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Deer Scents Guide | The How, When, and Why of Deer Scents

Bone Collectors’ Deer Scents Guide

Have you ever had a moment while deer hunting where it seems like the stars aligned and everything worked out exactly the way you had planned? More often than not, you hear stories about how a certain technique or product was responsible, in whole or in part, for the success of such a hunt. For example, knowing how to use deer scents might have been the magic solution to luring that buck into range for the final shot. But if you’re like most hunters, you’re probably a little skeptical when you hear things like this. After all, the outdoor industry is built on selling you their product. It’s easy to see a new one on the shelf and be sold on the benefits. But how can you really know that something is or is not effective in the woods?

Proof. The simple fact is that whitetail attractant scent is a great hunting accessory that really does work for you. While simply sitting quietly in the woods can sometimes be enough to ambush a wise whitetail buck, sometimes you need to create your own luck. A deer’s sense of smell is arguably its best survival adaptation, followed by hearing. Adding deer scents and deer calls that are appropriate for the season you’re hunting in can usually be the ticket to convincing a buck that another deer is physically there, which may be the only barrier stopping him from coming in for a closer look. When used correctly, they are a powerful addition to your hunting equipment and overall strategy. Let’s look at each type and define the best way to use them for your hunt this season.

Fooling a Deer’s Nose

The sense of smell is definitely a deer’s most powerful sense, which they trust above all other senses. They may hear something strange and even see the blocky outline of your silhouette, but these can usually be forgiven if you hold still for a while. But if a deer smells you, it’s likely game over for that specific hunt. Scent control is very important in all aspects of your hunt, from scouting to checking trail cameras to actually hunting. If you’re going to fool a deer’s nose with deer scents, you also need to reduce your own scent. It’s critical to wear scent elimination clothing like Bone Collector Clothing, rubber boots, and even latex gloves to not leave your scent on anything you touch. Also, you need to pay attention to the wind when you’re hunting for defensive purposes. But hunters also need to know how to use deer scents to overcome a deer’s number one defense.

Check out scent elimination products by Bone Collector.

By using the right kind of deer scent in the appropriate season and in the right conditions, you can convince a deer that another deer has either recently traveled through your area or is still there. The key is in using the right scent at the right time. If you were to use a doe estrous scent in early September, for example, you’d likely raise some red flags or at best, have deer ignore you. Does typically would not enter estrous this early, which means you’re just wasting a good resource by using it at the wrong time. The scent also needs to be pure. In order to convince them there is a physical deer in the location. Bone Collector Scents are created using real deer urine, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Basic Types of Deer Scents and Deer Glands 

Let’s look at a few basic categories of scents, and which deer glands they come from, that you can use this season. We’ll also discuss the best time of year to use them for the most realistic and attractive effect. Depending on your specific situation, you may find that one or another is the best deer scent attractant for you.

Doe and Buck Urine 

This is exactly what it sounds like. It’s simply urine from a deer on any average day. These are useful for calming a deer’s nerves and raising their curiosity level since it simulates a new deer in the area. It can be used during any hunting season, since deer pee in the woods all the time. Generally, doe urine will attract does and bucks, while buck urine will only attract other bucks. It’s also a useful cover scent as you’re walking into your tree stand since it’s fairly commonplace. When used in combination with some of the other scents below, they can become a powerful attractor.

Doe Estrous Scent

This scent is gathered from a doe as she is in heat (often called estrous or estrus). Hormones change and the chemistry of a doe’s urine signals to bucks that she is ready to mate. By using this scent on the front or back end of typical rut periods, you can usually convince a buck that smells it to come investigate. It can also work during the peak rut, but sometimes they will already be locked down with breeding does. Try as you might, you’re probably not going to get a buck to leave a hot doe to check out a scent during this time period.

Buck Tarsal Gland Scent

If you’ve ever seen a buck make a scrape, you’ll know that it often holds its back legs together and urinates down them. This urine trail will flow over the tarsal glands (that stained patch of fur around the inside of the deer’s “knee”), which infuses it with additional oily secretions and hormones that indicate a deer’s status and hierarchy in the herd. While deer use this communication style throughout the fall, it should really only be used when bucks are actively rutting and checking scrapes for the maximum impact.

Preorbital and Forehead Gland Scent

When a buck makes a scrape, he first finds a spot with a licking branch hanging about four-five feet off the ground. Under this branch, he will scrape the ground with his hooves to urinate in. But he will also rub his eyes and forehead against the branch, which collects scent from the preorbital gland and forehead gland. Bone Collector Scents has bottled this scent up as well as the Signpost Whitetail Pre-orbital Gland Attractant. Simply apply some to the licking branch above a real or mock scrape. This scent is best used during the pre-rut to the peak rut.

How to Use Deer Scents  

Many people buy the products to include in their hunting gear but aren’t sure how to use deer scent in a hunting scenario. The tried and true method is to hang little scent wafers or scent wicks on a limb in various spots around your tree stand. But there is far more you can use deer scents for before, and during the hunting season.

Early Season

The “early season” as far as this article is concerned, is the period of last minute preparation, scouting, and the first month or two of deer season. This usually sums up the end of august, September, and October. During this time whitetails are switching from their summer home ranges centered on food sources, to their fall home ranges, where they will most likely spend the majority of deer season searching for does. During this time when home ranges are switching and deer season is just beginning, deer scents can not only help pattern bucks but create hunting opportunities.

Deer Scent Strategy: Creating Mock Scrapes

Creating a mock scrape in a strategic spot, using nothing more than a stick and some deer scents could add not only valuable intel but an opportunity for hunting.  Many people wonder how to make a mock scrape and tend to overcomplicate it. Simply choose a spot underneath a stout licking branch (about four-five feet off the ground), and scratch the leaves and debris away from the soil. You’ll want to expose about a two-foot circle of soil in this area. Deer are attracted to the smell of soil as is, but if you want to up the attraction factor, pour some buck or doe urine, or scrape starter into it.  This will create an exceptional trail camera site, as bucks will continue to check the scrape every time they pass by or are in the area. Setting up the trail camera correctly, and on the right settings can reveal very valuable intel throughout deer season.  These mock scrapes also create focal spots for bucks to approach, whether it is a spot in a funnel, a food plot, or just simply a white oak flat, they create shot opportunities that you can designate.


When you think pre-rut you can only think one thing, sparring and fighting. As the daylight changes and the hunting season progresses further into October a buck’s testosterone level heightens. During this time bucks begin to perform light sparring matches. These grow into intense dominance displays and matches as the intolerance and testosterone levels rise. As November arrives, placing out a deer decoy and using a rattle call to imitate a fight, and even using grunts and snort-wheeze calls can fire up a mature buck from quite a distance. While the audio and visuals may appear in tune with the rattling, calling, and deer decoy, a mature buck is still looking for one factor of realism to your setup…scent!

Deer Scent Strategy: Add Realism to a Decoy

The scent of a buck about to fight should be present as the challenging buck will be sure to walk downwind to identify and judge his aggressor. Adding deer scent that relates to a mature buck is key.

Deer Scents To Use:

Just buck urine won’t do, with the powerful nose of a whitetail, the buck should catch onto the most potent and “smelliest” scent of all…the tarsal. Adding Bone Collector’s Signpost Whitetail Pre-orbital Gland Attractant to your decoy will be the final piece of realism needed to fool a mature buck into making a mistake.

Rut and Post Rut

This is where the rubber meets the road for whitetails so to speak. Intense chasing, seeking, and above all mating and the lock-down. The rut is a long awaited period where bucks are very vulnerable and easily tricked as their hormones get in the way of logical thinking. During this period the use of deer scents can be extremely effective.

Deer Scent Strategies:

A very effective option for using deer scents during the late pre-rut, rut, and even the post-rut is to drag a scent trail leading towards your tree stand. Simply us doe estrous on a drag system using latex gloves to keep your human scent off of it. Dip the wicks into a deer scent bottle, and start dragging it beside you about 150 yards from your deer stand. This scent drag will lead a lovesick buck right towards your hunting area. End the trail in a good location, such as a shooting lane, and hang a wick or the drag on a branch to put out more estrous scent in the area. This approach sets up for a perfect bow hunting location since you can lead them in close to your stand and distract them with the wick at the end of it. Many a buck has followed this trail looking for a doe, but only found a trip to the freezer.

Deer Scents to Use:

The most obvious choice of deer scent to use on a scent drag is doe in estrous. Doe estrous is unmistakable to a buck crossing a scent drag…in fact, that’s exactly what he was hoping to sniff out as he combs the woods tirelessly. While this strategy could be fruitful, adding another element to the mix could prove to be more successful. Using a combination of Urge Whitetail Doe Full Estrus Attractant and King O’ The Wood Whitetail Full Rut Buck Attractant will be the final nail in the cruising buck’s coffin.

How to Use Deer Scents: Start Now 

Now that you have some deer scent attractant tactics to try out this year, it’s time to make a plan. Stock up on any essentials you’ll need (deer scents, scent bottles, scent drags, etc.) here. Be sure to load them into an easily accessible pocket of your hunting backpack so that you don’t have to dig to the bottom when you’re in the woods. It helps to keep everything in a re-sealable plastic bag just in case anything spills (you don’t want your hunting gear all smelling like deer). Make sure to bring some latex gloves with so that you don’t contaminate the scent wicks with your hands. Once everything is packed and ready to go, you just need to wait for the right moment. The first time you watch a buck following your scent trail right to your stand, as if on a string, you’ll be hooked.


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