A More “Scent-sible” Approach to Attracting Deer.
The way to a whitetail’s heart is through his nose.
Modern hunting regulations are designed to do several things, not the least of which is to ensure that prey has a decided advantage over predator – in this case, hunters. Meanwhile, deer hunters are forever searching for new and different ways to tip the scales of success ever so slightly in their direction.
One way they do so is by using attractant scents. The hope is they can attract deer by dispensing aromas of preferred food or other deer. When done properly, using the right scents under the right conditions, and when the deer are sufficiently intrigued, it works – sometimes.
Attractant scents come in a variety of formulations that when listed sound a bit like personal hygiene products: liquid, gel, aerosol and solid. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages and in some cases, different modes of applications. Granular scents or scent-impregnated soil is sprinkled on the ground. Gels are usually applied to vegetation.
Liquids are the most common and have the widest range of application. They can be sprayed or squirted on the ground, on vegetation or on scent wicks that are suspended, dragged on the ground or both. There’s not much you can do to improve on solids or gels, but the folks from ThermaCELL came up with an ingenious way to make liquid scents more effective.
The ThermaSCENT allows you to use your ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent appliance as a scent dispenser. The ThermaSCENT Starter Kit includes a small holder that attaches directly onto your ThermaCELL, and several un-scented absorbent pads. Simply slide a pad in the holder, pour on your preferred liquid deer scent and turn on the appliance. Heat vaporizes the scent so it can be carried on even the slightest breeze or thermal current, increasing the effective distance exponentially.
Hunters must bear in mind that the same wind and currents will also carry human scent. Proper scent suppression is crucial. Even then, you need to work the wind. Don’t place the ThermaSCENT directly downwind of your stand. Instead, position it so deer will “catch wind” of the attractant before they hit your scent stream.
As far as what to use, that’s largely up to you and the specific circumstances of your hunt. Food attractant scents work great, and are legal even where baiting is not. Just make sure you use a scent that naturally occurs in the area you hunt, like apple, acorn or persimmon.
You may even want to use a scent that’s familiar, but may not occur in the immediate vicinity. There may be an oak ridge or an apple orchard a quarter mile away, but if you put out acorn or apple scent closer to your stand, you just might pique the curiosity of a nearby deer.
Another option is curiosity scents, though caution is advised. Deer can be quite curious and will sometimes investigate the foreign odor of food-based scents like vanilla or anise. However, these aromas are just as likely to spook deer. There’s a greater risk, but sometimes greater reward.
Urine-based scents are the most common widely used. Outside the rut, basic buck and doe urine works best. During the rut, estrous scents make strong buck attractants. Using the latter far outside of the rut is relatively ineffective, may even spook deer.
In any case, use fresh scents. All natural urine scents will break down once exposed to the air or sunlight. Some merely become ineffective while others can be quite repulsive. And if they repulse you, imagine whet they do to a deer’s sensitive nose. Don’t be a cheapskate. Once you open a bottle, use up what you’ve got in one season. If you don’t, properly dispose of any and all leftovers. You’re even running a risk holding on to unopened bottles from one season to another.
Whatever you use you should have realistic expectations of your results. Scents won’t make you a better hunter. You still have to find the right place, be there at the right time and make sure you’re undetected. Even then, deer won’t always come to your scents. But when they do, it’s both rewarding and exciting knowing you’ve duped the keenest nose in nature.