Opening day for archery season opened with the worst weather possible -windy, cold and raining - but the rest of the first week was almost perfect weather.
Chilly, foggy mornings, warm afternoons and then chilly again as evenings approach usually prompts deer to begin feeding and so most archers post the first week or two at likely food sources. Or along deer trails between bedding and feeding areas.
Bucks are beginning to feel the rut coming on. Their antlers are pretty well rubbed of velvet now, small territorial scrapes begin to appear and does are just annoyed at any buck's pesky, amorous moods right now. It's exciting this time of year, to see deer moving more freely than usual. Bucks are sparring, though not too seriously yet. It's just a wonderful time to be in the woods; seems like everything is in a hurry to get ready for winter.
Huge flocks of birds swing around the treetops as they get ready to migrate, geese are honking overhead, squirrels and chipmunks rattling the leaves as they look for mast to store in their dens, bears lumbering about looking for food as their denning time is not too far off. It's amusing to me how often I get complaints from wives about the salmon eggs, mealy worms and turkey calls they find tucked away into corners of their refrigerators. I know what they expect me to say but my reply always is that my sympathies lie with the fellows on this one. My refrigerator also contains these necessary items. In fact, awhile back, I laughed to myself as I cleaned out my lingerie drawer, and unearthed, not lavender sachet, but a bottle of fox urine and 2 bottles of doe-in-heat scent.
It's time for such scents and lures to be unearthed from wherever they have been stored because that most exciting time of archery hunting is just around the corner: the "rut." Does come into estrus, bucks are addlepated by the delicious scents swirling in the air. Hunters spot rubbed trees where bucks have scraped the velvet off their antlers and the large scrapes that identify the center of breeding action.
Using scents is certainly a boon to the hunter's game plan but there is so much information about how to use scents effectively and some of it is downright confusing. A few years ago I attended with a friend a seminar on the subject of proper deer lure use given by a well-known archery hunter. My friend had a notebook and pen ready to take down the instructions the hunter would give.
The hunter proceeded to tell how he carried several kinds of scents into the woods with him and how he saturated cotton balls with one kind of scent and hung them on bushes surrounding his tree stand. Of course he had pads that attached to his boots and he doused them with another kind of scent so he would leave a "trail" for deer to follow.
Once in the stand, he declared, he had spray bottles of particular scents and every so often he would spray one kind of scent out to the right of his stand and then after awhile he'd spray a different scent out the left side of his stand. Well, at this instruction, my friend rolled his eyes, clapped the notebook shut and slumped in his seat. It was just all too much trouble.
My own thoughts were that posting somewhere with several different and probably conflicting scents would be confusing and probably alarm deer.
It matters of scent, no doubt the foundation truth is for the hunter to be as scent-free as possible when he goes hunting. Care really should be taken to keep hunting clothes and boots from absorbing everyday scents, such as garlic, the dog, gasoline and the hoagie we pick up to eat on the way to the woods.
Smart archers wash their clothes, body and hair often in scent-free soaps. The spray-on scent free products enjoy great popularity; apparently they are quite effective in removing odors. They really should be used as a final masking of lingering traces of human odor rather than being relied on for removing heavy odors.
Too many hunters rely on scents to cover up all the noxious human smells that accumulate on clothes, boots and gear. This is a big mistake. Scents should be subtle, as they are in the woods. Deer have a greater sense of smell than hunters do and great gobs of scent splashed onto clothes etc. is just too powerful for deer. They know this is not natural and shy away.
Most hunters rely on a basic deer urine scent to make deer believe there are other deer in the area. But during the rut, bucks are cruising around looking for does in estrus and if they catch the drift of a scent of a doe in heat they will pay attention. What many hunters have told me is that the basic technique is to find a line of rubbed trees, for that will tell you the direction a buck generally travels.
David Hale, partner in the Knight and Hale Game Call Company and one of the most famous hunters in the nation says, "If I know where a buck travels, I'll try to set up in a thicket because a big buck relaxes more when he gets into thick stuff. He feels safer there and lots of times he'll come investigate if he hears antlers clicking in the middle of a thicket. It's to a hunter's advantage if he can get a buck's attention off safety and onto breeding. A few drops of doe-in-heat scent, soft antler clicking and grunt called from a thicket helps do that."
"Nevertheless," Hale continued, "the very peak of the rut is the least effective time to be using a deer call or rattling. Bucks that are running with willing does are not likely to leave them to look for one they hear in the distance. (exactly the same principle applies when hunting spring gobblers). But before the peak of the rut, when bucks want to breed but does are not quite ready, a buck is more inclined to investigate soft grunts in the distance because he hopes it is going to be a receptive doe. A few drops of appropriate scent will help convince the buck his senses are right."
In my opinion, scents can boost your chances, if used sparingly and correctly. But reeking of strong doses of some kind of cover spray if you haven't showered or changed your clothes for three days and spilled ketchup on your shirt and your breath reeks of onions won't help. Your body odors will come through mixed with a smell of pine or strawberry or even earth scent (the choices seem endless) and will more than likely spook a smart buck than to draw him to you.