August 2008
Talkin' Huntin'

Early Season Scent Strategies

By Todd Amenrud

For the first few days of the season you may be lucky enough to catch the bucks in a very reliable summer pattern of sorts. During this period, it’s a great time to use scent. Notice this nice buck still in velvet waving his nose, savoring the smells coming from the Super Wick hanging in the tree above him.

In the "whitetail world," the time during early season (typically late August into September) is all about being social with other deer. However, they may not be social with the specific deer you might think. Knowing the social structure of the herd during the time you intend to hunt is a key to getting scent to work for you.

During the time in late summer and early fall, whitetail can be very social animals. However, they are primarily social only within their own sex groups. You may see them feeding side-by-side in an agricultural field, but for the most part the bucks are sociable to other bucks in their bachelor groups, and the doe/fawn family groups are social with other doe/fawn family groups. Testosterone will change things very fast, but for a short while during early season this is the case.

Knowing this to be true, it makes the best sense to use "buck smells" to attract bucks and "doe smells" to attract does or fawns. This obviously is applicable only to "deer smells" (scents that actually come from deer, like urine, glandular lures or musk type smells). This is not the case for curiosity smells or food lures.

When it comes to older, more mature bucks, they may or may not be social with the other bucks. Sometimes older bucks can become very isolated animals. They really don’t need this communal contact like younger bucks do.

In northern regions during the end of August into the beginning of September, dramatically increased amounts of testosterone start flowing through the buck’s body, and from this point on he is ready to breed. This happens a bit later the further you go south and will be spread out over a longer period. So here in the South there is more of a margin for error.

   Contrary to what some may say, the does dictate when breeding will actually take place. Bucks will typically remain social with the other bucks until the does exhibit the first signs of coming into estrus.

A Pro-Drag is a great tool to use for making scent trails. It comes with a string you can attach to a stick so you can drag the trail off of the exact path your feet are taking. The absorbent felt also comes with two tails making it easy to dip into the bottle.

Although, I’ve had a positive reaction to an estrus lure during early season, it’s probably not a good idea to go out opening day and "smack them in the nose" with Special Golden Estrus. Typically when it comes to "deer smells" you want to use the smells when they would naturally occur anyhow. As I said, I’ve had estrus lures work well on mature bucks early in the season. And, if you are specifically after a mature buck, it may be a tactic you wish to try, but for most "early season" instances you are probably better off with plain urine or a curiosity scent.

There are many ways you can dispense scent during this period, but two of my favorite tools are a Pro-Drag and an Ultimate Scrape Dripper. The Pro-Drag is the best tool I have found to create a scent trail because it holds a lot of scent and it’s easy to control. You can use any type of liquid scent when making a trail, it doesn’t have to be a "deer smell," you are alright to use food lures or curiosity scents too.

During early season, I’ve had very good luck with scents like Trail’s End #307, Select Doe Urine, Moon Fire and Buck-Nip. There’s no doubt that if I had to pick only one it would be Trail’s End #307. However, I’ve had many positive early-season encounters with the others.

Where sometimes using mock scrapes too early in the year can be intimidating to some bucks, it may be "just the ticket" for mature bucks. When testosterone enters the picture, mock scrapes can be a very effective tactic. Typically the older, more mature bucks will feel an urge to claim, mark and defend breeding territory earlier in the season than the younger bucks.

The Ultimate Scrape Drippers associated with making mock scrapes are great tools for dispensing any type of liquid scent, not just those associated with mock scrapes. This device is heat activated and will drip only during daytime hours, conditioning deer to showing up during legal hunting hours. It doesn’t have to be used only at mock scrapes; it also works great at dispensing all kinds of scent like food lures or curiosity scent.

A scent trail of Trail’s End #307 can be "killer" during this time. One reason this lure is so effective is its appeals not only to a whitetail’s curiosity but also to their sense of hunger and desire to repopulate - you really can’t go wrong. If you do catch them in their dependable summer patterns, move fast. However, with testosterone entering the picture, things will change very soon.

   Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.