The Magic World Of Whitetail Scents
Whitetail deer are driven by three basic instincts. In no particular order they are survival, food and procreating. Depending on the time of the year, these three things may change in order of importance. For the majority of the year, survival and food are at the top of the list. During the magical time we call the rut, procreating trumps all else, at least for the males of the species.
Since the beginning of time, hunters have attempted to figure out the best and easiest way to fill their bellies with wild game. Not so much in today’s world, but there was a time when hunting was at the top of the list for humans. Remember those three little things that drive a whitetail? It’s wasn’t, and still isn’t, so much different in the world of the humans.
It’s an exciting time in the whitetail woods each fall, with deer season opening in part of the state each October for archery hunters. Now, there are many schools of thought on the first of October and hunting. Some feel it’s a waste of time and it messes up the prime time of the season, while others enjoy the extra time to just get out and enjoy the outdoors.
For those who know, we have been developing and promoting all-natural scents for many years now. With that said, I have been fortunate enough to travel across the country and visited many deer farms where the scent is located and watched first hand the process. Having first-hand knowledge of the scent industry and actually being a hunter myself some would say I have my doctorate from the school of hard knocks in the use of scents.
For those who don’t know (or even care), I fall into the latter group. Let me explain my reasoning. For the most part I’m just at the point in my life where I enjoy being outside and hunting. It really doesn’t matter what I’m chasing around. For me, it’s about being outdoors and the chase. Heck, the majority of the time I’m not even filling tags, but to me it’s a successful hunt just because I’m outdoors doing what I so much enjoy. If I happen to get lucky and put a little meat in the freezer, then just as well, but if not I’m just as happy.
There are many things about the fall that are exciting for sportsmen, but when the topic of the rut is brought up, even the most average hunter’s eyes light up like a 6-year-old on Christmas morning. The reason is as wide as the smiles when discussing the rut. Over the next couple weeks, we are going to do a miniseries on the rut. Then we will try to tie it all into a bow, so to speak, and give you all some down-home, hard-bought advice on how to properly hunt the period known as the rut.
This week we’ll start off with a complex topic — about diving in head first — but the use of scents is very important to any hunter’s success during this magical time of the year.
Let’s break the rut, which is a general term that most folks use when talking about the breeding season of the hoofed animals. It also has been misused over the years to describe a period of time of the hoofed animals. From research that has been conducted regarding the “rut,” there are a few different stages. All of them put together make up what is called the rutting period, or commonly known as the “rut.”
Before we use any scents, it’s important to understand the different stages/phases of the rut. Depending on where one hunts in whitetail country, the rut begins at different times of the year. For our purposes, we’ll stay in Western New York. It’s a common belief that the rut actually begins when bucks start to lose their velvet on their antlers. This signals a change in bucks and begins the first stage of the rut.
This stage has been called many names over the years, but for our sake we will classify it as the pre-rut. With the changes going on in a buck’s mind and body at this time, bachelor groups that are common from winter until late summer are breaking up, as the dominant bucks begin to get ready to procreate.
It’s important to be wise with your deer scents in the early pre-rut hunting season. Especially in the first few weeks, you want to create an atmosphere that seems as natural as possible so you don’t spook deer with something unnatural in the woods. For this time of year, using an estrus scent before their natural breeding time begins will send any dominate bucks off the property.
History has shown that by mid-October scrapes are beginning to open up and young bucks are starting to test does. Is this because they don’t know any better, sound familiar? During this part of deer hunting season, we have used scrape rutting buck urines. Freshening existing scrapes works great. With that being said we prefer to use a younger buck’s scent for scrape at this time. Scrape urine is the perfect urine to make a mock scrape and set cameras in front of to take inventory of your local bucks and start your hit list. The scrape urine works as a great curiosity for bucks and does in the early season and also helps to mask the human scent.
During this time, more so than any other, it’s important to cover up your scent as well. Always hunt with the wind. Know, learn and understand that covering your scent will help you get deer close to you.
To create a cover scent, use our spray top and give five to 10 blasts every 15 minutes while also spraying on your tree around you. This helps to overpower your scent as it floats downstream. We all know we can’t completely fool a mature buck’s nose, but by covering our scent with something as powerful as deer urine and using the wind to your advantage it both helps to relax him and makes him think you are at 200 yards when you’re only at 30 yards.
As we inch closer to the pre-rut season at the end of October, you should use more of the rutting buck urine, as the deer will be getting ramped up for the coming rut, and now is the time to capitalize on an excited buck showing off for the rut.
Remember, during the first part of the pre-rut, a lot of younger bucks will begin chasing does. While they aren’t ready yet, the young don’t know this little fact, but will, in hopes they’ll still be around when they are actually ready to be bred. At this time the mature bucks start to show themselves more.
The peak of the rut is just like Christmas for hunters. I was asked why I use the analogy of Christmas, but it’s really simple. It’s because every time you sit on stand you never know what is going to show up.
Obviously, now is the time to use generous amounts of estrus deer urine. Doe N’ Rut or Buck N’Rut is your best bet during this time of year. Also, there are products on the market that are very specific to the peak time. We prefer a mixture of mature doe in estrus, young buck at peak and a 2¢-year-old buck in full rut, scent. This type of lure will keep the big boys hanging around and wouldn’t chase all the smaller buck off. If has been proven to be very successful with the proper buck-to-doe ratio.
In areas where the ratio of buck-to-does is a little off, it’s best to stay with rutting buck urines, as of course, this scent will still attract some hungry bucks during peak rut. Rutting buck urine makes local bucks mad because they smell intruder, so look out for some nice aggressive bucks. When this happens, the action is going to be hot and heavy.
During the 10 days just before the peak/actual breeding starts, it’s time to pull out all the stops, because this is the best time to get the best buck of your life. The use of draglines, mock scrapes and scent wicks is always best during this time of the year.
A couple years back, I was able to host a couple hunters and they had the afternoon of their life. These two pretty much had seen just about everything and been everywhere. We had them set up just a few hundred yards apart in pop-up ground blinds. Due to their size and large frames, the choice of ground blinds was the best option for a quick afternoon hunt. Their schedule was such that they didn’t generally get a lot of time off in the fall and this particular weekend was their off weekend.
We knew there were monster bucks in the area and from what we gathered earlier in the week the peak wasn’t far off. Freshening up scrapes with Robbins’ Scents Magic Scrape was all it took to start the party.
We started developing Magic Scrape several years ago and through the process of trial and many errors have come up with a formula. The formula is no big secret. Magic Scrape consists of a base of 2¢-year-old does, two separate does and a 3¢-year old 120-class buck. What we discovered when using Magic Scrape was that it will not spook the younger deer, but will draw just about any other buck in at some point to check out the scrape.
In no less than 90 minutes our two hunters saw more rutting activity than they ever witnessed in their hunting lives and they watched four shooter bucks chase does in and out of different areas on this old family farm. While no arrows were released, everybody agreed they had a great hunt and were able to watch in person things they had only seen on TV.
Another twist to the scent industry is the use of synthetic scents. While many states — yes, New York will go this direction as some point — will be playing the follow-the-leader game, it is an entirely different world.
For many of us, we have stood by manufacturing and promoting all-natural scents, while some of the big-name scent companies have been using manmade or synthetic scents for years, some of which would surprise you. Companies which you thought were all natural are not and have not been for some time.
Whichever direction you lean, the proper use of a good, quality scent will increase your odds of more and better whitetails no matter where you hunt. Folks, scents work, and given their proper use, set-up and timing, you will see more deer, and just maybe, you will get a crack at the buck of a lifetime.