Almost always, prey animals have better noses than predators. When it comes to our interpretation of a whitetail’s sense of smell, there is always some level of assumption because we can’t talk to deer.
I believe scent control can help the whitetail hunter. Is it 100-percent effective? No—it doesn’t matter what product you are using. Can you reduce your unwanted scent? Yes. If you have done everything you can to reduce the amount of foreign odor molecules on your gear and yourself, there is some threshold where you will be able to get away with more. Maybe it means a deer will think you are 200 yards away from them instead of 30 yards away.
Scent control is a pain. It doesn’t take minutes—it takes hours. It is a lot of work, but it is worth it. I want to reduce my odor through whatever hygiene or equipment care methods I can.
I use Dead Down Wind products for personal hygiene and my clothing. These products are based on enzymes, which allow them to control a very broad spectrum of odors. Different enzymes will attack different bacteria. Enzymes don’t just kill bacteria and let them rot, which causes odor. Instead, they will break apart bacteria, disassembling them in such a way that they don’t cause any odor. Certain enzymes will also tackle hydrocarbons, or the compounds that make up petroleum smells and other common odors that hunters will encounter on their way to go hunting. Enzymes are also totally safe for your skin, and only are programmed to kill the harmful bacteria that create odor.
Dead Down Wind does not make a cover scent because cover scents simply don’t work. People often think like people—not our quarry. Think about it this way: We might smell skunk in a skunk cover scent, but a deer will smell all the chemical compounds in that scent. In my opinion, spraying a synthetic cover scent on your clothing is pointless, and it is even likely to heighten a deer’s caution because it is a foreign odor to them.
Very few whitetail hunters seem to talk about the approach to their treestands. My success significantly improved when I started paying more attention to my entrances and exits to and from my treestands. You need to do everything in your power to avoid being detected by whitetails, and this means analyzing your every move as you navigate around your setups.
If you are hunting where you see the maximum amount of tracks, scat or other deer sign, you are in the wrong spot. Why? Most of the time deer move at night, and deer move most where they are most comfortable. Therefore, I set most of my stands on the fringe of comfort zones. Because of this, I can only hunt 5 percent of my property. Some people think it’s crazy, but I would rather effectively hunt 5 percent of my property than waste my time hunting in areas where I will be busted.
THE USE OF URINE
Urine straight out of a bladder or synthetic urine does not have the same chemical compounds as the urine that comes out of a real doe. There is some chemical reaction that can’t be replicated when a doe urinates. Therefore, I don’t use urine products because the last thing I want is for a deer to be alert when it is around me. Once a deer becomes alerted for any reason, its senses get cued up and it will probably be alerted to my presence, too.
I do, however, love mock scrapes. To me, that fresh dirt smell is just as important as urine, and I urinate in my mock scrapes. Deer don’t associate human urine with danger, but it can make them curious. Young bucks are almost always more likely to be curious about certain things—such as urine—than mature bucks that have more environmental experience.
Urine breaks down very quickly. When a buck crosses a sexually receptive doe’s trail, he always travels the same direction that the doe went. He does this because every step the doe takes will leave a trace of her urine that is fresher than the last.
Dr. Grant Woods is a veteran wildlife biologist, land manager and expert whitetail hunter. Dr. Woods is also host of GrowingDeer.TV—a free weekly online video series focused on whitetail management and hunting.