Mature Bucks Grow Old By Picking Up On Little Mistakes…
Early in the morning I slipped into a long point which extended into a tall cornfield. Within the point was a small water hole, enough to bring in the deer during the early season. As I crossed the standing green cornfield I slipped through a section which didn’t grow very tall. The heavy spring rains stunted the growth in that area.
Not long after daybreak, I spotted a few does eating in the bean field on the far side of the property. Then out of the woods came crashing a tall 10 pointer who disrupted the morning peace. After pushing the does around he started to head for the corn. Entering where I crossed earlier that morning he stopped. Pausing, he deeply sniffed the corn stalks. For a moment he followed my foot prints, trying to decipher the foreign smell. Then he decided his curiosity wasn’t going to get the best of him. Off he went into the corner of the woods.
A whitetail’s ability to smell is beyond what most hunters can comprehend. Even today with all the scientific studies on scent control and enhancements in scent control garments, the whitetail’s biggest defense is their nose. We’ve been able to fool a whitetail’s sight with great camo clothing, developed real sounding calls but we’ve never completely eliminated scent.
Vanish From The Ground
Even with clean rubber boots deer can smell the ground we walked on. I’m not sure if they can smell human scent or just a faint amount of something different. But whatever, they know something is wrong.
Crossing over several trails on the way into your stand is a mistake. Learning to zigzag around the woods avoiding deer trails is just as important as finding a killer stand location. But if you have to cross trails I actually jump over them. I’ll never step foot on the path itself. But even better, use the terrain to sneak in undetected. Often using the water in a creek or a steep bluff turns your travel to and from the stand invisible.
Deer quickly adapt to farm equipment or horses moving around. But park your car in the back 40 and whitetails become cautious. Use this to your advantage and catch a ride back to your stand. I am amazed at how often we drive the combines up close to deer within the fields.
But moving into the woods takes more than a plan, it takes time. When in a rush, it is easy to quickly rush back to the stand. It doesn’t take long during the early season to break out into a sweat when rushing around. Once you begin to sweat you’re in trouble.
On those really hot days I’ve found a big airtight bag and t-shirt fit the bill. Carrying my hunting clothing on my back I walk to within 100 yards of the stand. Then I wipe down with scent away wipes and seal any sweaty clothing in an airtight bag. If hidden I’ll leave that bag there for my return. Now I just need to sneak the last 100 yards. But even on cool mornings it’s easy to overdress and get sweaty on a morning hike. This will cause a hunter to quickly become cold and alert any deer of your presence.
Those hot early season hunts are the toughest. During the early doe season or even early October the temperatures can soar. Hunting water sources in the hot weather will pay off big. So do the same for yourself. Bring along some ice cold water and light breathable clothing. Now’s not the time for insulated boots.
Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes
My kids love that nursery rhyme but today we’ll stop at “Head.” The head disperses more scent than any other part of the body. Even the scent that comes out of our mouth can give away our presence. Some hunters change their diet to avoid spicy smelly food during deer season.
All the major scent control garments make headgear. And if there is one piece that should be worn, it’s the facemask. Most hunting shows today don’t show hunters with a facemask on. I don’t understand why because I wouldn’t leave home without it.
I think it has more to do with show than practicality. No one wants to see a masked man. Without seeing facial expressions we’d lose a lot of the excitement after the shot. So back to the facemask… Not only do I wear mine while hunting I leave it on even during the shot.
Lost in Transit
Hunting equipment becomes a part of my car from October through December. You’d think my hunting totes were glued on the back seat. Now think about what comes and goes from your car. Rushing from work to fast food restaurants and then onto the woods. The smell of french fries, gas and air fresheners combined into an little car. When I think about it this way, it makes airtight containers even more important.
Several companies make both totes and bags designed to eliminate scent from your hunting clothes. Even big rubber tubs work well. But make sure they are air-tight.
When I was younger I used a flip top container. This style had holes under the handle and was not even close to air-tight. Tight seals make for better clothing tubs. In those days I couldn’t understand why I consistently got busted. Today I can clearly see my early mistakes.
Peanut Butter Sandwich Anyone?
The most overlooked area of scent control is a hunter’s backpack. We spend hundreds of dollars on sprays, clothing and rubber boots. Then we toss a PB&J into our backpack and hike off into the wilderness. All the way we’re leaving a nice trail of our backpack lunch.
If it earns a spot in the pack it’s either scent free or contained in an airtight bag. Even my lunch needs to be wrapped up and sealed away. Anything tossed in the backpack should go through a tough scent eliminating process. And if anything becomes sweaty or smelly the whole bag and contents get washed again.
Wash that Bow
This year ScenTote just came out with a scent eliminating bow case. What a great idea. For years hunters have had to deal with bow equipment that contains traces of foreign scent. Now invention has brought on a new product to help conceal yourself. It’s those little details that can make big differences. A stinky release band, gloves or anything else that holds trace amounts of scent can be deadly to your hunting success.
During the waning rut last year I had one of the oldest bucks slip on top of me before I could react. Getting within ten yards he paused for less than a second before spinning around. The trace scent left from my boots was enough to send this monarch sailing. These old mature bucks grow old by picking up on the little mistakes we make.
Don’t make these six deadly sins in the woods this year.
To learn more about the author, Brian Miller, and learn valuable whitetail hunting tips visit www.strictlywhitetails.com.