Using Scent Tactics to Fool a Mature Buck
Whitetail deer live their lives on high alert, they are ever vigilant, and all of their senses are keen. Of a deer’s senses, it is the sense of smell that is arguably the deer’s greatest defense. Whitetails live by their noses: avoiding danger, seeking out food, and finding a mate during the rut–all this is accomplished through their incredible olfactory senses.
It is in a hunter’s best interest to use the deer’s greatest asset to the hunter’s advantage any chance you get. Hunting with a deer’s nose in mind can take on many forms, from the proven simple strategy of hunting the wind to something as complicated as producing your own mock scrape. Today’s deer scent market offers a multitude of products designed to cover up human scent, eliminate human odor, and attract a rutting buck in search of a mate, all through his nose.
This deer season, put tactics and scent attractants into your tool bag to fool a bucks nose and fill your tag.
Using Estrus Doe Urine In the Second Rut
A critical driver to the whitetail rut is the deer herd’s change in hormones associated with the photoperiod that takes place in the fall. This hormone change causing increased testosterone levels in bucks and estrogen levels in does kicks off the deer’s breeding period, known to hunters as the rut, and the best time to be in the deer woods.
During the phases of the rut: pre rut, peak rut, and post rut; bucks and does communicate their territories and their readiness to breed though scent. Glands, rubbed on trees and hooves scraping out earth that is urinated on, act as a signal and communication hot spot for deer during the mating season.
Deploying estrus scents by various methods can be an incredible way to use a mature buck’s nose against him. As the whitetail rut progresses and the majority of the female deer have come into their estrous cycle and been bred, bucks must search out the last few does in the receptive stage of the rut. It is at this time of the rut that does born in the spring of the year may come into their first estrous. The coupling of the tail end of the mature does breeding period, and not even a year old does coming into estrous is often referred to as the second rut. When conditions are right, the second rut can be hotter than the peak phases of November
By putting various deer scents to work during the second rut, you will stack the odds in your favor to attract a bruiser buck still looking for love, or even lay a trail straight to your setup for any passing buck searching for a hot doe.
Hunting a Mock Scrape
Scrapes are little more than a shallow spot in the dirt where a deer has pawed out the ground and urinated. During the pre-rut phase, scrapes can be extremely productive as bucks begin searching their areas looking for potential mates. Often found along field edges, timber borders, and transition zones; scrapes sometimes go cold during the peak of the rut, but they can be incredibly effective again as the rut winds down, and if you’re lucky, when the second rut kicks off.
For a hunter, finding and hunting an active scrape can be a challenge. Just because you can locate an active scrape doesn’t mean there is a place for a stand or blind nearby, that the wind will be favorable, or that it’s an easy place to move in and out of undetected. It is possible to hunt an active travel area along an edge, and create your own man made, or mock scrape to attract deer into your hunting setup.
Locate a bare ground spot as big as a bathtub or so, using a stick or the heels of your boots paw out a shallow spot, preferably under a low hanging branch of a tree. It is critical during the process to keep your human scent to a minimum. Wear scent free rubber boots that are only worn in the field, and wear nitrile gloves to keep your scent down. Spraying down with a quality scent eliminator like the D/Code Field Spray is another important tool to keeping your scent down during the hunt. Once you’ve worked up a shallow area 24” – 30” around it’s time to add some doe in estrous urine. Be careful to only “freshen” or re-apply scent in the morning hours, doing your part to trick that buck into thinking his doe is visiting only during shooting light.
Code Blue’s time released Grave Digger Scrape Mate, or Foaming Estrous urine are both exceptional products designed to fool a buck’s nose and get him to let down his guard. This fresh scrape will signal to any buck in the area that there is a hot doe nearby, and that he should go and find her.
Hunt the scrape from downwind, or with a solid cross wind. Watch the downwind side of your mock scrape for cruising bucks coming to check on their doe herd, specifically for whatever doe is working the active scrape in their territory.
Drag Scent to Your Stand
Scent drags can be an extremely effective tactic during all phases of the rut, laying a path in the deer woods that leads straight into your hunting zone. The scent dragging technique involves attaching a wick or multiple wicks to your boot and dragging scent attractants toward your stand.
There are many options and various best practices to keep in mind when you deploy a scent trail to your stand, here is a list of checklist items when using a scent drag:
- Wear Clean Rubber Boots and Nitrile Gloves – Adding a scent attractant to your hunt, and along areas deer traffic is only effective if you can keep human alert odor to a minimum.
- Start Week and Get Stronger – It may seem backwards, but when you are applying scent it’s critical to freshen your wick often the closer you get to your stand to give the impression that the deer you are impersonating are moving toward your stand and not the other direction.
- Use Cross Winds – By using the cross wind to your advantage you are more likely to avoid detection by a buck following the scent trail you have left, and it effectively doubles your tactical range.
- Experiment With Scents – Think outside the box and consider how a mature buck might react to different scents in his core area. Try using two scents at once with a double drag, doe estrous on one and buck urine on the other to give the impression of a hot doe with a strange buck.
Hunting the Second Rut
Many factors can affect the intensity of the second rut: weather, herd size, buck to doe ratio, and age structure all play a factor. One thing is for certain, however, the only way to fill that buck tag is through time in the field. Get out and put in your time, experiment with different strategies and tactics, and enjoy some late season deer hunting!