Scents, Are They a Gimmick?
Instead of some catchy opening paragraph, I'm going to dive right in and share my experiences with scents whether it's food scents, deer scents, or cover scents. As a guide, I feel it's my job to provide the best hunts I can for our hunters. Scents, believe it or not, can help improve the success of a hunt. When our hunters show up for a hunt, they are usually there for a 4 day hunt. That's not a lot of time to put them on a good buck so I have to make sure I put them in the best situation I can to be successful. As far as scents go, that's not a time to be experimenting. I have to know above everything else that if I put out or use a scent, it will not run deer off or ruin a hunt. That's why I do all my testing before hand. And I've tested out many scents for many years. There are some scents that I know without a doubt will help improve a hunt and then there are some not so much.
Cover Scents: Before we go any further, let me start off by saying that I don't believe there is anything out there that eliminates your scent completely. However, a lot of cover scents out there can definitely REDUCE human odor. Cover scents are probably the hardest to test for us everyday hunters. Most of us don't have scientific tools to test them nor do we have the nose of a deer. So what are we to do? How do we know if any of these cover scents even work at all? Besides the obvious, which is to use it out in the field upwind of deer (good luck with that), or simply do a test yourself. Yes I know my sense of smell doesn't come close to a deer, but if I know I'm at least reducing my odor then that's enough for me. I look at cover scents as slightly putting something in my favor that's easy for me to control. I just happened to do a test on sweaty boots one time a few years ago. By the way, I think that smell is probably the most overlooked odor we give off. Anyway, I had some Code Blue and some Biostrike by Hunters Specialties. So I did a test to see which if any reduced that sweaty boot smell. Both boots smelled equally as bad..hahaha but I sprayed both boots then let them dry. The Biostrike definitely outperformed the Code Blue. The Biostrike boot didn't have any trace of sweaty boot smell. Now, did it kill the odor enough to where a deer couldn't smell it? Probably not but it definitely reduced odor enough for me to use it out in the field and not feel like I wasted my money. Who knows, maybe Code Blue would outperform Biostrike on a different smell. Ultimately, do some tests for yourself whether it be on deer out in the field or tests like I did with the sweaty boots then make a decision from there. They can help in certain situations especially in swirly winds but is not a must have type of product. It is something easy to control and can put things in my favor so that's why I use it. I wash and spray everything I can in scent control products then I hang my clothes in the brush as much as possible. In my opinion, that's the best thing you can do with your clothes.
Food Scents: Food is and always will be an important factor growing, managing, or drawing in deer. They have to eat! So it's pretty obvious that a lot of food scents can improve a hunt. To keep this short, I'll just share the one's that have worked out well for me.
Through guiding, I have been fortunate enough to test out many food scents, minerals, and attractants. I have found two different food scents that have worked many times over on deer of all ages. The first, I recommend if you don't have a lot of places to cover meaning you don't need a lot of the product and that is Sweet Corn by Red Arrow Scents. I remember the first time I used it, I put some in a Scentblaster and had a young buck walk right past corn on the ground to checkout that sweet smell. The rest of that year our hunters shot several visitors to that wonderful scent. The second, I use way more simply because it's more cost effective when I have a lot of ground to cover and several different spots I want to make a little better. That scent is the Salty Sweet Mineral Lick Buck Jam by Evolved Habitats. I put a little bit of the BuckJam, vanilla, and water in a spray bottle or a scentblaster. It's extremely cheap and allows me to cover a lot of places with it. I believe the BuckJam is only $10 and the vanilla is less than a dollar. You only need a couple ounces of both in a big spray bottle then fill the rest with water. It has worked just spraying on natural vegetation, as a corn topper, or just putting it in a ScentBlaster and letting it hang. Deer have actually changed their trails because of this stuff. And there is something about mixing the sweet corn flavor with vanilla that mature bucks like for some reason. And that is from KS to deep south TX. So both of these are similar and have had similar results. One is just more cost effective for covering a lot of ground. I'll also say I have tested out a lot of attractants....acorn rage, B&J, etc, etc,.....and these two had better and more consistent results than all of them. The BuckJam vanilla mix is the cheapest out of all of them and lasts longer! Just like cover scents, food scents are not a necessity or guarantee in anyway but it can definitely up your odds for sure if legal where you hunt.
Deer Scents: Deer scents have been around the longest and are the most natural way to get deer to frequently check an area or spot. The two most popular are scrape scents and doe in estrus scents. Before continuing, I will say that deer scents have much less of a gap between competing brands compared to food scents or cover scents. All deer scents probably work to an extent. I'm just going to name the best ones that have crossed my path because I've had better results and I prefer the application process of certain products better. I definitely have way more experience with deer scents than food or cover scents and have used and tested deer scents for years. I've learned what to spend my money on and what not to more importantly. The only deer scents I feel are worth the money are the two types I listed above, mock scrapes and doe in estrus. I feel just regular doe urine or buck urine is a waste of money with the exception of using buck urine in a mock scrape. I will explain more than just the brands I prefer to use because I believe the application of these are just as important as the product itself. Let's start with mock scrapes. If you aren't familiar with or never used mock scrapes.....start! Especially if you bowhunt. Deer make and visit scrapes all year long. They just become more visible when the bucks breakout of their groups and cover more ground. So there is no wrong time of year to put out a mock scrape. In my opinion, it is the most natural way to get bucks to check a spot routinely. You can even position the mock scrape in a way to almost ensure you get a great broadside shot. For mock scrapes my favorite thing to use is Apparition Scents preorbital gland scent called, Nightmare. That's right, it's a scent that doesn't even go on the ground! I use a wick or shoestring and saturate it then put it in a tree or branch about head high for a buck. This particular scent is clear, it doesn't stink like urine, and a buck has made a natural scrape below it every time I've used it across 9,000 acres for the last 4 years. Not once have I set it out and a buck not make a scrape below it. So I no longer have to make a scrape anymore...the deer do it themselves. This year I will test out another product with the preorbital and see how it does and that is Cuzz's Rookem Juice by Dan DeWitt. I put some of that out in late July and had bucks checking it out within 24 hours. I think the combination of the two will be killer. I'll definitely let you know if the Rookem Juice is worth your money. Nightmare by Apparition Scents is worth every penny.
Moving on to doe in estrus scents. Doe in estrus scents, in my opinion, have the smallest difference between brands. If it smells like a doe in heat, it will work regardless of brand! This is where the application is important and can make or break you. A lot of hunters put some estrus out on their way to the stand even in the peak of the rut, sit all day, and don't see anything only to claim that particular estrus doesn't work. It can work in a single sit IF bucks are already in range to smell it. It's not a magical button you can press and presto, a giant buck appears. I've had the best results putting estrus out before hunting and especially when I can refresh it for 2-3 days in a row. Some hunters have told me, "You don't want to attract bucks when you're not there." YES I DO!!! I want bucks checking out my stand locations as much as possible. I want that estrus working for me while I'm sleeping attracting travelling bucks that I didn't know existed. What happens when bucks find where you put out doe in estrus? They search for that doe. When they don't find her, what do they do? They come back to that spot to see if she's been there. Can you imagine if you had a chance to refresh that same exact spot, how crazy it will drive that buck when he can't find her? It drives them insane and they will stay in that area until they find the real thing giving you more shot opportunities. I've done this time and time again for my hunters with great success over many years. I have pics and video to prove it! Going back to what I mentioned about food scents, I have to cover a lot of ground for many different stand locations when we have hunters in camp, and nothing lets me do that quicker and more efficiently than The BuckBomb. It takes just seconds for me to put it out, spraying the grass on one side of the stand, then clicking and putting the can on the other side of the stand. Then I'll refresh as need be. I'm not necessarily saying what's inside the can is any better than other brands but I know it absolutely works and more importantly, I can cover a lot of different stand locations quickly with it. I remember one year, it was colder than normal three weeks before our rut hits and stayed cold throughout the rut. We went through over 70 cans of BuckBomb that year simply because it kept driving them crazy. The cold kept them on their feet and moving which increased the odds of them smelling the bombs we put out.
Wrapping things up, most scents are far from a gimmick. In fact, most can help put things in your favor. They are like most products in the industry...there is a time and place for them all and they don't work every time but some definitely help on a fairly consistent basis. I'd be happy to go into more detail if anyone has any questions, just shoot me a message. Good luck this season and on behalf of the MTR Camo family, Happy Hunting!