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Whitetail Tips


October 26, 2016

 Using Scents Sensibly

(The following is an excerpt from Peter's book - Whitetail Tactics. To order your copy -
click here.)

The buck held his head high, raised his upper lip, and breathed in deeply. In the frigid cold morning air, I could see his breath as he exhaled. My hands were shaking from being both cold and nervous, and I couldn’t draw back the string on my bow.

What happened next made me tenser and things quickly progressed from bad to worse. The buck slowly stretched his neck out to try and capture the estrus odor scent I placed on a tree near my deer stand. In doing so, he caught sight of me in his peripheral vision and was gone before I could react. I was torn between the excitement of the buck being drawn to the scent and the total letdown of him running off, when all of a sudden there he was again, slowly sneaking back toward the hanging scent rag.

With a lot more caution than he came in with the first time, the buck carefully stepped toward the rag. Every now and then, he would glance in my direction and then toward the rag sprinkled with doe estrus.

It took him a long time (more than ten minutes, but for all I know it could have been thirty—I was too excited at the time to really know), but he eventually made his way to the exact spot where the rag was hanging. He turned slightly and, with his back to me, stuck his nose out and whiffed the rag. This was his fatal mistake. I mustered all my willpower and yanked the string of the bow until it came to full draw.

What seemed like an hour of holding the string back was probably more like seconds, and I was praying the buck would turn before I had to relax the string. Fortunately he did, and I let the arrow fly.

The two-bladed broadhead on my wooden arrow caught the buck high in the neck! (I was aiming for his lungs . . . Stop laughing, this was a very long time ago.) For a split second, I thought it was all over but as luck would have it, my arrow severed the carotid artery and the buck was dead within seconds.

That hunt took place in 1966 and was the first time I used a deer scent to attract a buck. It was also the second year of my deer hunting life. The buck was a huge four-point—I like to use the word huge here because in reality he was just an average, immature buck that was probably no more than eighteen months old. But the word huge had you going for a second, didn’t it? It gave the story some anticipation, yes? Anyway, with that hunt, I began using deer scents and, through a lot of success and even more failures, I learned the right way to use deer lures. I have continued to use a wide variety of deer scents on every whitetail hunt since that day with unwavering loyalty and a lot of success.

What that hunt demonstrated to me was that deer lures actually work. I answered a question that I had wondered about for three long seasons. It also taught me a more important lesson about having confidence in the strategies I use.

For those who have read any of my other six deer hunting books, you already know how much I believe that being a confident hunter creates success in the field. Without confidence in your own hunting abilities, you might as well stay home.

As I have also said in almost every book I have ever written, I am not a better deer hunter than you are. In fact, none of the other so-called pros are. The only difference between everyday hunters and us is that we get more opportunities to hunt in prime areas.
Don’t be disappointed in yourself because you’re not killing the types of bucks you see on television programs. The more opportunity a hunter gets to be afield, the more chances he or she has to take game. It’s as simple as that.

The problem with most hosts of outdoor television programs is that for them it’s all about showing the audience how they took a big buck and nothing about sharing the tactics they used. If these guys don’t get good action footage, they don’t have a show, so that’s what they waste the entire show on—their hunt.

Most of them don’t try to give the audience a valid assessment of the wide range of possibilities that can occur on a hunt. Even if a person is hunting at some of the best lodges, things can go wrong. Instead, they want to grab the viewers’ attention with wrapping their show around a spectacular bow or firearm kill, which is why they spend little time on anything but video footage of the host bagging game or catching huge fish, one after another.

This helps them, they think, to make the audience believe in their extraordinary hunting skills and so they focus on shooting and catching, rather than sharing information that can help viewers take their hunting or fishing skills to the next level.

The hunting shows that air nothing but huge bucks being killed are ridiculous. For an overwhelming number of deer hunters across North America, it is nearly impossible to sit in a stand for one day and see several trophy-class bucks. Unfortunately, some of the best-known celebrities of outdoor television programs do that exact thing week-in and week-out, while peddling their products and outfitting services to boot!

These types of shows do not service the general hunter. They only make them feel as if their hunting skills are less than the host’s are. Worse yet, many hunters lose confidence in their hunting abilities because time and time again, no matter how hard they hunt, they don’t get to see or shoot the types of bucks that they watch hosts shoot on television.

Believe me, if you hunted in the areas where most of these television show hosts hunt, you would be killing the same kinds of trophy animals. I challenge any other show hosts to hunt the pressured areas of the Northeast or New England. I’ll bet none of them would go home with the kind of bucks you see them kill week after week on their shows.

It is important for me to mention that not all show hosts are like this. There are many who avoid this type of hype. Unfortunately, they
don’t get the exposure the others do.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of seeing hosts who spar with their cohost wife on the program. Who cares that he threw her in the mud and they laughed about it? I’m especially sick of hearing the stupid, nonsensical banter between them. I could give a hoot less about which of them is the better hunter than the other.

Stop all the hype and give us some genuine, intelligent information and realistic entertainment. No more overdone high fives, babes with their boobs hanging out as they bend over a dead animal, or glamour girls giggling about the game they just shot. I find it insulting and many of you have told me you and your families do, too.

Providing hardcore information, along with genuine—I repeat, genuine—enthusiasm about a successful hunt is what the overwhelming number of the hunting and fishing audience wants to see. As a famous hunter once said, “Act like you’ve been there before.”

Why am I rambling on here about this? So you don’t think any less of your hunting abilities. Most of you are as good a hunter as those of us who have been fortunate enough to do this for a living. And if it weren’t for folks like you who support us, we’d all be out of work. No matter what type of hunting you do or tactic you use, learn to believe in yourself and your hunting skills—I do!

Now, let’s get back to how to use deer lures with consistent success. Here are the golden rules of using scent according not to Hoyle, but the Deer Doctor:
• Use sexual deer scents sparingly, despite what the directions on the bottle say.
• When combining deer scents, make sure they are naturally compatible.
• Don’t hang a sexual scent too close to your stand.
• Never wear an estrous scent on your clothing. This isn’t an issue of safety but to keep from attracting a buck’s attention directly to you.
• To further reduce human odor, use food scents like apple and acorn, even where these foods don’t grow.

Using deer lures isn’t a new tactic. Native Americans and others of early hunting societies wrapped themselves in garments that had gamy aromas to get closer to their quarry. There is even evidence that they made game scents from animal extracts that served the same purpose today’s scents do—they either attracted game or masked human odors.

Of course, today’s hunters are inundated with a wide array of scents, including lures to attract deer sexually, imitate foods such as apple, corn, persimmon, imitate aromas from deer glands such as the tarsal and interdigital glands, serve as cover scents such as fox urine or skunk, and a variety of unscented soaps and detergents. There are even countless varieties of human scent eliminators from which to choose. While the choices are many, they often lead to confusion for hunters on just when, where, how, and why to use deer scents properly.

Using deer scents can be helpful when used not only properly, but also with common sense. One important rule of thumb is to remember this: Too much scent will cause you problems and scare off more deer than it will attract. Also, there isn’t a scent on the market, including my own Love Potion No. 9, that will work reliably unless the hunter uses the correct hunting techniques.

Anyone who has ever hunted white-tailed deer knows that in order to be consistently successful year-in and year-out, you must try to reduce human and other foreign odors as much as possible. But don’t be naive enough to believe that completely eliminating human odor scent is realistic. No matter what other people tell you, it isn’t. With that said, however, using these same human scent eliminators will definitely help keep your odor to a bare minimum when used properly.

By paying attention to all aspects of using scents, this element of your deer hunting strategies will immediately help you see and bag more game the next time you go afield.

Seasoned deer hunters don’t doubt the whitetail’s sense of smell is its key to survival. I have long said, “Bust a buck’s nose and you’ll bust the buck!” Conversely, if a hunter doesn’t pay meticulous attention to the whitetail’s ability to scent human odor, predators, food sources, or a hot doe, he or she is only limiting his or her ability to bag a deer. I promise you, the whitetail depends more on its sense of smell than any of its other senses.

Understanding wind and how all its air currents work is important to being consistently successful. When hunters try to lure deer in closer than usual when using deer scent, decoys, rattling, or calling, they must keep wind direction uppermost in their minds. That begins by keeping your body as clean and odor free as possible, as well as eliminating foreign odors from your hunting clothes and boots.

To help reduce human and foreign odors, you can use a variety of commercially made attracting, masking, and food scents in addition to unscented soaps.

You will find that there are three distinct opinions on using scents. Some, mostly the diehard old-timers, swear that scents are just a lot of sales hype and are vocal about them not being effective. A second group is more practical about the use of commercially made scent and feel it has its time and place. Then, there are the overly passionate hunters who won’t hunt without using some type of commercially made deer scent.

I have always had a realistic opinion about using deer scents, odor eliminators, unscented soaps, and the like. I base my support mostly on my past success when using deer scents. I also keep in mind that there is a lot of misinformation spread around by certain scent manufacturers regarding how their scent is collected and what it can do for the hunter—it’s called sales hype. Unfortunately, many of us are sold on the pretty bottles and outrageous claims.

Do I believe using commercially made scents to mask human odor or attract a deer will work? You bet I do. But I temper my feelings about using deer scents with a healthy dose of good old common sense.

My number one rule about using deer scents, whether I’m using them alone or in combination, is to create the most natural olfactory illusion I can. When the scents I put out reach the nose of an interested deer, I want them to be so natural smelling that the buck or doe comes to my stand with its guard totally down. By paying attention to this statement about scent, you will have frog-leaped from just a hunter who uses scent to a savvy whitetail hunter who understands the nuances of how to use deer scent correctly.

To begin with, I can guarantee you that no matter what type of scent used, hunters will have more success using it sparingly rather than following the directions on the labels of most bottles. Often, they suggest using more scent than is needed around your stand. Too much deer scent, no matter what type you use, will almost always make most bucks approaching your stand wary as quickly as human odor.

How to Use Deer Scents
When using deer scents, don’t confuse the deer’s olfactory senses by using too much. Instead, place a practical amount where necessary and it will be interpreted as a natural aroma, which is what the buck or doe expects when they detect scent from another deer. By using the correct scent at the right time, hunters will see more deer responding to their scent canisters.

Read the label on the bottle. If it says to use two drops, don’t empty the contents of the bottle in one place. Too much scent will spook deer away. Deer know what they should smell at certain times of the rut and how strong the smell should be.

It can be compared to when a man or woman in a cab, restaurant, or bar has put on too much cologne or perfume. Your reaction is not, “Wow, that smells nice.” It is the exact opposite, “Whoa, that is way too much cologne or perfume!”

In the whitetail’s world when a buck gets too much estrus scent, his olfactory senses go haywire. Because he knows something doesn’t smell natural, he either never comes in to investigate the aroma or gets very nervous about it. Go light and he’ll come in tight. With all that said, I have found that wisely using commercially made scent has always helped my deer hunting, not hindered it.

“Bust a buck’s nose and you’ll bust the buck” still applies today. By simply blocking, fooling, or reducing a buck’s ability to pick up human or foreign odors, you are halfway to scoring your next buck.
Here are some different deer lures:
• Sexual attractive lures, such as Love Potion No. 9 or estrus doe urine
• Straight buck or doe urine
• Food scents, such as acorn, apple, corn, persimmon, grape, and vanilla
• Cover scents, such as pine, cedar, and earth
• Glandular scents, such as tarsal, interdigital, and forehead

Each scent has its best time to be used alone or in combination during the hunting seasons, depending on where you live and when your deer season actually is.

For instance, in my home state of New York, we begin our bow hunting season around October 1st each year. The season runs into our firearm season, which generally starts around the middle of November until the middle of December. During this time, different scents work when you match them up to what is naturally happening in the woods.

In October, I tend to use a combination of scents to attract deer and cover my human scent, and use a food scent to attract deer and hide my presence, as well. This is a double whammy approach that has proven successful for me for more than years.

During this time, bucks are making a lot of rubs and scrapes, and other deer are checking them regularly. I take full advantage of these olfactory visual and scent posts by creating mock scrapes and rubs.

I begin the evening before hunting by making sure my clothing is washed or at least sprayed with a scent eliminator. I hang the clothes outside if the weather allows. If you can’t hang them outside, place them in a plastic container filled with freshly fallen leaves and pine branches. Do not use any other scent on them at this point.

I start the day of the hunt off with a shower and scrub myself and shampoo my hair with unscented soap. If I shave, I lather the soap and use it, rather than a scented shaving cream.

Next, I eat breakfast in my pajamas so I don’t get food odors on my hunting clothes. Most mornings, if not all, I eat a cold breakfast to prevent the smell of bacon, eggs, butter, etc., from clinging to my skin.

After breakfast, I retrieve the clothes I hung outside or remove them from their container and spray them lightly with some type of scent destroyer. Every other day, or sometimes every three days, I scrub the bottoms of my boots with a small fingernail brush, which you can buy in any drug store. This helps remove any foreign odors on my boots that I might have picked up in the barn, on the deck, while driving, or in my home.

This is a winning tactic that has helped me control the scent left on the ground, whether I’m wearing rubber or leather boots in the woods. However, I use common sense here. After washing the soles, I spray earth scent on them, which helps reduce any residual soap smell, no matter how slight the odor might be. I know, it seems a little over the top, but it gives me confidence that I took every available measure to do what was necessary to prepare.

Once I’m in the field, I apply scents that I feel are natural for the time of year. If I’m hunting from my stand and trying to rattle a deer in, I might use a combination that includes attractive rut scents, such as buck urine and tarsal. I’ll also add a food lure, such as acorn or apple, even when apples don’t grow in the area.

This combination of scents helps any buck coming in downwind of me smell what he instinctively expects to smell, the urine from competing bucks and a light dose of tarsal scent. Does generally don’t hang out with bucks as they spar or fight. They move a good distance away, especially when they are accompanied with fawns and yearlings, so I don’t use doe urine or estrus scent at this point. Now I have, to the best of my ability and common sense, created the most natural illusion possible for any responding buck. By the way, I have found that using a heavy dose of food scent does not alarm deer like overusing other scents.

If I make a mock rub later in October, I will use a combination of scents including buck urine, tarsal gland scent, straight doe urine, and an excellent scent that is mixture of glandular deer scents to smell like a general deer odor. If one of my hunting buddies has already killed a buck, I will use the forehead gland scents from that buck on the rub, as well.

During the peak chase period of the rut, things change regarding the way I use scent. I use more food lures to cover my odor than previously. Why? Common sense is why. As available food, such as apples, acorns, and corn, declines, deer are more likely to check out a food scent odor. It also helps keep my scent down. I always spray the inside of my hat with a food scent to help reduce odors emitting from my head, which account for about 75 percent of all human odor coming off your body.

Then I also use slightly more, and I mean slightly, doe estrus scent mixed with young buck urine. Love Potion No. 9 is the combination of a mature doe estrus and the urine of a competitive young buck. I developed this scent in the late 1980s and have used it successfully over the years. It is designed to instinctively attract mature bucks. They pick up the scent of the hot doe and, through their vomeronasal organ, they can precisely detect the rut status and age of the buck following the hot doe. With Love Potion No. 9, bucks can scent that it is an immature buck following a doe. They are instinctively motivated to follow the scent, knowing they can easily intimidate the younger buck off the trail of the doe, getting the opportunity to have the doe all to themselves.

You can find Love Potion No. 9 on our website click here -  But no matter whose deer scents you like or buy, use this combination during the rut and it will work for you.

By now you get my meaning—when I use scent, I do so sparingly and with a heavy dose of common sense. I always try to match what odors a deer expects to encounter in the woods and in amounts that will seem natural, especially to a nervous buck. But keep in mind, spooking a matriarchal doe can be just as devastating to a morning or evening’s hunt.
If you would like to have more response and action this season, here is important information that you will want to read carefully.

White-tailed deer have several external glands and organs that play a significant part in their communication and behavior. These include the commonly known tarsal, interdigital, and metatarsal glands, and the less commonly known orbital, or forehead, nasal, and preorbital glands. Three of the least known are the vomeronasal organ, salivary, and preputial glands.

Pheromones created by these glands and organs are received and interpreted by deer to help decipher everything happening in their world. The messages received via the deer’s olfactory senses act to alert, calm, attract, frighten, identify, give direction of travel, and help establish an identity of other deer in their herd by revealing a deer’s pecking order, age, and estrous or rut status within the herd.

New facts are now available about this gland. When I first wrote about the nasal gland, biologists weren’t sure of its purpose. Over the past fifteen years, however, they have discovered that the nasal gland serves multiple functions. It helps to lubricate the lining inside the deer’s nose and it is also used to leave scent on overhanging branches. Some believe it is also used to leave a specific scent when a buck makes new rubs or refreshes old ones. This scent is left to let other bucks know they have visited their rubs and scrapes. Located in the nostrils, the nasal gland has been found to consist of two almond-shaped glands.

The preputial gland is located on the inside of the buck’s penal sheath. Researchers once felt that this gland didn’t play a significant role regarding the rut, but that has changed. Now they feel it not only serves to lubricate the penis but the yellow-gray substance also deposits a scent when the buck urinates. The scent of this substance tells other bucks who he is and helps define his rutting status, too.

The forehead gland is comprised of sebaceous and apocrine hairs. During the rut, these hairs swell up and produce a scent that the buck deposits on trees as he is rubbing. Both bucks and does use this gland as a scent marker. I have taped dozens of bucks rubbing their antlers on trees, and they all exhibited the same behavior. First, they approach the tree or sapling, smell it, and begin to vigorously rub their antlers against the trunk. After rubbing their antlers up and down several times, they pause, step back, smell the trunk and lick it. Then, if the mood strikes them, they repeat the process over again. Obviously, this behavior is not a random act, but rather a specific behavioral routine bucks stick to when making a rub. The rubbed area often carries an odor for days.

There is nothing relatively new about these pungent odor glands, which are externally located on the inside of the hind legs of all deer. This tan gland turns almost black as bucks continually urinate on it throughout the rut. I think the combination of the urine mixed with the preputial substance is the cause of this color change.

Deer use tarsal gland pheromones, which are mostly made up of lactones, in several ways: as a visual and olfactory signal of a mature buck, a warning, to identify individual deer, and, in mature deer, it is involved with breeding behavior during the rut. When a buck or doe is excited, the hairs on the tarsal gland stand erect and can be seen from quite a distance by other deer. All deer urinate on their tarsal glands and this contributes to their pungent odor.

To obtain optimum response from tarsal scent during the rut, put several drops of commercially made scent in a drip dispenser, rag, or pad and hang it from a branch close by. Its scent will permeate the area and act as an attractive or agitating smell. Don’t place it on your clothing.—you don’t want the deer’s attention zoning in on you. Instead, focus his attention or aggression ten to twenty yards from you. There will be more about why I recommend this at the end of the chapter.

Although the scent from tarsal glands of harvested does attracts bucks, many hunters have had equal success attracting bucks with commercially made tarsal scent. Sometimes the odor of tarsal agitates bucks so much they respond quickly after putting out the scent.

When creating a mock scrape or hunting over a natural one, I use tarsal scent. I also use it when I am hunting with deer decoys or mock rubs. By placing a few drops on the inside of a buck decoy’s legs, it adds to the flavor of realism. Remember the key phrase in all my books, always try to create the entire illusion. In addition, I use tarsal with estrus scents when I am hunting during the rut.
Tarsal gland scent is a pungent odor. Use it only during the peak rut and sparingly. Using tarsal scent in the wrong time of year or too much of it will be ineffective. The key to all these glandular scents is to use them during the times of year that deer are accustomed to smelling them.

Interdigital is a potent scent that attracts all deer when used sparingly. The interdigital gland is located between the deer’s hooves. It is a yellow waxy secretion with an offensive, potent odor. Interdigital scent is like a human fingerprint, individual to each deer. Although I don’t know of documented evidence suggesting the interdigital odor from bucks and does are different, I would speculate the interdigital scent from mature bucks and does is more potent than the scent from immature deer.

Hunters can use interdigital scent two ways. The first is as an attractive scent. All deer leave small amounts of interdigital scent as they walk. Other deer follow trails marked with a normal amount of interdigital scent. Use only one or two drops of a commercially made scent on a boot pad. When you are about fifteen yards from your stand, remove the pad, hang it on a bush, and wait for deer to come and investigate the odor.

Deer also use interdigital scent as a warning to other deer. When a deer stomps its hooves, it’s warning other deer of danger through sight, sound, and scent. Deer that smell excess interdigital scent often refuse to continue further down the trail. They will mill about nervously for several moments, walk around the scent, or retreat the way they came. Deer will instinctively heed the pheromone warning left by another deer. Hunters who use interdigital scent incorrectly will definitely spook, rather than attract, deer.
Here’s my favorite way to make deer move out of heavy cover. When I was a guide, I placed clients on known buck escape routes. I moved about one hundred yards away, spread excess interdigital scent (about ten drops), stomped my feet and blew an Alarm-Distress snort. This imitation of a deer sending out an alarm through both audible and olfactory scent messages sent bucks and does sneaking down the posted escape routes while trying to flee the danger signals their ears and noses were receiving. Of course, you can’t use this ploy too often or in more than one or two locations in the woods you are hunting.—it could genuinely motivate deer to become reluctant to use the area.

To convince you of the potency of this scent, simply spread the toes of the next deer you kill and, with the tip of a knife, dig between the toes. Don’t be brave enough to place the knife tip directly under your nose. You’ll regret it, as it might induce the dry heave response or gag reflex. The odor is so foul it can make you nauseated. I use commercially made interdigital scent rather than collecting it from dead deer—it’s much safer, easier, and practical.

The preorbital gland is located in the inside corner of a deer’s eye. Deer control the gland via muscles in this area. Its main function is to serve as a tear duct. However, deer rub this gland (along with the forehead gland) on bushes, branches, and tree limbs, especially during the rut. Biologists now speculate that bucks use it to signal aggressive behavior. They also say that does open the glands wide when feeding fawns but do not know why. Deer also use these glands to deposit a specific pheromone, marking certain areas and identifying deer.

The metatarsal glands are no longer as controversial as they were when I first wrote about them. In fact, I have some new thoughts about them, as well. This gland is within a white tuft of hair on the outside of the hind legs, just above the dewclaws. Now, most all naturalists and biologists I have talked with believe they are atrophying, or getting smaller through evolution because they no longer serve a purpose.

There is a small camp, however, who still believe the glands emit a pheromone that is used by deer for identification. I have smelled these glands on many deer, both before and during the rut, and can say that while they do not smell anywhere as potent as the tarsal glands do, they do release an odor. In my opinion, any scent a deer emits serves some type of purpose to other deer. In any event, this gland is still not well-understood.

My suggestion coincides with my philosophy about deer hunting; don’t be afraid of being innovative. If you’re not sure how this gland will help you during the hunting season, give metatarsal a try and experiment with it this fall.

Over the past dozen years, I have used metatarsal the same way I use tarsal. Although both bucks and does walked down a trail where the scent was deposited, for the most part they have ignored the scent. I may, however, be interpreting their reactions incorrectly. Instead of ignoring it, they may be more docile or relaxed by smelling it. I’m really not sure, so if you use the scent you do so as an experiment and at your own risk.

When using deer scents, especially gland scents, be careful not to mix conflicting pheromones. For example, don’t use excess interdigital with attracting scents. Excess interdigital scent is meant to warn deer of danger, not attract them. When a deer stomps its hooves repeatedly, it is sending both a visual and audible message. Biologists say the vibration from the deer’s stomping hoof can be heard and felt for a few hundreds yards by other deer feeding or bedding in the area. I use excess interdigital with an Alarm-Distress snort to help me create the illusion of danger when I’m trying to intentionally spook deer from heavy cover. You can, however, use one or two drops of interdigital with an estrus scent, as both are attracting scents.

The most overused deer scent is doe estrus. Although estrus works, do not use this scent throughout the entire deer season. Estrus works best when used sparingly a few days prior to each peak period of the three phases of the rut.
I use doe estrus every year. However, I use with an open mind and common sense. There isn’t a buck in the woods that will confuse the estrus scent from a natural hot doe with a commercially made estrus deer scent. But that doesn’t mean you should not use commercially made doe estrus scent. To the contrary, when they are used correctly, they can be as effective on a buck as natural doe estrus.

When used correctly, big bucks have no hesitation in coming to investigate a scent rag or wick with doe estrus that is hung near a stand. I think estrus scent works best before the actual peak periods of each phase of the rut, especially during the peak chase periods that happen prior to the actual breeding.

One of my favorite lures to use is food scents. Use food scents with an open mind. I have heard some so-called experts say you can’t use food scents that are not native in the area you are hunting. If there is one point of deer hunting hype that annoys me, this is it—my deer hunting pet peeve. There are those who say you can’t use apple scent in a hardwood forest because deer will know that apples are not growing there. They are wrong at best and are bull crap artists at worst. Trust me, when used correctly, food scent lures are highly effective, whether they are native to the area you are hunting or not.

If you don’t believe apple scent, or any other type of food lure for that matter, attracts deer where wild apples don’t grow, you’re missing out on a productive hunting strategy. Before hunting season, take either a couple real apples or a scent pad soaked in commercially made apple scent (food scents are the only lure you don’t have to worry about using in excess). Place the fruit or pad in an area you are absolutely sure has no wild apples. I promise you that as deer move through the area, they will smell the food source and investigate it.

Common sense would tell you deer instinctively check out odors from potential food sources. If they didn’t, they would have a lot less food available to them. Deer have no way of figuring out if a scent pad laden with apple scent is a lure left by a hunter or an actual food item. There isn’t a buck alive that would make his way through a hardwood forest free of natural apples and pick up the odor of the apple lure and say, “A-hah, apples don’t grow here. That must be a fake. Yikes, I’ve been had . . . I’m outta here!” and then run off without looking back. The fact is, they will check out anything, and I mean anything, that smells like it would be good to eat.

Apple scent is my favorite covering and attracting scent. I use it throughout the season, especially in areas where there are no apples.
Apple scent not only acts as an attractive scent, but it is also excellent as a cover to help mask your human odor. I often place several drops on my cap to help keep my human odor contained. You can also use acorn scent in the same way in areas where there are no natural acorns. When I’ve hunted in evergreen forests, I’ve seen addition evidence that you don’t have to use indigenous scents. Many deer have walked through the pines, winded the acorn scent pad and walked over to check it out.

It’s a simple matter of common sense. If you put on apple scents in an apple orchard, acorn scent in a hardwood forest filled with acorns, or corn scent in the middle of a cornfield, the only thing you would accomplish is to help mask your human odor. The natural food will attract the deer before the scent will. My advice is to use natural food scents in areas where they are not naturally present.


Natural woodland fragrances like hemlock, pine, spruce, cedar, earth, and the like can be worn on clothing without risk of attracting a deer’s attention to the hunter. I use them regularly to help mask my odor. I especially like earth scent.

I treat food scents, such as acorn, apple, corn, grape, and vanilla, exactly the way I treat attracting lures. I put them ten to twenty yards from my stand. All except apple scent, which I also use on my cap to reduce human odor, as mentioned previously.

While I want to remind you that there is no way to totally eliminate human odor, you can reduce it significantly by following some important guidelines. Keep yourself as clean as possible before each hunt. Use an unscented soap and deodorant on your body and a scent destroyer spray on your clothes and boots. If you can shower between hunts, do so. During deer season, always use unscented shampoos. Scrub the soles of your boots every couple of days with a nailbrush and unscented sportsmen’s soap. In addition, wash your hunting clothes at least every other day. If you can, dry them outdoors. If not, hang them outdoors for a few minutes to remove dryer odor before putting them on.
Stay away from foreign odors like gasoline and diesel fuel, and don’t let your dog rub up against your hunting clothes. Avoid camp odors, such as cigarette smoke and cooking smells, as if they were the plague. Also, never get dressed and take your morning constitutional. Instead, wait until after you have relieved yourself to put on your hunting clothes. I apologize for this tacky suggestion, but it’s better to say it. Finally, a savvy hunter always washes himself (not only your hands, fellows) thoroughly after going to the bathroom. Get what I mean here?

Deer pick up scents from the foreign odors collected on the soles of your boots. Avoid wearing your hunting boots anywhere other than the woods. Sometimes even I’m guilty of wearing my hunting boots where I shouldn’t. When I do, however, I make sure I wash the soles. If you are driving to a hunting area, leave your boots in a small cardboard box filled with pine branches, fresh leaves, and fresh earth. Change the leaves and earth every two days. When you arrive at your hunting location, remove your shoes, put on your boots, and head into the woods. When you return, immediately remove your boots and put them back in the box. By following these suggestions, you will keep your boots free of foreign odors. I still wash the soles of my boots every few days to remove any human odor that might have permeated into the soles. By taking these scent suggestions seriously, you will eliminate as much human odor as possible and gain an edge.

Pheromones from external glands are natural, everyday odors in the woods. Used properly, they will add to your total deer hunting experience. They will create deer-hunting opportunities you may never have had otherwise. In addition, you will have opportunities to witness the amusing and interesting reactions of raccoons, coyotes, foxes, bears, and elk when they stop and smell scents laid out for deer. By using the suggestions within this chapter, you will not only have an advantage, but you will also have an interesting and exciting season watching and learning how does and bucks respond positively to scents when used correctly.

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