Cover scents are an important tool for a deer hunter looking to reduce the impact of their odor in the woods.
We don’t have to tell you that a deer has an amazing sense of smell. It’s why you go to great lengths to reduce your human odor before you ever step foot in the woods. That likely includes washing your clothes in scentless detergent, showering with scentless soap and shampoo, and storing your clothes in an airtight bag. But the process doesn’t end at home.
In addition to sound odor control, we also use cover scents during our hunts throughout the season. That includes urine and natural smells (think pine or earth scents) early on, as well as doe in estrus during the rut. The positive thing about using the latter is that it acts as an attractant too.
A few years ago, Field & Stream conducted a test to discover what cover scents worked – and which ones didn’t. They sprayed several commercially available smells on a test subject, then used a German shepard to attempt to sniff him out. Then, the testers recorded how long it took for the dog to find the human. Here’s what they found.
When the test subject had no cover scent applied, it took the dog, named Ike, only six seconds to locate him. Pine and earth scents took 25 seconds, while acorn and skunk scents took 45 seconds. At the end of the test, the testers concluded that “completely fooling a dog’s nose—and by extension, a whitetail’s—so far seems impossible, indicating that there’s no substitute for keeping a deer upwind. But sometimes bucks show up where we don’t intend them to, and all we can hope for is an edge, however slight, that might confuse the animal long enough to set up a shot.”
These rounds of tests perhaps confirm what we already suspected: there’s no fooling a deer’s nose. But as the author noted, we need any edge we can get. Here’s a few tips on how to use cover scents.
Use the Wind to Your Advantage
By hunting downwind of where you anticipate a deer to approach, you can reduce the chances of being detected. But it’s not always easy to know where a buck will come from. Use a technique called a scent drag, which is simply dousing a rag in a cover scent, then dragging it around the woods. We like to drag near a trail where we’ll be hunting in hopes of luring in a deer for a closer shot. In the early season, we use doe or buck urine. As the rut approaches, we change to doe in estrus.
Go in Circles
Always start and end your trail in a loop. By looping it back onto itself, you have a better chance of bringing the buck into range and not sending him in the other direction. Loop the trail around your blind or treestand. The 360-degree view from a Banks blind will allow you to take a shot no matter what direction the deer comes from.
Spray Your Clothes
Our hunting blinds are designed to seal tightly in order to keep your scent inside, so you don’t have to worry about spooking deer due to your odor. But if you’re hunting from a tree stand, you are exposed and likely spreading your scent all over the woods. In this situation, it’s best to use a cover scent on your gear and clothes.
Although skunk scent seemed to fare better in the Field & Stream test, we opt for acorn or fresh earth scents. We use an acorn spray on our clothes and gear. Then, we hang a few fresh earth wafers on our clothes.
It’s best to employ all of the scent control techniques that you can. That means washing your clothes and storing them properly, using cover scents, and taking care to watch the wind direction at all times when you’re in the woods. Creating as little human impact as you can will give you an edge, perhaps just enough to get you close to the buck of a lifetime.