Deer scents and lures are — well — deer scents and lures, correct? Rather, there’s no reason to change, scent-wise, what you used during September once the winds begin blowing cold in November. Or is there? The truth is, just like the photographs of those tremendous bucks that grace your Whitetails in the Wild calendar change from month to month, so too do the scents that deer hunters might best use to their advantage throughout the course of the season.
An accomplished archer, Ron Bice currently serves as the director of communications for the Anoka, MN,-based Wildlife Research Center (WRC), Inc., a company that has earned it reputation developing scents and scent concealment systems for today’s deer hunter. I asked Bice to take me through that primary portion of the deer hunter’s year, September through December, and explain the changes that take place in the whitetail’s world as seen through his nose, and how we as hunters need to change right along with him if we hope to be successful.
September, scents and sex. Though it makes for fine alliteration, according to Bice, September isn’t about sex but rather about scents designed to play on a whitetail’s natural curiosity, as well as his belly.
“When you’re talking September, you’re talking about using curiosity and/or food scents. Deer are naturally curious, and scents such as Trail’s End #307 appeal to that. In the case of food-type scents, use something native to that area, be it apples or persimmons or what-have-you,” said Bice, who continued with this interesting sidenote.
“Curiosity scents, it seems,” he said, “appear to be most effective the very first time they’re used in the field. Presumably while they’re new to the animal. With this in mind, I suggest that hunters take the scent — that is, the scent-laden material, e.g. Pro-Wick felt pads — with them when they go rather than leaving it, and risk the animals growing accustomed to that particular scent.”
October marks a time of change in the whitetail buck’s world, and a corresponding adaptation on the part of the hunter who considers scents a part of his arsenal.
“This is the time when the bachelor groups of bucks are starting to break up, and they’re starting to become more aggressive,” said Bice. “Now’s the time to introduce territorial-type scents. These are scents designed to create a challenge situation between the deer that are in the area. With this scent, you’re introducing a new or strange buck into the area, and in essence creating a situation not unlike the fire hydrant and the dog. A buck’s going to check this out and try to learn as much as he can about this new deer. It’s a very attractive scent at this time of year.”
Bice continued by saying that hunters might consider starting with a low-key challenge scent, something like WRC’s Select Buck Urine, before moving up the scale into a hardcore territorial or dominance aroma like that offered by the company’s Mega-Tarsal Plus. “Mega-Tarsal Plus not only contains the buck urine, but also has tarsal gland secretions — both excellent territorial scents — and I’ve had incredible success with this scent throughout October and well into November,” he said.
In many parts of the country, November marks the beginning of the year’s firearm opportunities for whitetails. And while scents are popularly thought of as tools for the archer, Bice contends that gun hunters, too, can benefit from their use.
“Deer are going to breed, with or without the hunting pressure,” he starts. “Sooner or later, these deer are going to find someplace safe and secure where they can go about their breeding undisturbed; hence, the use of estrus urines — doe-in-heat urines — as an attractant can be very effective. We hear tons of stories every year from folks around the country who were successful using something like Special Golden Estrus during the gun season.”
November, too, brings the rut into full swing across much of the U.S., and as such, curiosity, food and territorialism go somewhat out the proverbial window in a whitetail buck’s world, all in exchange for one and only one thought — S-E-X.
“I use the 28th of October (here in Minnesota) to start using estrus-based products,” said Bice. “Prior to that, I’m using the curiosity or territorial scents. But once the 28th rolls around, it’s time to pull out all the stops, and pulling out all the stops means going to a Golden Estrus or doe-in-heat type scents. I want to give myself all the advantage I possibly can.”
In December, while whitetails in the South are just starting to get interested in one another — see November and S-E-X — breeding activity in much of the Midwest and northern U.S. is beginning to wind down. Not over, mind you, as some of a population’s younger does will just be coming into estrus, and as such, there will still be cruiser bucks searching for these receptive does. That said, however, things have changed somewhat in the scent arena now that the calendar has turned to the final month of the year.
“Estrus scents can still be very effective throughout December and even into January,” said Bice. “But you really want to pull out your curiosity and territorial type scents again, though. Essentially, the majority of the types of scents that are on the market are going to work quite well during December and into January.”