September 2017
Talkin' Huntin'

Can you smell what I’m cookin’?

Early Season Scent Strategies


The author is excited to try a new concept this season. Scent Reflex Technology is a cutting edge proprietary development by Wildlife Research Center. It takes the performance of certain odors to an entirely new level. It amplifies the smell, making it stronger, longer-lasting and more dependable, and will be available in Golden Estrus.


I used to love trapping furbearers! Back during the late 1970s and through the ’80s, I used to run a several-mile-long trapline. The feeling of anticipation wondering if I had fur in a set was addicting. I don’t get to create as many scent setups as when I trapped but I do get to use scent for whitetails and it works just as well … no, better.

I’ve heard naysayers comment that scent only works on younger bucks or does and fawns. I couldn’t disagree more. Every animal is unique and has a different personality. One buck may do a backflip and bolt away from a scent where the next buck may sit there for five minutes doing a lip curl, relishing the same set.

During September, considerably amplified amounts of testosterone begin flowing through a buck’s body – from this point on, he is ready to breed. Contrary to what some believe, the does actually dictate when and most of the time where breeding will take place.

Bucks will often remain social with the other bucks until the does exhibit the first signs of coming into estrus. The farther south you go, the later this seems to happen, and it will be spread out over a longer period. Here in the South, there is more of a margin of error.

Typically, when it comes to deer smells, you want to use the scents when they would naturally occur in the wild. However, I’ve had a positive reaction to an estrus lure during early season. If you’re after any ol’ buck or a doe, it’s probably not a good idea to go out opening day and begin with an estrus lure. In this case, something like Trail’s End #307 or Golden Buck would be at the top of my list. However, if you are specifically after a mature buck, estrus may be a tactic you wish to try.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying Trail’s End #307 will only bring in small bucks or does and fawns. Some of the best bucks I’ve arrowed to date I owe to that lure. I’m merely saying, if you think about it, the two things a whitetail buck needs to do during the fall are survive and breed. If you keep foreign odors out of the picture and present it correctly, estrus lures can work like the supernatural, even during early season.

While researching a captive herd in Wisconsin, the author has seen a positive reaction to estrus lure early during the season and has seen the same thing in the wild. This buck, the author named “Popeye,” acted like a completely different animal when he smelled the Special Golden Estrus.


When testing and researching on captive deer in Wisconsin, I’ve seen a positive reaction to Special Golden Estrus as early as the first week of September. I remember a buck I had named "Popeye," a 5-year-old with a 145-inch 5x5 mainframe rack. When he caught wind of the scent, he began sheep-dogging the does – pushing them into the enclosure’s corners, trapping them so it was easier to check them out. He sniffed each doe to see which one was making that wonderful smell – well … wonderful to a whitetail buck. He stuck his nose directly into an adult doe’s urine stream and did a lip curl for over five minutes.

Yes, I understand this was a captive deer, but it works in the wild, too. Although most does will come into heat for the first time during mid-November, it is possible for a wild doe to come into estrus as early as October. Throughout the Deep South, the rut doesn’t get into full swing until mid-January. It is natural for the estrus smell to possibly be around for quite some time. And propagation of the species is the entire reason for a buck’s existence during the fall.

For any age deer (buck or doe) and for most instances, you’ll do better with a curiosity lure (such as Trail’s End #307, cherry extract, anise), plain urine or glandular secretions (such as Golden Buck or Select Doe Urine) or a food scent (such as acorn scent, essence of apple, etc.).

This year, I’m excited to try a totally new brainchild, Scent Reflex Technology. This is a cutting-edge, proprietary breakthrough by Wildlife Research Center. It’s been developed over a period of years, and takes the performance of certain scents to an even higher level for better responses.

Chemical engineer, scientist and President of Wildlife Research Center Sam Burgeson was somewhat tight-lipped when I questioned him about it. I suppose rightly so; this is a valuable trade secret.


Using scent is one of the author’s favorite tactics for mature bucks and early season is one of the best times to draw a positive response. Whitetails are much more laid-back and easier to fool when you’re getting the first crack at them and they don’t know they’re being hunted.


He summed it up by saying, "When a deer smells Golden Estrus enhanced with Scent Reflex Technology, it increases the chances of a stronger and more consistent response."

The way I understood it was that it amplifies the smell, making it stronger, more dependable and longer-lasting.

There are many ways you can dispense scent during this period, but three of my favorite tools are a Key-Wick, Pro-Drag and a Magnum Scrape Dripper.

The Key Wick is the easiest way to create a scent-wick set, to simply waft the scent downwind of the position.

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. It doesn’t have to be a deer smell. You are all right using food lures or curiosity scents, too.

The Magnum Scrape Drippers associated with making mock scrapes are another great tool 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 so it conditions deer into showing up during legal hunting hours. The Magnum Dripper holds a full 4 ounces of scent! When you’re ready to hunt, the site is pristine and void of human scent.

To sum up, during early season, for any deer, you are probably best with a curiosity lure or food scent. However, if you have a mature buck in your sights, you may wish to try a more aggressive approach. Keep your setup free of foreign scent (the use of rubber gloves and Scent Killer Gold dearly help). Try to target the right area, and results will follow.


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.