Prey animals have many tactics to help them evade a predator; keen eye sight, excellent hearing and almost fool-proof scent are but a few. We can be stealth like in the field and avoid being heard. We can take entrance and exit routes to our stands that avoid being seen. All of this precaution yet a simple unfamiliar scent will throw our cover and spook the prey.
It is said that deer have a sense of smell around 500 times more acute than that of a human. Whitetail deer have different receptors in their nostrils that can help them smell up to 6 things at a time. Early season in most regions can be the hardest to fool a monster buck. The humidity level and light breezes prevalent during these times create conditions where deer can detect human scent from up to ½ mile away. Total concealment is near impossible but there are many things we can do to practice good scent control.
Before season even hits you will likely be out scouting, setting tree stands and planting food plots. Several measures to minimize your scent can keep your placement a little more secret. Wear gloves and avoid touching trees and plants with your bare skin. If in rubber boots, drape your pant leg over them to avoid a blast of foot odor with each step. Minimize the disruption you cause to the area and avoid walking across or in deer lanes. Even with utilizing scent control products and precautions you need to be cognizant of your movements in the woods. Deer are creatures of habit and any disruptions can cause them to spook and transition their movements and paths through the woods.
Come season is when scent control practices really need to be ramped up. Washing with an unscented shampoo and body wash should start a few weeks before season. Utilizing a scent free deodorant or powder will help mask and control your body odor while in the field. It seems that most men grow out their beard during hunting season but don’t forget to wash it with a scent free product – you would be surprised how much gets trapped in there.
Clothing is the biggest harbor of unwanted scent. Laundry detergents and sprays can be used to rid your clothing of the bacon from last week’s breakfast or your teenage daughter’s perfume that might linger. Storing your clothing outside, not in the garage with oils and gasolines, or the preferred method of scent lockers and bags will maintain the scent free status longer. If there are pieces of clothing or even hard goods that you aren’t able to launder there are scent controlling sprays that can be used. These are great to also spray on cameras, camera straps, treestand seats and blinds. If you have a long drive to your hunting location it can be best to wear normal clothes on the commute and then put on your hunting gear upon arrival. Portable ozone machines can also be used in the car.
There are several clothing lines that have scent controlling fabrics or activated carbon. These can block and adsorb much of your body scent. Good base layer should be the first line of defense as it is the layer most of your scent is secreted into. Merino wool has a natural scent controlling property with its wicking abilities. When walking into your stand keep your outer layers off as to avoid overheating. Even with the best scent practices sometimes you still stink – sorry. Even with control of your scent it can be crucial at times to fool a deer with scent attraction. There are many options to lure in deer and convince them a deer has recently passed through. Paying attention to timelines is important however.
Doe estrus is one of the most used products. Using it in early bow season might send some red flags as does do not hit estrus this early. Estrus is best to use on the front or back end of the rut period; which can vary based on location. Buck tarsal gland scent should only be used during peak rut. Bucks will urinate down their back legs when making a scrap and the trail of urine collects scent from oils of the tarsal glands. These will indicate status or hierarchy in the woods. Another scent bucks will rub while making a scrape are from the forehead and eyes. The preorbital and forehead gland scents should be used pre-rut to peak rut. Doe and buck urine can be used at any point in time because a deer does pee in the woods. When used in combination with other scents they can be a commanding attractant.
Watch the wind direction, practice good scent control and introduce natural deer scents when suitable. It isn’t about controlling the situation 100% but rather long enough to take the shot.