UPDATED ON: May 1st, 2015
Fact: A whitetail’s keen sense of smell, hearing, and sight help them detect danger. But of the three senses, their keen sense of smell is what they rely on most. Biologists suggest it may be up to 1000x better than humans. So every season hunters spend numerous amounts of money on products such as scent killers, scent eliminators, ozone neutralizers, cover scents, and carbon infused or scent controlled clothing to help gain an advantage over the whitetail’s nose. If you can fool a Whitetail’s nose then the rest depends on the positioning of the deer and the shot itself. Let’s be honest, the worst sound a bowhunter can hear is a deer blowing after getting a nostril full of human stench. Over the years I have learned a few things from my own mistakes trying to fool a whitetails nose. Here are some key tips that have allowed me to be successful when up against what is arguably the best nose in the business.
Fooling a whitetails nose is tough but it is possible if you are willing to follow the right steps and use the right products.
Prior to every hunt, I have a checklist that I follow religiously. My process starts in the laundry room. Using scent elimination or odor neutralizing laundry detergent in order to wash everything you take with you in the field is a must. And when I say everything, I mean all of your camouflage clothing, under garments, gear bag, gloves, hats, facemasks, towel you dry off with, and the rag you use to bathe. If it goes with you on the hunt or is a part of your pre-hunt prep, and it can be washed, wash it! And don’t forget to store all of your gear and clothes in an air-tight container as soon as you pull them out of the dryer. Also, don’t remove them from the containers until you are out of your vehicle and getting dressed for the hunt. My family has even gone so far as to switch over to all scent-free laundry products throughout the year.
Before every hunt you should try to shower in scent-free soap. More importantly, be sure to dry off on a scent-free towel.
No matter what, I try and take a shower before every hunt. All soap, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash must be scent free. Make sure you are using a scent free deodorant as well. For all the ladies, make sure you transition all your make-up products to scent free too. I happen to have an extra bathroom in my house I use just for hunting season prep. If you can do so, designate a bathroom for hunt prep.
Treat your vehicle just like the rest of your hunting gear. I am adamant about never using air fresheners or cleaning products that have a scent. I have even taken pieces of cedar or pine needles from the woods and placed them under my seats. Every now and then, I also spray the inside of my truck including the seats and flooring with scent elimination too. I also plan ahead of time not to fill my truck up with gas prior to a hunt.
In order to remain as scent-free as possible, never wear your hunting clothes inside of your vehicle. Instead, get ready for the hunt outside of your vehicle after you arrive at your destination.
Prior to walking away from your truck and into the timber, be sure to spray everything down with a field spray. This includes your bow (arrows and broad heads), your gear bag, hats, and your whole body from head to toe. Don’t forget your boots either. I like to have a separate bin for my hunting boots. Spray the inside and complete outside of your boots including the traction. This is your last chance to make yourself invisible while walking into your set up. Take your scent elimination spray bottle with you and once you get situated in the stand, take out your grunt call, rattling antlers, etc. and spray them down too. There are scent-neutralizing electronics on the market today you can also take with you while on the hunt.
If it goes into the woods with you then it should be kept in a scent-free container until it is time to hunt.
As always, control what you eat. Not many people think about this being a scent-control factor but you will essentially sweat out food odors. And these odors are typically foreign to a whitetail’s nose. Refrain from foods such as fish and spices such as garlic. When snacking on the hunt, avoid foods such as candy bars, highly processed packaged foods, and strong odor smells like teriyaki that would also be foreign to the sense of smell. Keep your snacks wholesome like nuts (in the raw), or fruit. I have also heard of hunters’ taking a supplement known as Triple Chlorophyll to neutralize body odor. As usual, check with your health care physician before doing so.
Playing The Wind
No matter what, PLAY THE WIND! I keep a map of my hunting ground with me in my truck and place stands in multiple locations based on wind directions. I only hunt those stands when the wind is in my favor. I have some stands that overlook the same food plot or hunting area. For example, I have one on the east side and the other on the west side so that I can hunt the same area from two different locations based on the wind. Also, make sure you use entry and exit routs with the wind in your favor too. If you are entering or exiting your stand locations and the wind is blowing directly in to the bedding area, approach it from a different direction.
If your scent control system is good you can hunt during less than ideal wind conditions with minimal damage to the area.
This behavior also needs to be applied when setting stands and monitoring trail cameras. I find myself using a Windicator often throughout my hunt and especially when scouting. Another way to get an accurate wind direction is by attaching a piece of thread to your bow. I also like to hunt in tree stands as high as I can climb. Note, only climb as high as you are comfortable with and always wear a safety harness. The further you are away the nose of a whitetail, the greater the odds.
Cover It Up
Another great way to outfox a whitetail’s nose is to use of cover scent. I mainly use cover scent when the time is right. For instance, during the rut, I will use doe in heat scent on a drag line and place somewhere in the vicinity of my stand to attract bucks. Just be sure to use a scent that is natural to the area you are in. In other words, don’t use fox pee if there are no fox in your area. This will only spook deer. You can use weather apps on your phone to get the wind direction and check them often, even during the hunt. Pay attention to heat thermals for those of you that hunt out west or in the mountains. As always, watch the forecast for thunder storms or strong winds.
Entry and exit routes should be chosen so that you come in contact with as few game trails as possible; reducing the risk that you leave ground scent for deer to detect.
What leads to harvesting more deer than any other tactic is patience. Be patient. If the wind is not in your favor for the particular stand where you know there is a big buck, don’t hunt it. Wait for the right wind and hunt it persistently. If the wind changes directions on you or starts swirling, you have two choices: get down and try again when the wind is right or stay and chance it. That’s a tricky call, but if it were me, I would get down and go to another stand.
I believe in having as many tools as I possibly can in order to help seal the deal. When it comes to fooling a whitetail’s nose, it’s the little precautionary steps you take that make a difference. Have a mental checklist and follow it routinely so that it becomes habitual. When you are successful at harvesting a mature whitetail buck, you will look back and realize that all of your small steps paid off. Good luck this fall and may you harvest your biggest buck ever. Hunt Strong!