Making sense of scents

Published 4:30 pm Monday, January 12, 2009

As the final month of deer season begins, rutting activity for the majority of Alabama’s deer herd should be moving toward a mid-January peak.

For most deer hunters, it is the time to break out their arsenal of favorite lures and attractants, especially those that deal with the does’ estrous cycle.

Of course, since hunters first started using deer scents, especially urine, the technology has advanced significantly.

Lawrence Taylor of Pradco Hunting Products of Decatur is at the forefront of that technology, but he cautions there is one rule that should precede all others when it comes to using scent attractants.

“The first step is to ensure that you are as scent-free as possible,” Taylor said. “That means showering with a non-scented soap, wearing hunting clothes washed in non-scented detergent and periodically spraying yourself with a product that eliminates human odor. Anytime you’re using scents or urines, you’re piquing that buck’s interest with a smell, and you don’t want to be any part of that odor.

“If you use deer urines one time a year, the peak of the rut is that time. At no other time will hunters see more action out of their scents than when bucks are using their noses to locate the next hot doe on the list.”

Taylor suggests hunters should use a combination of doe estrous, peak estrous urines and buck urine during the rut. Dispensing those scents is where the new technology comes into play.

“There are as many ways to dispense the scent as there are camouflage patterns, and they run from simply pouring it around the stand to using technologically advanced units that automatically dispense the scent at a preset time,” he said. “Drags are effective during late pre-rut and the peak of the rut. Soak a drag in estrous or peak estrous urine and drag it to the stand, and make a plan or two to drag it out front of the stand or across several known deer trails. Then bring it back to near the stand and hang it at waist level.

“Try a double drag with one tassel soaked in estrous and the other in buck urine to set up the scenario of a buck trailing a hot doe. A dominant buck is not going to be happy if he thinks there is another buck intruding on his territory.”

Taylor also said scent pads can be used in a variety of ways, as well. They can be hung on limbs around the stand, which can double as yardage markers for bowhunters.

“Position the pads where the wind will push the scent toward a bedding or feeding area, a funnel or where many deer trails intersect,” he said. “I try to keep from surrounding myself with the scent pads, however, because I really want to keep my own odor from entering the picture.”

The new technology includes scent dispensers that range from heat- and gravity-activated units that drip scent to battery-operat-

ed units that can be programmed to dispense scent at different intervals.

“I use an electronic scent dispersal unit that allows me to automatically mist the woods with estrous scent every 20 minutes,” Taylor said. “I just turn it on and hang it in front of the stand. And there is a new product that will be available this year that dispenses scent at the same temperature as the deer’s body.

“In cold temperatures, you can see the steam coming out of the unit and drifting through the woods. It should be especially effective filled with a peak estrous urine and set where the mist intersects a funnel where bucks are traveling looking for does.”

When the rut is warming up, which is now in some parts of Alabama, Taylor will continue to be aware of buck sign.

“If I’ve got an area where I’m seeing scrapes and they’re being freshened regularly, that’s a good time to use a scent dispenser,” he said. “But I’m going to use buck urine instead of doe estrous. I’d pour some in the scrape and then hang the unit over the scrape and set it to go off ever 20 minutes while I’m hunting.”

When the rutting activity is heavy, Taylor tends to discount buck sign like rubs and scrapes.

“I don’t worry that much about scrapes and things like that,” he said. “I’m hunting more of a location. I’m hunting the high traffic areas – the funnels, fingers of woods – but I’m not paying that much attention to scrapes that time of year.”

Taylor said the bucks tell him when it’s time for a change of strategy.

“When the bigger bucks start chasing is when I start using the doe estrous,” he said. “I got to see it this year in Kansas. Little bucks were chasing does for three days. A cold front came through and completely changed everything. All of a sudden there were big bucks there. That’s when I’ll change, when the big bucks start moving.”

Taylor knows that most hunters tend to dispense scent in a semicircle around their stands, but he doesn’t want hunters to abandon a good drag strategy.

“I don’t think that many people go to the trouble of laying down a drag line, although that can be very effective,” he said. “I’ve seen deer walk away from a doe not quite in estrous. The buck hit a trail where I had dragged some standing estrous and he walked toward me. It wasn’t the deer I wanted to shoot, but I know it can be effective.

“Right when the first does are getting hot and ready. That’s when the bucks just get stupid. They become more vulnerable than at any other time of the year. That’s when you’ve got to be in the woods to take advantage of it.”