Holle is a retired English and creative writing teacher. She is a professional freelance writer and contributes to Horseman Magazine.
Deer Hunting Tips
If you engage in deer hunting, you know that whitetails have a highly developed sense of smell. They’re wary critters – they have to be. Deer are typical prey animals, and they have that inherited instinct for survival. Even if the deer in your area don’t have to worry about wolves, mountain lions, and other predators, they have no way of knowing this, so the absence of the large predatory killers does not negate the deer’s inherent need for caution. Anyway, the deer still have the ultimate predator in pursuit of them: man (or woman).
If you’ve ever really watched deer, you’ll notice that they stop often, raise their noses, and sniff the air. They’re trying to discern strange or dangerous scents. And I don’t need to tell you, they can smell humans, and the smell scares them and makes them flee. That’s why so many hunters use scents to mask their human smell.
There are probably hundreds, maybe thousands, of different scents on the market for deer hunting. Many function as both masks and as lures to attract the deer, like doe in estrus or doe urine. But there are other steps you can to take to hide or neutralize your distinctly human aroma.
When you’re choosing a masking scent, think natural. Do some planning beforehand. Observe the area where you’ll be hunting, paying close attention to the natural smells in the area. For example, one place I hunted was in some pine woods near a cow pasture. What were these deer used to smelling? Pine boughs, pine straw, and cow manure.
I went to the area and cut a few small limbs from the pine trees and gathered some dried pine needles form the forest floor and placed them in an unscented plastic garbage bag. Then I placed my hunting clothes in the bag and left them for a few days before the hunt. I also gathered some fresh cow poop in a Ziploc freezer bag, and the morning of the hunt, I spread a little of it on my hunting boots.
The first time I tried this strategy, I was amazed at how many deer wandered right up to my stand – both does and young bucks. They did the typical air sniffing from time to time, but evidently they never did get a whiff of anything unusual. They felt completely at ease because they didn’t smell anything out of the ordinary. They smelled exactly what they were used to smelling every day, so they weren’t alerted to my presence. And by the way, I was not using any commercial scents. Had I used a buck-luring scent along with the natural scents, I might well have seen more big bucks. Honestly, I wasn’t much of a trophy hunter. I was more interested in deer hunting for meat and in keeping the deer herds on our land restricted to healthy numbers.
Another one of my favorite hunting spots was near our hog pens. There were a few pines there, but most of the trees were large oaks. My stand was also near a large hay barn with open sides. You could smell the sweet hay when you came within several yards of the barn, so I figured if I could smell it from that distance, the deer in the area could smell it from a lot farther away. Into my bag went some green pine needles, some hay, some oak leaves, and even a handful of acorns. Instead of cow manure, I used fresh pig droppings to smear on my boots. Again, it worked like a charm.
If you're a trophy hunter who's deer hunting for a big buck, use these methods and add a commercial buck lure on top of the natural scents. I never tried this, but my husband did. His success rate skyrocketed! Like me, he wasn't much of a trophy hunter, and he often saw big bucks and let them pass by without shooting them. His good friend, however, was all about trophy bucks, and he used my method in his hunts and had great success. I think at first he was a little reluctant to use hunting methods coming from a woman, but I made a believer out of him!
I’ll share a couple of more scent secrets with you:
The night before the hunt, bathe, but don’t use soap or shampoo. Instead, make a weak solution of baking soda and water, and bathe with it. Make sure you rinse off well. Don’t shave that morning or use deodorant, either, and refrain from smoking if you’re a smoker.
I’ve often wondered about the smell of the gun itself. If it was recently cleaned, wouldn’t it have a pretty strong smell of its own? Maybe the gun should go into the natural scent bag, too. I’ll leave that up to you to ponder. Happy hunting!
- Tips for Processing and Aging Deer Meat, with Videos
If you're a deer hunter, you probably already know how to field-dress deer. If not, watch the video here.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
gamercameo on July 19, 2012:
Very useful tips. Get rid of scents is fundamental for hunter and it has a dramatic effect for hunting success.
WebscapeOutdoors from Michigan, USA on January 27, 2012:
I've done the trick with the pine branches in a plastic bag. I'll leave the cow poop for another poor soul. :)
kcbuckstalker on September 20, 2011:
I just got into whitetail hunting an was wondering if a natural scent would work then I came across this an you made me feel more confident in my instinct towards deer hunting never thought about the poo on the boots though.
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 06, 2009:
Glad you understand where I'm coming from! I'm surprised that more hunters don't take the natural environment into account. Thanks for stopping by!
Jery from Kennewick WA USA on December 06, 2009:
I thought you were going to talk about some of hose high dollar sent blocking sprays and stuff like that. I agree with your approach 100% I feel most if not all those store bought sent blockers are ineffective and a waste of money. I sometimes just take fresh pine nettles right where I'm hunting and crush and rub them on myself. Also I feel smoke from your fire can cover your scent well. The best thing is just having the wind in your face!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 01, 2009:
Leelin on October 01, 2009:
A fellow hunter...nice! I hardly hunt deer anymore (don't have time) but I make time to hunt elk. I bagged an elk 3 of the last 4 years which is pretty good where I hunt. Nice whitetail in the pic at the top!
Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on September 30, 2009:
Thanks, Butch! I'll check yours out!
Butch45 on September 30, 2009:
way to go good luck with your site I give your site a thumbs up.