Various deer scents can increase your odds of hunting success by helping lure whitetails into bow range and distracting them long enough to get a perfect shot. But scents aren’t legal to use in every state, and so it’s up to you to check the regulations for the area you’re hunting. Assuming you’re allowed to use scents, these strategies can help you.
Before we dig in, let’s review deer attractant scents and how they work. To get the facts, we spoke to Matt Wade, product manager for Code Blue Scents and Moultrie Attractants. Wade started working on Code Blue products in 2015 and uses them in his hunting strategy throughout the season. “There’s an attractant scent for every part of the season,” Wade said. “They all have their time and place, and that’s important for bowhunters who want to use them.”
There are different kinds of deer attractant scents. Though some are produced from and made to smell like various deer foods, most are urine or gland scents, and they can be natural or synthetic. Natural products are collected from both bucks and does in captive herds, whereas synthetic products are man-made and formulated to smell as natural as possible.
Hunters can use buck urine and gland scents to elicit territorial behaviors in other bucks. These scents create the illusion that another buck is in the area, which prompts dominant animals to visit the scent site during daylight hours. Doe urine and gland scents can attract bucks looking to breed during some portions of the season, and pique curiosity at others. Hunters can use all scent products to help mask their own human odors in the woods and create a sense of comfort for game animals.
Scents can come in the form of gels, sprays and liquids that can be used by themselves or on scent wicks or cloth drags. Whatever you prefer, be sure to incorporate them naturally into your hunting setup. For example, Wade creates mock scrapes with scent attractants in the early season.
“Use a long-lasting product in an active or mock scrape in early September to start generating that traffic,” he said. “Bucks will use the scrapes more if they think other deer are using them, too.”
During the rut, Wade prefers to use doe estrous scents on a drag or wick to entice big bucks to where he’s hunting.
“If there is a buck in the area, the buck will find his way to it,” he said. “His job is to find that scent and follow the trail. That’s how they communicate. Don’t be afraid to use those types of scents during the early rut, especially if you know you have a dominate, mature buck in the area, because they won’t run (from the scent).”
Wade said the rut timing is different across the nation, so it’s important to know when it happens in your area so that you use the appropriate scents at the appropriate time. Using doe estrous when does in your area aren’t in estrous could send unnatural red-flag signals to animals.
Remember to stay as scent-free as possible yourself whenever you’re venturing into the woods. Scent-elimination products mask your odors, which helps you stay undetected.
“Your scent will be a bigger deterrent than any attractant thing on the market,” Wade said, “especially when you’re hunting mature bucks.”
The most effective way to use scents is by incorporating them into an already sound hunting strategy that revolves around wind patterns, deer hotspots, travel corridors and most importantly, stealth. “Yes, you can kill deer without these products, and you can use them and not see deer,” Wade said. “These products increase your odds. There are no guarantees, but you shouldn’t use them willy-nilly and expect to see results. You have to know when to use them so you’re replicating something happening naturally in the woods.”
Many natural urine and gland scents tend to lose their effectiveness after a few days, but that’s not the case for all products. For example, Code Blue’s Grave Digger products were engineered to last for 30-plus days. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and familiarize yourself with each product before using it so you know how often to apply it.
As you look for scent-based deer attractants, please buy and use items marked with the Deer Protection Program checkmark. The Responsible Hunting Scent Association oversees the program and ensures cervid urine producers and hunting scent manufacturers follow safeguards that protect deer against Chronic Wasting Disease. All RHSA members in the DPP produce products under the highest industry standards to limit the potential of their products contributing to the spread of CWD.
Wade said Code Blue is a proud member of the RHSA DPP. Many other manufacturers produce products that meet program standards. Hunters can do their part and use products that have the DPP checkmark when incorporating natural urine-based deer attractants in their hunting strategy.