Hunting whitetail is a constant battle of odor versus wind. The only way to be sure that a whitetail deer won’t detect you is to be perpetually downwind of them, but that isn’t always feasible.
Some hunters counsel smearing their clothes with deer droppings or using skunk smell to mask their human odor, but these tactics leave you stinking for the entire hunting season. There are other choices when it comes to hunting scent control.
Many hunters need advice when it comes to evading the whitetail deer’s sharp sense of smell. The three components that you must weigh when deciding what scent control techniques to use are masking your human odor, using scent to attract deer, and paying attention to the wind direction.Helpful Tips for Scent Reduction
1. Control Your Odors Before Heading Out to Hunt
To a whitetail deer, the detergents we wash our clothes in, and the soaps and colognes we use on our bodies, are repulsive. Even our natural scents, like the bacteria that grow when you sweat, are enough to alert a wary buck to your presence.
Before you step out of the door, do your best to eradicate all human odors from your person—shower with baking soda or an odorless shampoo or soap. Make sure to dry off with a fresh towel that has also been washed in odor-free detergent, to minimize the bacterial growth that makes our sweat smell.
An odorless deodorant can help you manage the amount you sweat, but it won’t coat your skin with any extra scents, either. Keep some in your hunting pack to reapply throughout the day.
Wash all of your hunting clothes in odor-free detergent, and let them drip dry outside. When they’re damp, spray them with a scent-killing spray and leave them to dry completely. Seal them in an airtight bag until you need to use them. Don’t forget to spray all the gear you’ll tote to the woods, including gloves and your tree stand seat.
2. Mask Your Scent When You Get to the Woods
Now that you’ve taken away all the telltale human odor signs, you should add some other types of scents to successfully fool the bucks into thinking that you’re not a threat.
Ensure all your gear is odor-free by not touching it until you are out of your vehicle and ready to enter the woods for the day. Many hunters make the mistake of getting their gear on, including their boots, and then stopping for gas, breakfast, or coffee. If possible, don’t get dressed until you reach your hunting destination.
When you’re about to enter the woods in your odor-free gear, grab some nearby vegetation—the smellier, the better—and crush it with your hand, rubbing it on your shoulders and your pants. Some hunters like to mask their scent as they’re on their way up to their tree stand. Dab scent-maskers to the base of the tree and head on up.
3. Use Mock Scrapes to Your Benefit
If you notice an enormous scrape near your set-up, you can use it to your benefit by setting up a trail camera close by or adding scent to it to ensure that that buck will come back to reassert its territory dominance.
A scrape is an area where a buck scrapes away all the leaves and pees in the dirt left behind. The buck will also scrape its head on an overhanging branch—a licking branch—to leave its scent behind. Deer use scent to communicate their presence to other members of the herd.
You can manipulate scrapes or concoct your own to heighten your chances of harvesting a buck. A scrape is made up of a bare area with a licking branch hanging five to six feet over the indentation for the buck to rub its head on. A buck will clear the site and then urinate down its leg, so the liquid runs over the tarsal glands, further marking the area with scent.
You can get as technical or as basic as you like. Some hunters use multiple scent drippers to attract bucks to their scrapes, while others simply urinate in the scrape themselves. The aim is to draw the bucks out during the daytime when you’re legally allowed to target them.
If you do use scent drippers, it pays to set up multiple mock scrapes and see which scent the bucks prefer. Once you get footage of a few bucks checking out a particular scent dripper, swap out all the other scents to match the one they like.
The other important component of any mock scrape is a licking branch. These branches are not hard to find or manipulate; simply look for overhanging branches that, if you were a buck, you would want to rub your head on. Make sure that it is easy to notice and accessible. If necessary, you can cut a licking branch from a well-used scrape and transfer it to a new scrape.
The spot you choose for your mock scrape is essential too. Don’t pay too much attention to locales close to open fields but focus on ones near bedding or feeding areas. The two most important aspects of a mock scrape are the scent and how visible it is, so don’t pick a hidden spot in the brush.
If you don’t have a choice licking branch in the area, you can construct one so that it hangs perpendicular to the ground. If you find a scrape that looks like it is in use, spray a deer scent on the scrape to communicate to the buck that there’s competition in town.
5. Work the Wind
When you’re concentrating on scent control for your hunt, you have to work the wind or the wind will work against you. Whitetail deer have incredible senses of smell; this is how they communicate and stay apprised of which deer are in what areas. When a deer gets a whiff of a predator, it can tell whether it’s a coyote or a human hunter.
Even if you’ve prepared a million mock scrapes, if you’re sitting upwind from your prey, you won’t have a chance at a single shot. Always check the wind direction before you set off on a hunt, and bring a wind indicator with you. It can be something as simple as a small flag or fine sand.
The main point is to make sure that the wind will not be blowing your aroma toward the deer. Since you can’t control the wind direction, it’s smart to have back-up areas to fall back to if the wind isn’t cooperating.
Your tree blind location isn’t the only area to consider when it comes to the wind; think about the path to and from your blinds. If you stomp through a buck’s bedding area on your way up to your blind, you’ll announce your presence to the buck and may as well head back to your vehicle. Planning your entrances and egresses is as crucial as figuring out which way the wind is blowing from your set-up.
6. Change Your Scent from the Inside Out
You can do some things before your hunt to alter how pungently you’ll smell once you’re out there, including showering directly beforehand and brushing your teeth with baking soda. However, the odors you emit from your body are the most pervasive.
Some hunters leave off eating red meat for a few weeks before going whitetail hunting, as they think the deer can detect the gamey smell. Others stop eating lots of spices and garlic and even stop drinking coffee. Although these techniques aren’t necessarily backed by scientific research, there is evidence that certain foods alter your body odor.
7. Don’t Let Up Once You’re in the Stand
Human beings rely on their ingenuity to remain an alpha predator. For folks who are serious about their hunting scent control techniques, there are some tools to help manage their telltale human stench.
Regularly apply your scent-control spray in the stand and, if you leave for lunch, it’s a good idea to be mindful of your gear. Leave the majority of your gear inside the stand, and change out of the pants and boots at your vehicle, sealing them in a truck toolbox or storing them under your car.
A rare tip from one hunter noted that he always moved to his stand slowly and methodically to avoid sweating in any capacity. Many hunters and outdoorsmen understand how quickly animals react to the smell of human sweat, so avoiding it is wise on hunt-day.
8. Use Other Scent Control Tools
There are many products on the market to help you mask your scent, like sprays, activated carbon, and ozone generators.
These sprays work on neutralizing the natural volatile organic compounds emitted from the human body by eliminating bacteria, binding to chemicals, or reacting with odor molecules to create fewer volatile compounds.
You can also make a DIY version by dissolving baking soda and hydrogen peroxide in water. Spray all your clothing, both inside and out, and let the clothes dry outside on the line to avoid contact with any indoor human smells.
Some hunters include activated-carbon-lined clothing in their whitetail hunting gear. Activated carbon can filtrate and absorb various odors, retaining scent particles in its molecular structure.
There are two types of ozone products on the market for hunters—one that’s meant to be used in a confined space and one for use in the field. For the former, you toss items of clothing and gear into an enclosed area with the ozone generator to eradicate smells; you can also hang an ozone generator from a low-hanging branch above your head while you are on the hunt.
Ozone generators waft ozone down your scent stream, where it mixes with your scent molecules. The ozone binds to them and causes them to plunge out of your scent stream due to the compound’s higher density, eradicating your smell from the breeze. Ozone doesn’t dissolve the odor; instead, ozone changes its molecular structure, so it smells distinctly not human.
9. Choose the Right Scent Delivery Method
There are three types of scent techniques when it comes to marking the area in and around your set-up with animal smells. You can wick a scent, drag it, or drip it.
- Wicking – You can make a wick out of any absorbent, unscented material that will soak and hold liquid. The higher the fiber count in the wick, the better the scent will disperse.
- Dragging – Drag a scent-infused piece of cloth along the ground near your set-up to make a scent-line and draw the buck straight to you.
- Dripping – A scent dripper hangs above a scrape and drips scent into the scrape at intervals. It is designed so that the rising temperature will increase the air pressure inside of the scent bottle, making it drip scent more often in the daylight. At night, when the temps go down, the dripper will not emit any smell at all.
You also need to decide what kind of scent to wick, drag, or drip, which depends mostly on what the bucks want at that particular time of the season.
Early in the season, opt for a non-estrous scent because bucks aren’t quite in the mood to find a doe in estrus. In a few weeks, however, estrous does will be the only thing that can get a buck’s attention.
Controlling your scent and playing the wind are crucial to your success during the whitetail deer season. By making sure you and your gear are fragrance-free, minding the wind direction, and using every tool at your disposal, you could harvest a prize buck this season.
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