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Deer Scents and Decoys: tricks of the trade for bow hunters

  • Deer Scents and Decoys: tricks of the trade for bow hunters

     

         When hunting with a rifle or even a handgun, hunters often have an extended range that far exceeds that of the average bow hunter. Consequently, bow hunters are often forced to pass on shots that would inevitably result in harvested game were they hunting with a firearm. Therefore, in order to increase the odds of convincing that trophy buck to saunter within bow range, bow hunters often need to go the extra mile. For instance, stand placement must be adjacent to a frequently used trail and provide plenty of cover for the hunter so that a slight movement will not spook the animal. Also, the hunter must be able to enter and exit the stand quietly, ect. However, even such precautions are not enough to ensure success and thus, a bow hunter should be prepared to employ any additional trick that will increase the odds of a trophy buck approaching his stand such as using both deer scents and decoys.

         Now, most bow hunters are well aware that using a cover scent is an excellent way of masking your own scent and using an attractor scent is an excellent way of increasing your odds of drawing a buck within bow range. However, people tend to pay far less attention to choosing a correct cover scent than they should. In fact, the main idea behind using a cover scent is to make yourself smell like something that exists naturally in the deer's habit and which is not a threat to them and thus, animal urines such as Fox, Raccoon, Cow as well as organic cover scents such as fresh earth, pine trees, apples, sweet corn, ect., can serve to effectively mask our human scent. However, it is important to choose a scent that it endemic to the locale that you are hunting. For instance, you would not want to use a sweet corn or apple cover scent in an evergreen forest and, vice versa, you would not want to use a pine scent while sitting on the edge of a corn field. So, when choosing an organic cover scent, it is very important that you give some thought to the particular habitat that you are going to be hunting in.

         Of course, the same logic applies to choosing food attractor scents. For instance, apple, persimmon, and acorn scents often work well in eastern, deciduous, hardwood forest but are not appropriate for use in Western or Northern evergreen forests. In addition, sweet corn scents often work well when hunting on the edge of agricultural fields but they are not appropriate for hunting in either deciduous or evergreen forests. Also, when deploying food attractor scents, the most common method is to fill either film canisters or medicine bottles with cottonballs and then pour a little of your chosen scent onto the cottonballs and replace the lid. Then, once you arrive at your stand, you can remove the lids and place the containers on the ground in front of you. However, it should be noted that other food attractor products require you to create a mineral lick and, while they certainly do work well, they take considerably longer to start attracting game.

         Then, there is the method of using animal attractor scents. These scents are commonly divided into either doe-in-estrus scents or dominate buck scents and can be used either to lay down a scent trail for another deer to follow to your location or to draw them to your location from afar by wafting the scent on the breeze or both. Also, it should be noted that the best method of employing urine scents is to make use of a “drag rag” which is a small piece of cloth attached to a short length of cord with a loop in it which the hunter douses with his choice of liquid urine scent and then slips the loop over his boot and around his ankle where it can trail in along the ground behind him to lay a false scent trail for the deer to follow. Then, once the hunter has arrived at his stand, the drag rag can be hung from a nearby tree where it can continue dispersing scent. In fact, there has been many an occasion that I have watched deer follow the exact path that I used to approach my tree stand and thus, by choosing my path accordingly, I was able to position the deer for the perfect shot!

         In addition, while the idea of using food and animal attractor scents is widely accepted among deer hunters, the idea of using decoys is far less so but, the fact of the matter is that when a buck follows a scent trail to your stand, he expects to see a doe at the end of that trail and thus, a deer decoy is the perfect means of drawing him in close and then getting him to stop in just the right place for those few critical moments. You see, when a dominate buck picks up the scent trail you laid down using a drag rag while walking into your stand or he scents the odor on the breeze being dispersed by your scent dispenser, he is expecting to see another deer when he arrives on the scene. So, when he arrives at a place that his nose tells him another deer should be and yet, he does not see one, somewhere in that tiny little brain of his, alarm bells start to sound and he prepares to bolt at the slightest sound or movement. But, if he shows up and sees another deer standing there, then he is likely to be far more relaxed; even if the other deer does not move. In fact, videos have proven that not only will a dominate bucks approach a non-moving deer decoy, they have even been recorded violently attacking decoys if they perceive them to be a rival buck! Consequently, using deer decoys in combination with attractor scents is definitely an excellent strategy for increasing your odds of drawing a trophy buck within bow range. However, it should also be noted that there is a certain amount of inherent risk in transporting a deer decoy through the woods. Therefore, not only should the hunter transporting the decoy be wearing blaze orange in order to identify him as a Human to his fellow hunters, the decoy should also be covered by a container as much as possible to conceal its outline and, even better, it too should be wearing blaze orange or contained in a blaze orange sack. Last, once you arrive at your stand, it is a wise idea to use rubber gloves when assembling the decoy in order to prevent your human scent from contaminating the decoy.

         So, when employing cover scents, it is important that you choose a scent that is appropriate to the locale in which you are hunting. Also, you should never place cover scents directly on your clothing but, should instead use a scent dispenser placed adjacent to your stand. In addition, you should keep in mind that while employing deer scents and deer decoys is an effective means of drawing bucks in close to your stand, the fact of the matter is that using either without the other is like putting peanut butter on your bread without the jelly! Consequently, for the best possible result, you should combine appropriate deer scents with appropriate deer decoys whenever possible because, while all of this may sound like a lot of additional work, for those bow hunters who are willing to go the extra mile, the added effort can mean the difference between going home with a buck on the rack or going home empty handed.

     

    Written by,

    Bill Bernhardt

    Outdoor Professional