Manipulating Deer Makes 'Scents'!

A little creative thinking along with proper scent placement can put whitetails in range and in position for an easy archery shot. Our expert explains how it's done.

Photo by R.E. Ilg

An hour before daybreak, I detoured an extra half mile in order to approach my deer stand from the downwind direction.

Before ascending into my hedgerow tree, I went 25 yards from the stand and poured an ounce of fresh estrous urine on some picked cornstalks. If the nice 10-pointer I was targeting should happen down the weedy fence line that intersected the hedgerow, I wanted him to smell the estrous scent and walk to it instead of having him approach my position from the downwind direction.

Several times during the previous week, a farmer had spotted the handsome deer traveling past my stand. While scouting the area, I set up several mock scrapes to stimulate the buck's interest. My plan was to draw him into a convenient clearing that offered an open shot.

As the first light of day filtered through the trees, a mature doe worked her way down the weedy fence line and halted when she smelled the estrous scent that was 30 yards upwind. Nervously, she looked past me and gazed up the hedgerow. I soon realized that company was headed in my direction.

The massive, dominant buck sauntered along the edge of the field and stopped within 20 yards of my stand. I drew my bow and took what I thought was an easy chip shot.

Unfortunately, I had overlooked a small twig and the arrow was deflected into the ground. As the buck bolted and ran past the estrous scent post, he jerked his head around several times. After traveling 50 yards, he halted and made a scrape in the open field. Moments later, the 150-class buck made the mistake of returning to smell the estrous scent.


In three consecutive years I have taken trophy-class whitetails using this style of hunting. One massive 9-pointer was so attracted to the estrous scent that he jumped back 10 yards and kept sniffing after the arrow had passed through his chest cavity! He then ran a short distance after a second arrow penetrated him! Talk about intensity!

Through the proper use of scents, a hunter can attract deer to a stand location and even position the deer for the shot.

There are hundreds of different scent brands on the market, and the choice and use of these products can seem overwhelming. Some products imitate food sources (apples, acorns, etc.), while others are primarily cover scents (anise oil, skunk or vanilla). Certainly these odors are worthwhile and have their time and place to be applied. However, I prefer to use the odors that deer naturally employ as a form of communication: tarsal glands, pre-orbital glands, forehead glands and different types of urine.

An excellent source of deer scent is the tarsal gland. After harvesting a deer, hunters should remove these glands and save them for future hunts. They can be sealed in a plastic bag and stored in the freezer for over a year. Rub your boots and pants with the tarsal gland and deer will feel comfortable crossing your path because the area smells as though another deer has traveled there.


Placing scents along a scrape line is an excellent method for encouraging bucks to walk a desired trail. I have often created a mock scrape line several weeks before season, but keep in mind that bucks use scrapes throughout the year as a form of communication. Scrapes are not only employed as a way to attract does, they are used to mark territories and keep track of other bucks in the area. By creating a mock scrape line well in advance of hunting season, the deer have time to become accustomed to visiting that site.

A scrape should be made under overhanging branches that are chest-high. Using a hoe, clear away all vegetation under the limbs and loosen the dirt. If it is difficult to find chest-high branches in the right location, tie a piece of rope or cord to a higher limb and attach the other end to the trunk of the tree. By adjusting the length of the cord, the branches can be bent down to the proper height.

Next, apply forehead or pre-orbital gland scent to the limbs and pour buck urine into the scrape. Periodically reapply scents to these scrapes to keep deer active in the area. As the onset of the rut approaches, place doe estrous scent in the scrape.

Before trying synthetic scents, I was very skeptical about their performance. Then, one evening I dragged a rag saturated with an artificial scent behind me as I walked to my stand. Before the night was over, seven different bucks had followed the trail to where the rag was hanging just 20 yards away.


There are dozens of companies marketing deer urine. How does a hunter know which are the most effective brands? A general rule of thumb is the odor. If there is a strong, pungent odor, chances are the bacteria content is too high and the product is decomposing. If the odor is weak, the urine may be watered down or have too much preservative added to prevent spoilage. Early in the season, test your scent by placing some on or near a deer path and watch what happens when a deer approaches. The reaction of the animal will tell you the effectiveness of the scent.

Doe urine and doe urine with estrous scent are two excellent products for hunting purposes. Estrous scents should only be used during the late pre-rut, rut and post-rut period when bucks are still checking out receptive does.

Plain doe urine may be used any time. I only apply buck urine to scrapes but occasionally use it to make trails during the rut.

I have had excellent results using frozen urine. There are no additives and the fresh urine is frozen within a few hours of collection to retard spoilage. According to Scott Urnikis of S.&P. Scents, freezing prolongs the life of the pheromones, which keeps the estrous scent attractive to bucks. The downside to frozen scents is that they have a shorter shelf life once they are thawed because there are no preservatives.


Mock scrapes help draw bucks into the area of your stand, but once they are present, you need a way to distract them so you can remain undetected as you draw your bow. This can be arranged by placing either doe urine or estrous scent approximately two feet from the approach path on the side away from your stand. The buck should smell the scent, stop and turn his head in that direction. At that moment, draw your bow and execute the shot.

Several years ago, a high school-aged bowhunter came to me and asked for help. His family fa

rm had an abundance of deer, but the animals would spot him as he began to draw his bow. As we scouted the area, he showed me a natural funnel where the deer were crossing a ditch. Fifteen yards from the trail was a fallen tree that was nestled against the bank. I suggested he sit behind the tree on a campstool. Then I provided him with a canister containing an estrous scent-soaked cloth and suggested that he place it a few feet off the path on the opposite side. The next morning when a buck turned and sniffed the air near the canister, the young archer got his first buck.

Scents can be of great value when making a trail for bucks to follow and they are especially effective during the rut. When a buck in rut discovers a path marked with estrous or estrous- and-tarsal buck scent, the animal will follow the trail for hundreds of yards.

It is important to create a path in front of the deer stand where you want to make your shot. The combination of estrous scent accompanied by the smell of a buck's tarsal gland simulates a buck following a "hot doe," and dominant bucks will usually follow the trail to drive off rival animals intruding on their territory.


No matter how effective a scent may be, it is worthless if you leave human scent behind. Your body, clothes, boots and other items must be free of foreign odors while hunting. Even the strongest scent attractant is not powerful enough to overcome a deer's fear of humans.

The use of scents can make a buck vulnerable. Instead of allowing a deer's nose to be your demise, turn the tables on Mother Nature and use the whitetail's marvelous sense of smell to your advantage.

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