The Key to His Nose
Sep 11th, 2012 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Sep 11th, 2012 at 12:00 AM
When I started getting into bowhunting Whitetails, I was young and eager for success. I had been shooting recurves instinctively since I was very young, probably younger than most, and had only recently been given my first compound bow shortly after I turned 12. I was thirteen when my Father first took me bowhunting. He put me at the base of a big tree just inside a woodline before retreating to the tall grassy field outside of the woods where he laid down on his back and rested within ear shot of me. It wasn’t long after first light when I heard deer coming. I peered around the tree I was resting against in time to watch four doe’s run by me within arm’s reach. The allure of being camo clad and melting into my surroundings and getting this close to Whitetails without them ever knowing I was there had me hooked and I’ve been in hot pursuit ever since.
Within the Whitetail hunting culture, the old adage, “I’d rather be lucky than good”, doesn’t always hold up. After all, isn’t it the challenge of getting the edge on a mature Whitetail that influences the passion for hunting one of the most challenging big game animals in North America?
There are chapters upon chapters of considerations and variables that all equate to one thing, a fundamentally sound tactical approach to successfully knocking down a mature Whitetail Buck. The chapter I’m most interested in writing about now deals with scent and one of the most commonly overlooked concepts hunters can add to their system to enhance their success rate in the field.
During the seek phase of the rut, it’s no secret that bucks have one thing on their mind and we’d be under-evaluating their intelligence if we ignored their innate motivation to catch up to that hot doe before another buck does or she leaves her cycle. The rigors of the rut are hard on bucks and they don’t have time to waste, so therein lay the biggest clue to refining your approach to using scent as a method of drawing in a lone buck on the prowl – freshness of your distributed scent.
A buck loses substantial weight during the few weeks of the rut and sometimes run themselves down to the extremes of such weakness that can ultimately lead to death, especially when the snow starts flying. An active buck will seek out as many hot doe’s to breed as he can in a short window of time, and it’s proven by his non-stop movement at all hours of the day and night as he follow his nose. If he crosses a scent trail or comes downwind of a scent drift, he is faced with a decision to either follow his nose or continue searching. As he raises his head and lip curls, there can only be one equation that will trigger his answer he’s contemplating and his decision comes down to freshness of the distributed scent. He knows it’s a gamble if he takes up an old trail, and while it still may be a gamble to follow a fresh trail, he also knows the odds are better in catching up to the source and doing what he set out to do in the first place then if he follows an old open-ended trail.
The biggest mistake I made as a young hunter experimenting with using scents was not considering all of these factors. I’d buy a bottle of estrus off the shelf in a retail store, wipe the dust off it on the way home and put it to use a few times during the season. One thing I always thought about when I’d dab it onto a wick was how dehydrated the doe must have been before the urine was extracted as it was always very brown in color. Thinking it was normal, I never looked into it any further than raising an eyebrow the first time. I’d use half of the bottle and re-use it the following season. The only difference between the new season from the prior was the urine was always much darker than it already was and while it clicked that it must have been from age, it took some time to put two and two together and understand the consequences.
The components of urine are naturally broken down from factors like air, heat, water, and overall lengthy time. When urine breaks down, the scent becomes very bitter, so in terms of freshness we’re not talking strength like the difference between smelling someone’s grill from a mile away and standing beside it, we’re talking the difference between a sandwich you just made with turkey and mayo and that same sandwich five days later after being unrefrigerated. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t buy a bottle of estrus that exceeds 20-30 days in age because it’s simply not fresh.
With the number of bowhunters growing every year and the popular goal of knocking down a big buck, popularity of adding extra tools to help bring the bucks into range have literally exploded the market for accessories and scents. To stay ahead of the competition, many of the scent brands out there have taken steps to stay on the front end of the market splurge, such as providing retailers with mini-refrigerators to display their scents in to show they have taken that extra step in ensuring freshness. Some brands have taken it to the level of hand-writing the actual tag number of the specific deer in which the urine was extracted from to try to connect a little closer to the consumer, and to be honest, I can certainly appreciate that, but it doesn’t erase the original bottling date which can sometimes be up to a year prior.
A couple of the front runners in the race to stay ahead of the market and truly provide the freshest scents available have really taken freshness to a whole new level by delivering your pre-ordered bottle(s) of scent within two days of the actual bottling. Both Ol’ Drop Tyne© and Whitetail’R© have developed the means of accomplishing this new industry benchmark and are turning a lot of heads. You won’t find either brand of bottled scent on any shelves at any retailer store; it’s simply not how they do their business. Ol’ Drop Tyne’s Doe-to-Door® is my preferred bottle and I’ll pre-order every summer so I can be sure to receive since it contains actual excretions of estrus and the supply can be limited.
Since I started using Doe-to-Door®, the difference in bucks’ reactions has been unparalleled and doesn’t even compare to the olden days when I bought into any bottle that said “Estrus” on it as if it were magic potion, even if they always left their bag of tricks at home when I’d hit the stand.
Ultimately, I believe trial and error in personal experience teaches the best lessons by forcing you to learn the subtle details that can sometimes pack the most punch. When it comes to deer hunting and being successful, it’s when you realize those subtle details that you realize this it’s no longer a hobby, it’s a passion.