No matter what four-legged critter you’re pursuing, the one thing that will get you busted most often is invisible and drifting on the air. From varmints to big game, it’s the defensive sense of smell that can either ruin your day or work amazingly well in your favor. With the right combination of cover and attractant scents, you can keep your presence concealed and draw the unwary quarry close enough to distinguish detail in their fur.
For the majority of animals we hunt, be it deer, elk, bears, or even antelope, human scent plays a major portion in our success/failure. However, with modern scent-management strategies hunters have more advantages than ever. Scent control is a genuine science today, allowing bow hunters to fool a critter’s keenest survival sense.
I have said it many times before, and I will say it again. I do not believe a hunter can cover his human scent 100 percent. If the wind blows directly from you to a whitetail, muley, elk or moose, the sharp-nosed animal will smell something suspicious. This is especially true if you are hunting on foot, perspiring and giving off more than average amounts of human body odor; however, in most cases, your scent can be managed around a tree stand or ground blind to allow effective bowhunting.
Animals expect a big whiff of scent from humans when they’re close and just a hint when they’re far away. When you take every step to reduce odor, the minimal amount that you are dispersing will make it appear to the animal that you are in the area, but too far away to put it on alert. Consider the following tips for minimizing odor and maximizing success in the field.
A good scent-control program begins in the laundry, so start with a clean slate. You’ll find a number of products in which to wash your hunting clothes, reduce odors in them and reduce the amount of scent that is present after they’re dry. Once your clothes come out of the laundry, spray them with a scent-controlling spray and then bag and seal them tightly. Top-quality scent-control laundry soaps and dryer sheets not only reduce odors in the washer and dryer, they have special inhibitors that continue to reduce odors for several days Scent-controlling sprays work for days, even after the spray has dried, but it’s a good idea to give your boots and clothes a quick dose once you’re ready to leave your vehicle.
Even a little perspiration is too much, so begin maintaining an unscented trail in the shower. Wash with a scent-free body soap and shampoo. Then use a scent-free deodorant that will provide protection no matter how much you tend to sweat. Your body produces and dispenses odors like a game feeder scatters corn. As you walk into any area, you leave your scent on the ground, on tree leaves and on the air. So using scent-free soaps and deodorants are essential steps in minimizing human odor.
During the day you’re going to handle things that will leave odors on your hands. The worst of these is filling up at the gas station and having the smell of gasoline or diesel spending the day with you. You’ll also eat something during the day and maybe slip a pinch between your cheek and gums. To reduce the lingering scent on your palms and fingers, take along a pack of scent-free towels. They come in a resealable plastic bag and don’t take up much room in your pack. Plus, they’re very handy for multiple-day hunts when no shower is available.
Animal and plant-based cover scents
Cover scents can be either environment related, such as cedar or pine scents, acorn and earth scents or those derived from animals. Animal scents such as the aroma of skunk, fox urine, coon urine and others do a good job of concealing your presence, especially for varmint hunters.
A little red fox or coon urine applied to your boot soles or a pin-on scent pad can certainly help to mask the foot trail to and from your stand. These will mix with your airborne human scent, too, possibly confusing game.
*** attractants for big game disperse scents that lure in a testosterone-charged quarry. Attractants can be the scent of a female in estrus, female urine or male urine that causes a buck to think a philanderer is in his territory. Attractants are also available in liquids, sprays, dust applications and smoke sticks.
For best results, use an attractant scent in a combination of several presentations, including making mock scrapes or enhancing active scrapes, elevated scent strips and dragging a strip enrooted to your stand or blind. *** lures draw rutting animals like flies to honey. Placed on scent wicks around your stand, dripped in active scrapes, distributed with scent, applied directly to deer decoys, or misted from a spray bottle periodically, such powerful lures clearly turn a rutting male’s head. If rutting doe urine is fresh and extracted from a single animal, it can draw bucks as surely as a real estrous female.
Another benefit of using attractants is the distraction they create that allows you to set up a shot. While a buck is focused on a hot scent, you have the opportunity to make your final adjustments required to squeeze off a shot.
If you’re fortunate enough to locate an active scrape that a buck is checking regularly, the most effective technique is to add a doe-in-estrus scent to make him think he has a receptive doe waiting for his return, and throw in a little buck scent to create a sense of urgency.
Lacking an active scrape, you can create your own by "pawing" away the leaves with a stick and adding the appropriate scents. The disperse the scent is with a hanging scent bag. A drip bag positioned over the scrape will allow you to influence a buck’s nocturnal habits. Heat-triggered bags release drops of scent only during the daylight hours, convincing the buck that the doe is showing up during shooting hours. With this type of regulation, an ounce of scent will last several days.
Felt strips or pads dipped in doe scent should be placed on tree branches about 5 ft. high. At this height the scent will carry farther and draw bucks from a greater distance.
Wafers are another convenient way to cover your scent These wafers are pinned to your hunting clothing to help effectively mask human odor with a natural cover scent or attractant. Solid-scent wafers use a concentrate that will not spill, freeze or wash away.
Another effective technique is to drag a felt strip dipped in doe estrus. Simply tie the wet strip to a stick with a string. Drag the doe scent away from your path. With a trail of doe scent to distract a buck and your own trail concealed with cover scent, you can be confident that the trip to your stand won’t give you away.
It takes a bit of effort to implement an effective cover scent and attractant program, so don’t waste that time and the opportunity it presents by using last year’s leftover scents. This is especially true with attractants. You want your estrous scents to be as fresh as possible so the buck that sniffs them will be convinced that romance is just around the next tree.
Once you develop a scent-control system and a routine to implement it, you’ll be well on your way to bagging that long-sought trophy.
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