hunt. I actually viewed whitetails downwind of him which were detecting him from distances exceeding 150 yards. Following the hunt, I asked him if he had seen any deer. He replied, “No” . Little did he know, deer were detecting him that night. Believe me, deer are detecting you without your knowledge if you are not taking scent precautions. I have often wondered how many deer detect the hunter without the hunter being aware of this. Carbon lined clothing is a fairly new approach in minimizing human scent. Prior to using these products, I was a bit skeptical. I went to the trouble of contacting a labratory regarding the subject. The concept behind the product is based upon the idea that the carbon will absorb human odors prior to their emittance into the air. The first year I began using carbon-lined clothing, I harvested three mountable bucks. After conducting a study of my own, with statistics obtained from my game diary, I discovered I increased my odds of success in the timber by a whopping 23%, when hunting in carbon lined clothing. According to my studies, this increase in success is higher than the increases in success associated with some environmental factors, such as moon, wind, temperature, etc. Carbon lined clothing has become essential in determining my success as a trophy whitetail hunter.

In conclusion, one must implement some type of strategy to handicapp the whitetail’s sense of smell. To a whitetail deer, you stink. Master the scent game and you will consistently harvest trophy whitetail bucks.

Darrin Bradley

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