Common Sense About Deer Scents

By Ted Peck - November 1, 2014
The woods will be doused with delusions of grandeur over the next few weeks as mature whitetail bucks all believe they are the King of the Forest and hunters fortunate enough to shoot a big buck with a bow think Fred Bear simply had a good publicist.

Bucks have busy rubbing trees and scraping the forest floor now in an annual rite of autumn which has been going on for thousands of years. The antlered ones are now chasing does willy-nilly virtually round-the clock with little concern for bowhunters-or Buicks.

With each passing year my appreciation for a mature buck's survival savvy grows geometrically. If it weren't for that strong drive to procreate, I honestly believe 70-year-old women driving four-door Buicks would bag more trophy bucks than bowhunters if you tallied all the back tags and body shop bills at season's end.

Keen vision, outstanding hearing, native intelligence and an amazing sense of smell are four aces held by most pre-rut bucks. Now and then a scent-free Joker catches a break, more by chance than design.

As of November 1st I had been bowhunting just 17 times this season. The very first morning I launched an arrow at a bruiser. He must have thought it was merely a hornet passing under his chest.

Two days later the same buck came sneaking down the same trail at the same time, less than 12 yards from my treestand. This window of opportunity opened and slammed shut before I could grab the bow.

The third time up in the tree I was planning to tell taxidermist Don Rich, jr. to preserve this monster buck with tremendous mass in a left-facing semi-sneak mount. Of course, the buck never showed up. At least not when I was sitting in the tree.

On October 29 the wind was right to sit in this stand again. Layers of scent free clothes were pulled out of three giant Ziploc bags next to the truck a good half-mile from the stand.

It took a good 20 minutes to cover this distance, stopping every few feet in an attempt to sound more like a deer than the steady cadence of a walking man. Legal shooting time was still almost an hour away once in the tree and settled in.My grunt call and 140 class rattlin' horns hung nearby on an accessory peg.

By 9 a.m. it was clear most of the $400 earmarked for taxidermy could be used to buy my wife a nicer birthday gift. Although "Bullwinkle" never showed up he left a little present three feet off of the ground on a fencepost-sized cedar not 10 feet from my stand-a rub which would take a good 10 minutes to replicate with a belt sander.

Two more rubs were visible from my lofty perch 20 feet up in a white oak.

Round One goes to the buck. The second round starts with the Full Moon on Nov. 6. Hopefully he'll be thinking more like Ronno than the Great Stag and be intent on chasing Bambi's Mom around the woods.

There will be no pricey doe-in-heat, tarsal gland foo-foo or other stuff to convince this bruiser he would be wise to stick around. A swell-necked buck might find the aroma interesting. But odds are a doe will find it first and blow a warning through the woods that even Bullwinkle in his pheromone driven stupor will respond to.

This buck has a program which has worked for at least several years. Caution will start dialing back as peak rut approaches. My treestand is in the right place. No point in clouding the issue with scent. Better to leave everything in its natural state.

Fifty-two years of sitting in trees has convinced me that natural is the way to go. I used to use masking scents. Skunk scent is effective. But lifting that white-striped tail means the polecat has had a bad day. Big bucks take note of this.

Red Fox urine was the next evolution. Cat skeletons and red foxes are two things I've never seen in a tree. Then came 'coon urine, purchased in pint bottles and applied like deck stain.

Some respectable bucks stumbled into range over the years. However, looking back all but one of them was preoccupied with the rut. The latest metaphysical discourse is attempting to be entirely scent free. Every hunt starts with a pre-hunt shower, drying with a scent free towel and donning Scent-Lok scent free clothes out of scent free Ziploc bags.

So far I've passed on five arrow-worthy bucks. Four intentionally. The scent free mantra seems to be working. But why has every buck come by on my first or second trip to a particular treestand ? Because deer have much more native intelligence than I do, that's why.

Maybe my wife would like a car for her birthday. Should an ad appear in the classifieds for an old Buick with a price tag under $300 I'm all over it.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.