LAST UPDATED: May 8th, 2015
I’ve explored many different roads when it comes to hunting techniques over the years, but one that has eluded me so far is the use of scents. Sure, in my younger days I would drag some doe estrus lure around behind me and maybe hang up a film canister full of stinky cotton balls, but there was never any real technique put into it. Like a lot of young hunters I was simply throwing stuff against the proverbial wall to see what would stick. With little to no success using these scents I gave up on them and moved on to other tactics.
Now as I enter in my 30’s and feel that I have a decent grasp on some semi-advanced techniques I’ve began to come full circle with scents. This renewed interested started several years ago with the rising popularity of mock scrapes. I’ve learned quite a bit from talking with people who have successfully used them to harvest deer, including my friend and hunting partner Mike Willand. You can read Mike’s blog entries about mock scrapes by clicking here.
Outside of mock scrapes my interest has been peaked regarding the use of both curiosity scents and as well as rut scents such as buck urine and doe estrus. My thought process here is that we spend much of our time trying to lure in a whitetail buck using the sight of a decoy or the sound of a grunt call, why not attack his sense of smell as well?
To help me answer a few of the questions on how to most effectively use scents to my advantage I turned to an industry expert, Terry Rohm of Tink’s Hunting Products. Terry has been with Tink’s for over 20 years and undoubtedly has a wealth of knowledge on how to, and just as importantly how not to, use scents to your advantage. Below is a short series of questions and answers that I hope will help lead me in the right direction this fall. Hopefully you can learn a thing or two as well.
Terry Rohm of Tink’s Hunting Products is no stranger to using deer scents to help him tag trophy whitetails like this.
Q: What do you believe is the biggest mistake that hunters make when using scents while deer hunting?
A: I think there are two mistakes hunters make. 1st they depend too much on the lure to shoot a deer. Deer lure is another tool for a hunter to use just like your bow or treestand. Hunters need to keep in mind they still have to do their home work and also realize deer lures are not magic. 2nd mistake, and this is going to sound like a sales pitch, but some hunters do not use enough lure. A deer has to smell it to work. This is why we say to put out 3 scent bombs or so. If the wind is not going in the right direction the deer will never smell it.
Q: What time of year do you feel that using scents is most effective?
A: The rut, when those ole bucks are up on their feet chasing does. Lure can also help stop a buck to get a shot with a bow. This is a great time to use a drag line or boot pad with lure on it going to your stand. You have seen buck with their nose to the ground just trying to pick up any scent of a doe, bang he hits your drag trail and here he comes!
Q: Can you describe what you feel is the perfect situation in which to use deer scents as an attractant?
A: I think one of the best examples I give is where I’m hunting thick areas where viability is poor and I know bucks travel that area. I want my lure to drift into that thick cover to pull a buck out for a shot. I used our Tink’s #69 Buck Bomb on a hunt in Montana that worked great. We set up next to some thick willows we knew deer were going through. I would spray the Bomb every now and then and it was bringing deer out of the willows to locate the lure.
Q: How do synthetic scents differ from natural scents, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of both?
A: I don’t know if there is really any advantages or disadvantages to either type of lure. As a company we work hard at controlling the formulas of both our synthetics and natural urine formulas to make them both effective. Most synthetics have an indefinite shelf life, however with natural urines air will break it down over time, which is called bacterial decomposition.
I think the #1 question I often get is “Will my Tink’s 69 be good next year?” and the answer is Yes, as long as the cap it tight and no air gets to it. It will be good for years, just like a fine wine!
Q: What do you feel is the most effective way to disperse scents?
A: I really like two different methods. The first is our orange Scent Bombs. It is very easy to put 3 or more out and unlike the old film canisters they are not messy. Since we put a reflective strip on the outside they are very easy to find with a flashlight after you climb down from an evening hunt. Hunters can also use them as a yardage marker.
The next would be our Tink’s Buck Bomb. I love this thing when I’ve got deer headed down wind of me and I know they will be going through my scent stream. I just take it out and spurt it a few times like a spray paint can. You have to do this before they hit your scent stream. Most of the time the deer will lock up and stop smell a bit and then move on. The thing I’m really trying to avoid by doing this is to keep them from blowing and running. Of course if they smell it and come in for a shot, even better!
Q: What is the most effective way to create and hunt over a drag line?
A: A huge mistake when using a drag line or boot pads is that when they go right to the bottom of their stand and stop. As a bow hunter this doesn’t offer a good shot. The deer will follow it with his nose to the ground and coming right at you, no shot! You need to think about the approach to your stand. I like to drag it if front of my stand or where ever my best shot is and then go a little farther to get a good quartering away shot and stop. Then I want to hang it up.
When using a drag rag in conjunction with deer lure, make sure not to end the scent trail at the bottom of your treestand. Instead, drag the lure through your best shooting lane and then hang it up in a tree. This will offer you a much better shot opportunity if a buck comes in to investigate.
Q: Is there any time when a hunter should avoid using scents?
A: The only time I don’t is when I’m hunting in an oak tree with acorns falling and I know deer are feeding under it. In this case I want the area to be as natural as it can be.
Q: Will curiosity scents work on a mature buck during the early season?
A: Yes, a curiosity lure is a great choice early in the season. Bucks are concentrating on feeding and some may be rubbing a bit. Things are changing fast in their world so when a buck smells something they can’t identify they search for the source and see if it’s something they can eat or see what the new smell is. Tink’s Magnetics is a great scent for early season buck hunting as it’s both a curiosity scent but also appeals to a buck’s sex drive as well.
Q: How important is controlling the amount of human scent around your stand site while you are placing out and using deer scents?
A: Human scent left behind can and will ruin your hunt, period!!! Hunters need to wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and try not to rub up against any brush. I have heard several stories from hunters that say deer lure spooked the deer. After listing to their stories I’ve come to find out the deer went straight to the Scent Bomb and stuck his nose on it and then spooked. My first question is usually “Why did you not shoot the buck before he got there?” Most likely when he stuck his nose on it he smelled the scent from the hunter’s fingers, which caused him to spook. So always make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves when using any type of scent or deer lure.
When using deer lures it’s imperative that you wear rubber gloves in order to minimize the amount of human scent you leave behind. Remember, when a buck smells the lure he will be on full alert, analyzing every smell that hits his nostrils. If he smells human scent mixed with your lure he may bolt before you can get a shot.
Q: What is the best tip you can give to a hunter who is looking to use scents in order to help him harvest a mature whitetail?
A: Wind is #1. You have got to have the right wind to hunt a stand if you want to be successful. Even when using deer lures, if a buck smells you the game is over.
Aside from that, there are several things that will affect how well scents and lures work. Hunters must evaluate their hunting area before deciding if and when to use scents. Factors like hunting pressure, the age structure of your deer herd, the amount of big bucks in your area and the buck to doe ratio will all determine how effective the use of deer scents will be. If you have way too many does in your area then tools like lures, grunt calls and rattling horns may not work well because a buck does not have to compete for breeding rights.
My best tip to shoot a big buck using lures is that you’ve got to hunt big bucks where big bucks are! Do that, and everything else will fall in place.
With a wall full of bucks like this, there’s no doubt that Terry knows what he’s talking about. You can be sure that I’ll be putting some of his advice to work over the next several weeks.
Well, there you have it folks. Some of the best information you’re going to get about hunting whitetails using deer scents, straight from the horse’s mouth. Terry Rohm has killed a pile of great bucks in his life, many of which fell victim to his use of scents and attractants to lure them in range. I know I’ll be experimenting with the use of deer scents this fall and I’ll be sure to report back on both my successes as well as failures.