Other than personal opinions on broadheads, few topics can raise the hackles of bowhunters quicker than scent elimination. The effectiveness of scent-containing clothing has recently been called into question, and hunters have drawn a line in the sand based upon personal experiences. But it doesn't matter what side of the clothing debate you're on. Clothing is just one aspect of scent reduction.
Beating the nose of a mature deer involves plenty of meticulous planning, a lot of preseason work and attention to details throughout the duration of the bow season. Certainly this is no easy task, but it can be done. Here are three scent elimination tips you should take into the woods with you on your next hunt.
Clearing the Way
A lot of hunters shoot themselves in the foot because of poorly trimmed entrance and exit routes. Brushing up against foliage, or moving branches out of the way even with gloved hands, leaves a scent trail in your set up. This scent can stick around for days. If it doesn't spook deer outright, it will put them on alert.
Cutting, trimming and cleaning out trails into and out of stands or blinds is the first step to beating a deer's nose. This is crucial for all your hunting locations, even field-edge ambush sites. Minimizing ground scent will help your hunt, but it also has positive effects throughout the season. Residual scent educates deer, especially in areas where they aren't used to encountering human odors. The result is deer that are more sensitive to hunting pressure and simply more difficult to hunt.
Consider Your Boots
While cleaning entrance and exit routes is extremely important, without scent-free boots the process is not nearly as effective. Spray your knee-high rubber boots with scent-eliminating products liberally to greatly reduce game-spooking scent. Unless gravity takes a break, a hunter's boots have to contact the ground a lot on the way in and out. This means you could leave a scent trail from the truck all the way to the set up and back. Every deer that crosses that trail will be aware of a human intrusion.
This is easy enough in the early season when temperatures should still be relatively warm, but can be difficult as fall and early winter set in. Most knee-high boots are a poor choice when temperatures plummet.
Over the last few years there have been a few companies that have offered "slipper" style boot covers that are meant to trap in heat. For the whitetail hunter these products are perfect because they can be stowed in a pack on the way into a stand or ground blind.
Once you're on stand, it's a matter of simply slipping over the bottom of the boots. A few of the newest "slippers" even feature pouches meant to accommodate chemical hand warmers, which work double-time to keep feet warm.
Positioning Your Setup
Easily the most important aspect of beating a whitetail's nose is to simply take it out of the equation. The best way to do this is to position yourself so the predominant winds will not carry scent anywhere near travel routes. This is easier said than done.
Some spots, especially small woodlots or those that are relatively flat will not allow for this kind of planning. In such situations, the best bet is to set a tree stand as high as possible and to utilize scent-controlling options with clothing and gear.
But, in areas with varying terrain the opportunity exists to plan ahead. Steep hillsides and ravines are a no-brainer for stand setups. If it's possible to set up along the edge with the prevailing wind blowing over the drop-off, most scent will be carried well away from approaching deer. This trick works extremely well and has an added bonus in a lot of situations. Deer will often travel parallel to a ridge or along a drop-off, especially if the wind is at their face or blowing cross-wise to them. This results in a setup where it's highly unlikely they'll catch a hunter's scent, and they'll be more confident to travel through the spot give their reliance on their noses.
In the absence of suitable terrain declivity, swamps, lakes and rivers might offer a natural barrier. Although deer will bed and travel in swamps, if they are really wet it seems that deer (especially lightly-pressured deer) will travel the edges. This allows for a stand with a hunter's scent blowing out over the swamp, away from the likeliest travel routes. Lakes can easily be used in the same way, and to an extent rivers can as well. Rivers though, are commonly located in areas with fickle wind and thermals that can change through the course of a sit. Extra precaution needs to be taken when opting for a river-bottom stand site.
Features like steep draws, lakes, swamps and rivers are all great options but are not entirely necessary. Open cattle pastures, housing developments, roads, and many other natural and manmade elements can be used to predict deer travel. The trick is to find a way to set up where their desired travel allows for optimal stand placement when considering likely wind directions.
NEW GAME PLAN
Properly cut entrance and exit trails, scent-free footwear, and well-thought-out stand sites that capitalize on deer movement and prevailing winds are all necessary parts of the puzzle.
It's nearly impossible to beat a whitetail's nose outright. But through these three steps the opportunity to remain largely undetected, keep the deer herd at ease and fill a few tags certainly exists.