Many hunters assume deer and other prey species have a better sense of smell than predators, including coyotes, but I’ve been proven wrong in that assessment time and time again.
The evidence comes from years of scent control on archery whitetail hunts. As hard as I try, stand placement sometimes forces me to walk through a shooting lane or down a trail to reach my setup, leaving scent on the ground. Still, I’ve found it’s easily erased by wearing rubber boots and using scent-erasing products.
Not so for coyotes.
Time and time again I’ll grip my Mathews bow to take a shot at an incoming coyote only to watch it stop where I walked, whirl and vanish without even a courtesy pause. Can coyotes smell that well? Apparently so.
What’s really amazing is what you realize when you do the math. A coyote likely has fewer olfactory receptors than a whitetail or equal numbers at best. Humans have approximately 5 million olfactory receptors in the nose. Your canine pal has 220 million (bloodhounds have 300 million). It’s believed whitetails have nearly 300 million. Data is slim on coyote olfactory-receptor totals, but you can bet it compares to the average dog or bloodhound.
That superior sense of smell haunts me when contemplating setup sites. It particularly nags at me when I consider walking out into a clearing to put up a decoy or stash a caller. I’m leaving a scent trail the entire way. In tight cover, I simply give up my downwind backside unless I have a partner to cover it. But when I must walk out to a spot where I expect a coyote to arrive, I do it with a plan in mind.
Plan Your Attack
- Always erase your scent. This includes laundering your clothes in scent-free, non-UV brightening detergent. The next step is storing your clothes in scentproof bags that won’t allow contaminants to invade your clean clothes. Make sure you wash everything you plan on taking to the woods including daypacks, hats, binocular straps and anything that may capture scent. These items are easily overlooked. When you hit the field, spray everything with scent-erasing products.
- Wear boots that include scent barriers in the lining or are rubber bottomed. Traditional rubber boots can work for ground hunting, but they can create blisters on long hikes. Consider going modern with a rubber boot designed for active wear, like the Ariat Incite Thermal. You’ll be scent-free thanks to its rubber construction, warm with ample insulation and comfortable as you rack up the miles.
To minimize your footprint scent, also consider washing and masking your boots with nature. Walk through waterholes and mud puddles, pausing to give your boots a good splash. If you see a manure pile from livestock or deer, squish your boots in it for a natural cover scent.
Related: Hunting Pressured Coyotes
- Mark your route out and back with precision. Now memorize that line and never let a coyote reach it. Your shooting lanes should give you ample room to shoot before a coyote circles downwind of your decoy or caller. Your shooting window should also include plenty of room for a coyote to circle downwind without bumping into you. Set up so a coyote has at least 100 yards to circle downwind of any distraction you set out.
Coyotes have amazing scent capabilities. You can’t win them all, but with some savvy planning you can conquer most coyote scent quandaries.
Related: How to Stalk Coyotes
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