Many bowhunters view deer scents or lures as magic potions acting to bring bucks directly beneath stands. This is sometimes true, but such scenarios are most likely to occur only in premier whitetail habitats with ideal buck-to-doe ratios, healthy herd dynamics and light firearms pressure. This would define Midwest ideals such as Kansas, Iowa and Illinois, just to offer some obvious examples. For deer hunters plying less ideal habitats, the idea of a nostril-flaring, bristled buck responding directly to buck lures is unlikely. Yet, deer scents remain a valuable part of every deer hunter’s arsenal.

While deer lures may not bring bucks running from afar in areas with fewer mature bucks or those where competition for does is less pressing, scent can still be used to create higher odds bow shots.

Drag Lines

In areas where competition for does is a reality, drag lines are a proven strategy. This works best in high buck-to-doe ratio areas where rutting bucks must compete fiercely for does, or in areas with lower overall deer density, where does are harder won.

The basic approach is to soak a clean rag or something like Wildlife Research Center’s (WRC) Pro-Wick tied to a length of scent-free cord and drag it into the stand each morning. Dragging scent atop my own boot tracks—despite spraying down with Scent Killer—has always concerned me. To calm such qualms I tie drag cords to a 5- to 6-foot stick. I then walk downwind of trails or shooting lanes while dragging the scent rag atop travel-ways at arm’s and stick length, effectively separating luring scent from potential human odors. I also create scent trails radiating from several directions, vectoring into my downwind shooting lanes. If nothing else, drag lines redirect deer traffic to shooting lanes upwind of my position, minimizing deer swinging downwind and potentially entering my scent stream.

Scent Placement & Timing

This is one of the major advantages of deer lures—short-stopping deer on ground where they’re less likely to receive your scent. Let’s say you have a left-to-right wind before a ridge-point stand. Your stand sits on the crest of that point. Any deer passing to the left will pass without smelling you; while deer passing to the right might detect human odor. Placing a Pro-Wick, Key-Wick or Magnum Key-Wick before your stand and well left will help direct deer to that safer left side. Even if these are does you’ve no intention of shooting, directing them away from your scent stream is always advantageous, preventing snorting that can alert other nearby deer—including that big buck bringing up the rear.

Of course season dates dictate which scents are most viable, using curiosity scents like Buck-Nip early; Mega-Tarsal Plus, Trail’s End #307, Ultimate Buck Lure or Select Doe Urine during pre-rut dates; #1 Select Estrous, Estrous Gold or Synthetic Estrous during rut time. Even seemingly innocuous scents such as Red Fox, Coon or Coyote Urine can cause deer to pause for a whiff without proving threatening. Building a mock scrape with Active-Scrape, Golden Scrape or Hot-Scrape can also prove effective for funneling deer to for “scent management” needs.

Standing Shots

The most effective use of deer scents in all habitats is creating standing shots in clean shooting lanes. A deer may not necessarily be in a randy state of mind, or doesn’t find your curiosity scent alluring enough to pull them from an established trajectory, but they will stop to have a sniff if it’s convenient. Hang a scent-soaked Quik-Wiks, Pro-Wick or Key-Wick along a trail, or spray down a stump or punky log with Scent Storm Acorn or Apple (any season) or Doe In Estrous (rut) and deer will surely pause for a sniff.

I like to place wicks or apply spray on the backside of large stumps, tree boles or brush piles where their heads (and vision) are temporarily obscured, but vital areas presented for a clean shot. This makes drawing your bow much easier, and results in fewer string-jumping incidents.

Having a big buck gallop beneath your stand in response to buck lure is an exciting experience, but day in and day out – deer scents prove more useful for setting up calm, clean shots with a bow. This is a ploy any deer hunter in any habitat can take to the bank.

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