October 28, 2010
Used Correctly, Scents and Lures Have Charmed Many a Whitetail.
By Tony Petersen
Setting up a scrape dripper in the early season is a good way to encourage daytime visits from deer. Make sure to set up well down wind of any scrapes (mock or real) to catch bucks as they scent check them from a distance. Because you are inviting the deer to walk in an area you were just in, make sure to wear scent free clothes and to use rubber gloves at all times.
The archery hunting world is full of products meant to make us more successful. The problem with all of them is that they are just a small piece of the puzzle, a tool we can use to our advantage if we simply learn how to use them right. A screwdriver is of little use to pound a nail, just as a crescent wrench is of little use to cut a piece of plywood. We need to learn how to use what we have at our disposal, and this is definitely true when it comes to scents and lures for whitetail deer.
Sexual attractants, curiosity scents, and cover-ups all work at one time or another. Our job as archery hunters is to wade through the stories and gimmicks and find what truly works where and when we most commonly find ourselves hunting.
The first time I successfully used any kind of scent while archery hunting was when I was a teenager, a teenager who desperately wanted a set of antlers on my wall. My standards then were simple; if a deer had antlers he was a shooter, and that was that. My father had given me a quick tutorial on how to drag a rag to draw in a buck, and I was ready to get out and test this method. Youthful optimism was something I definitely did not lack, but after failing while using every kind of call I could get my hands on, I was convinced using scents would yield the same results.
Pay attention to your surroundings when using curiosity scents or cover-up scents. If apples or other natural foods are found in your hunting area, choosing a scent to mimic their smell would be a wise choice.
I donned my rubber boots, put on latex gloves, and doused a long scent wick in doe-in-estrus scent. After that I tied the wick to a string, and then tied the string to a long stick. I started walking and soon was dragging scent through a series of scrapes around one of my favorite stands. Not really having much of a plan, I freshened the scent often and walked through, or by, every piece of deer sign I could find (think Family Circus cartoons). Eventually I had made a rather large circle around my stand and ended up at the base of my tree. I hung the wick up, climbed in and got ready.
It was the last week of October; an absolutely beautiful afternoon. As the night progressed I heard a barrage of footfalls coming from the hill behind me. Five does and fawns had begun to meander their way around my stand. I was preoccupied with them when I heard a deer approaching in front. Turning slowly I saw the little six pointer drop his head, take a big whiff, and look up. That was all it took. He started trotting my way, and seconds later caught a glimpse of all the does and fawns. That poor little buck looked like he had just won the lottery. He had a snoot full of doe-in-estrus and he could actually see several does. His odds were good.
My odds weren't. I had only shot a few deer by then and the buck fever kicked in pretty hard. As the little 1.5 year old approached I drew, waiting for him to come out from behind a basswood clump that was located just in front of my stand. As he stepped out I shot, and my arrow buried in a small tree. I recovered long enough to nock another arrow and he stopped at about 30 yards to look back. My reptile brain must have kicked in because I made a good shot on him and he made it only 40 yards up the hill. To say I was happy would be an understatement, plus I was sold on the idea of using scents.
Hmm€¦ What's That?
The most versatile scents available are curiosity scents. These types of scents are typically broken in to two categories. The first category contains the scents that are made to mimic things that occur naturally in a deer's environment. Corn, apples, persimmons, cedar, honeysuckle, acorn and even crab apple are a few of the more common types.
Secret recipes are often used to conjure up curiosity scents, although it matters little to the archery hunter what they are made from as long as they work. These mystery scents often gain a hardcore following because of their season-long effectiveness.
Because the area you hunt will not contain every kind of natural food or plant that these curiosity scents mimic, be sure to do a little research on what's growing in your neck of the woods. If you were hunting my home state of Minnesota, a product that smells like acorns would be an obvious choice in the central and southern part of the state, but would not be the best choice for the extreme northern part.
The other category of curiosity scents is a little more mysterious. These scents are often concocted from secret ingredients that only the manufacturers know about. A lot of these types of curiosity scents have religious followings from hardcore archery hunters. Find success with one of these secret potions one time and you'll be hooked for life.
The rules for these types of scents are not as hard and fast as a lot of the rules archers impose upon themselves. That is the beauty of curiosity, the deer don't lose it when the rut is over or the soybeans they were hitting every night get picked. Curiosity is always there. That said, these mystery scents can be effective all season long, although during the rut I would opt for a few other options.
One of the best ways to use curiosity scents is by finding an area that the deer will likely filter through, and use it for a set-up shot. A great way to fill a couple of antlerless tags is to find a doe travel route and set up a scent wick or two in areas that will give you a slam dunk shot. I like to set it up so a passing doe will get wind of whatever curiosity scent I have set out, and then she'll have to poke her head into some brush or put her nose to the ground. When she's focused on the scent, I have ample time to draw and make the shot.
Cover-up scents are usually very similar to curiosity scents, except when using a cover scent you want the deer to notice but pay no mind. From fox urine to "earthy" type scents, the mar
ket has got you covered. The same rule applies to cover scents that apply to curiosity scents, do a little research and pick the right one. Typically cover scents are either applied directly to your boots or worn on a hat in a wafer form.
Pick A Fight
If you are hunting in an area with a good buck to doe ratio, dominant buck urine is a good choice. If there is fierce competition for breeding rights, the big boys in your woods will likely take offense to the scent of another stud in their core areas, and may come charging in looking for a fight. This type of scent is best used in the pre-rut stages when bucks are getting revved up, but the real action has yet to come.
Dominant buck urine, or tarsal gland scent is a good choice if you have your sights set on a truly big buck. The most common, and arguably the most effective way to use dominant buck scent is by hunting scrapes or scrape lines. Liberally douse an active scrape and set up well down wind. A lot of hunters make the mistake of setting up right on a scrape when they should be downwind to catch a buck as he scent checks it from a distance. This tactic is often effective when hunting an area that is as close to a big bucks core area as you are willing to get.
Building and maintaining a mock scrape gives archery hunters another opportunity to use dominant buck scent. If you have conditioned deer to check your mock scrape during daylight hours, a midday hunt might just be the ticket. If the setup is close to a big bucks bedding area he may just take a stroll around the perimeter, and if he gets wind of a rival in the area he'll likely close in to check things out.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you hunt an area where the competition for does is minimal, dominant buck urine (just like fierce rattling) may not be the best route to go. In situations like this, the smell of a dominant buck may actually scare deer away. With plenty of does to go around, the risk of being injured in a fight isn't worth it.
Give 'Em What They Want
Sexual attractants account for a huge portion of the scents that are sold and used. Most archery hunters invest at least a few dollars every fall in a doe-in- estrus scent. These scents are by far the most effective during the pre-rut and peak-rut times of the year. Using estrus scents outside of the stages of the rut is not a good idea, and can often send deer running the other way. They know when the big show is close.
There are more companies selling this kind of scent than any others, and there is a reason. Bucks may not want to come in to something that smells like corn, and they may not be ready to fight, but when the time of year is right they will come to a doe they believe is in estrus. No secret there.
In reality there are two different kinds of doe-in-estrus scents. The first kind is urine that was harvested from one single doe while she is in estrus, and the second kind being a collection of several does that were in estrus, all mixed together. Whether deer prefer one or the other is up for debate. Personally I have had success with both types, and found them both to be effective when used correctly.
Estrus scents can be used in multiple ways, and their versatility is one of the reasons so many archery hunters find success using them. When hunting a lot of funnels and pinch points, simply hanging a scent wick upwind of deer travel lanes may be all you need to set up a chip shot. If you hunt a lot of agricultural fields, large oak flats, or overgrown pastures, dragging a rag soaked in estrus scent might be the ticket. If bucks are chasing and actively searching the first estrus does of the year, your opportunity to capitalize is huge.
Of all of the scents on the market, none will work if they are not used correctly. Too many archery hunters think that a certain scent, just like a certain call, or setup will make things easy. That's simply not the case.
The day's of dumping doe-in-estrus or other scent onto a paper towel and stuffing it into a film canister are over. Pre-packaged scent-soaked plastic "leaves" by Wildlife Research are some of the tidy products available to today's archers.
Keeping your finger on the pulse of the deer herd will tell you when to use the correct scents. All of the pieces of the puzzle need to come together to make things happen. Pay attention to the stage deer are in and react to it. Throughout the season curiosity scents will work when employed correctly, and as the rut progresses dominant buck scent will give way to estrus scent.
So get out there and start to experiment. Don't be afraid to use scents to try and outsmart a few old does for the freezer, and maybe just as the rut is warming up you'll fool a trophy into thinking someone else has come in to take his ladies away.
A-Way Hunting Products
Black Widow Lures
MDR Outdoor Group/24Seven Scents
Buck Bomb Inc.
Buck Stop Lure Co. Inc.
Doc's Deer Scents
Dead Down Wind
Manufacturers Continued on the Following Page
Edgefield Outdoor Products
Kishel's Scents & Lures, Inc.
Mrs. Doe Pee/American Outdoors
Muzzy Products Corp.
Robinson Outdoor Products
Scent Sticks, Inc.
StonyBrook Outfitters, LLC
Wildlife Research Center, Inc.