Making Sense Of Deer Scents

Utilize this whitetail scent-application guide to generate more shot opportunities and maximize your overall success in-the-field this season.

Mature whitetail bucks rely heavily on their noses in almost every aspect of daily life. A strong sense of smell enables these heavy-racked titans to detect possible danger, find available food sources and interact with other whitetails throughout the entire year. When you think about it, a veteran buck’s nose is undoubtedly his biggest strength and best line of defense. As a result, many hunters view a buck’s keen sense of smell as a major problem or an obstacle that is extremely difficult to overcome.

However, it is actually possible to turn this powerful strength into a weakness that can easily be exploited. The trick is simply learning to make sense of deer scents and use this knowledge to turn a buck’s nose against him. With the right scent application strategies, you’ll be able to entice and coax more massive-racked boneheads into close range. On that note, let’s take an in-depth look at some high-impact tactics that will help you maximize the overall effectiveness of your deer scents throughout the entire season.

Early Season: Pre-Rut
When deer season finally opens, many hunters will find whitetails locked to an early pre-rut routine and pattern. In some hunting areas, bucks may still be hanging in all male bachelor groups that are primarily focused on feeding and bedding activity. A combination of warm temperatures coupled with an abundance of food can severely limit daytime deer movement and activity. With a thick blanket of early season foliage and cover, mature bucks can bed-down almost anywhere and are not forced to travel very far to reach feeding areas or watering holes.

Scent-Matching Strategies
During the opening weeks of season, it’s definitely not too early to start attacking and manipulating a buck’s nose. Applying nonaggressive scents such as Code Blue’s buck urine to drag-lines and community scrapes can take advantage of a mature buck’s curious nature. It’s still a tad too early for estrous scents, but straight doe urine can effectively be utilized to attract does and help mask or cover alarming odors.      

Mid Season: Late Pre-Rut
As the season progresses, dominant bucks will separate from bachelor groups and become more territorial. Big bucks will begin focusing more on defending their turf, monitoring does and the rapidly approaching breeding period. Rubbing and scraping activity really starts picking up, which makes scent application tactics that challenge mature bucks extremely lethal.   

Scent Matching Strategies
Strategically constructing mock scrapes near key ambush sites is a very productive scent-application technique during the late pre-rut period. Simply spray dominant buck urine and add tarsal gel to the mock scrape. Next, prepare a licking branch directly above the scrape by generously applying forehead gland and preorbital scent. Throughout the entire process, it’s extremely important to remain scent-free. Wearing latex gloves, rubber boots and taking other scent-eliminating precautionary steps is highly recommended.

The Peak Rut Period
By the end of the late pre-rut transition, dominant bucks are actively engaging estrous does. At this point, it’s not uncommon to observe cruising, chasing and breeding activity from your treestand. The big boys are love stricken and 100% mesmerized by the ladies, which places them in a very vulnerable situation. Gearing your hunting tactics, setups and scent-application strategies toward the does is the best way to connect with a fired-up bruiser that’s ready for action and looking for romance.

Scent-Matching Strategies   
Double drag-lines that contain both dominant buck and estrous doe scent are really hard to beat once the rut kicks into full swing. Combining this technique with a 360 degree scent perimeter that completely surrounds your setup will really grab a buck’s attention. A hunter can effectively cover a lot of ground by hanging wicks sprayed with tarsal and fresh estrous doe scent around their hunting location. The wicks should be positioned approximately 3-ft from the ground and about 20 to 25 yards apart.

Late Season: Post & Secondary Rut
Eventually the intense and chaotic action of the primary rut will fizzle out and bucks will return back to a textbook feeding to bedding pattern. Concentrating on remaining food sources and winter bedding cover will probably be your best option at this stage of the game. However, mature does that were not successfully bred during the primary rut will hit a 2nd estrous cycle approximately 28 days later. Yearling does that were biologically too young to breed earlier in the year will also be in play during the secondary rut, which changes everything. 

Scent-Matching Strategies
The post and secondary rut periods may not be as flashy and intense as the primary rut, but they can be the perfect time to connect with a mature buck that has survived most of the season. Limited food sources coupled with a small percentage of receptive does will help stack the cards back in your favor. Scent application strategies that are centered on the limited availability of estrous does are deadly. Pulling drag-lines soaked in estrous urine and adding doe-in-heat scent to reopened scrapes can be a monster buck’s kryptonite during the secondary rut.

If you really want to tag wall-hangers on a consistent basis, then it’s extremely important that you attack a dominant buck’s nose. Correctly matching the right deer scents and attractants with the current transitional period is one of the best ways to turn his strength into a weakness. This season launch a calculated assault that will maximize the effectiveness of your deer scents, and pull more top-heavy giants into close range.