January 2014
Talkin' Huntin'

A Wintry Whiff

  If there are still does that haven’t been bred, you will typically see more signs because the animals are much more active. If this is the case, you may be better off using the same “rut-time tactics” used earlier in the hunting season. (Credit: Yoderrm)

Late Season Scent Tactics for Whitetails

Everyone has heard how extraordinarily acute a whitetail’s sense of smell is. Fooling it is one of the hunter’s main concerns. This consists of keeping foreign odors, especially human scent, out of the picture so as not to alert them to the fact they’re being hunted, and also using lures and scents to try and use their sense of smell to your advantage by attracting them into range. Granted, they also have excellent hearing and eyesight, but if you can fool their sense of smell, you’ve got it made. I love to set up deer scents to try and lure in mature bucks, and late season is my favorite time to do it.

The Right Aroma

Do you believe a food lure, curiosity scent, rut-time smell or plain urine will perform best? The type of scent you choose may influence how to set it up, and choosing the right lure will depend a great deal upon the "condition" of your herd. Here in the South, we will often have rut activity lasting through the month of January and even into February. On the other hand, if the majority of does have been bred and we get cold temperatures early, some years they seem to go into their winter patterns while there’s still time left in the hunting season.

Examine the signs and watch their activity. If you’re still seeing signs of the rut, there will be more activity than if they’ve begun their winter patterns. Once they settle into their winter routine, whitetails expend much less energy and a very clear pattern from bedding to food begins. During the winter, it’s all about conserving energy. If there is still breeding going on, aside from finding more signs of movement, you’ll probably see fresh rubs and scrapes, too.

Left to right, a Quik-Wik works anytime as a scent dispenser, but it works especially well in inclement weather. Its design sheds rain or snow keeping the scent fresh. When your hunt is over, the felt wick slides right back inside the orange, sealable container. During late season, it can be pretty simple when trying to lure in bucks. During that time, for a buck, it’s all about breeding or filling their gut. (Credit: Yoderrm)

If all of the does have not been bred, you’re probably better off using the same scent tactics you would normally deploy the first part of the season. Breeding or competition scenarios should still work. Scents like Special Golden Estrus or Active Scrape will support a breeding picture, and Mega Tarsal Plus or Golden Buck will help pull off a competition scenario. During late season, I’ve had equal luck with either a breeding set-up or a rivalry situation.

If breeding has finished, you’re usually better off using curiosity or hunger to your advantage. Plain buck or doe urine may work, or food smells like Sweet Apple Mash or Acorn Mash will appeal to their need to feed. Curiosity smells like Buck-Nip or Golden Doe can build confidence and play to their curiosity, but one of my favorite late-season lures is Trails End #307. This diverse scent appeals to hunger, curiosity and sex urges – how can you go wrong?

Delivery Methods

The same application methods can be used all season long, but late season we need to use some common sense. Tools like a Magnum Scrape Dripper may freeze up with consistent below-zero temperatures. In areas that receive snow, scent trails are more difficult to create. An important note: after using Magnum Scrape Drippers for years, I’ve found that even if you get below-freezing temperatures at night, as long as your daytime highs rise into the 40s the dripper will still function perfectly.

If we have snow, scent trails will still work great, but they’re just more difficult to create. A Pro-Drag is a great tool for generating any kind of a scent trail. It’s constructed of a large piece of super-absorbent felt with two tails, all attached to a heavy-duty string. The two tails make it easy to dip into a bottle of scent so you can refresh the drag periodically. The string is looped so it can be simply attached to a stick found at your site. This way you can drag the trail off of the path your feet are taking. This is key in deep snow. A Pro-Drag creates a continuous, easy-to-follow trail.

Quik-Wiks work anytime, but their design is especially effective during late season or bad weather. This unit comes with a pop-out, retractable, felt wick inside a protective container with a screw-on seal. A Quik-Wik can be filled with scent in the warmth of your home or camp and simply hung at your hunting site when you arrive. When you’re finished with the hunt the wick stores back inside the plastic case. The design will shed rain or snow and is the perfect tool for using scent during late season – or anytime.

A simple wick set-up is designed to lure in deer from downwind. This is the easiest scent tactic that I know of. Place lure-soaked wicks crosswind from your position at your maximum confident shooting range. Maximum range is important because you want the smell to draw in the deer before it gets directly downwind of you. This set up can be created by using felt wicks like a Pro-Wick, Key-Wick or with one of the heated scent dispensers on the market.

Late season is my favorite time for using scent, maybe because it’s easy and I’ve experienced results. I try to keep it simple and think about what a mature buck wants at that time of the season. For a buck, it’s either going to be about breeding or filling their gut. Even if they are on a distinct feeding pattern, a little Special Golden Estrus can stir things up. Keep human scent out of the picture by using Scent Killer, clean gloves and rubber-bottomed boots. Use common sense and results will follow for you.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations for Mossy Oak BioLogic, Editor-in-Chief of Gamekeepers, Farming for Wildlife magazine and a habitat consultant.