Deer Hunting Scent Myths Debunked
By Cole Daniels
There are a lot of companies making a lot of money on hunter’s fears about scent and the wind. In many cases, scent control is important. However, some people take scent control to the extreme and in my opinion, many times its just not necessary. Since, I’m throwing the “O” word around, keep in mind what you are about to read is solely my opinion, based on personal results and observations in the field.
Myth No. 1: Big bucks always walk into the wind.
Sometimes this is simply impossible. Think about it. If a buck leaves his bed in the evening and heads west to a field with a west wind blowing into his face, how is he going to get back to his bed in the morning? Is he going to wait until the wind changes? Is he going to continue walking west until he hits an impenetrable water barrier? If this were the case, the west coast would have the best deer hunting in the world because all the deer would eventually end up there.
Deer are habitual creatures that act in a way that’s easiest and safest. However, they are often forced to act out of character. I see bucks regularly walking with a tail wind or quartering from a wind. Usually, it’s in the morning. If you know the area you are hunting well, you’ll figure out where the deer bed and where they feed. Checking rubs is also a good way to know which direction deer typically travel on a given trail. If all the rubs are on the east side of a tree, deer typically use that trail to head west.
Myth No. 2: Hunters can make themselves totally scent free.
I challenge any deer hunter to wash with scent reducing soap, wear scent control clothing and boots, and even chew scent reducing gum. You will still smell like a human in the woods. Unfortunately, we breathe air. No matter what you do, short of holding your breath for hours, you will emit human scent. We sweat when we climb into stands, we pass gas, and we breathe. I’m not going to say scent reducers don’t help. However, to think that we can be totally scent free is a fallacy.
Myth No. 3: Scent control is vital for successful deer hunting.
My answer to this is yes and no. There are situations in which scent control is clearly an asset. When hunting large stands of wilderness timber, mountainous areas, or other areas in which humans are not common. I still make periodic trips to the Rockies to hunt mule deer and elk. However, most of my deer hunting is done in the farm country of Southwest Wisconsin. Houses, barns, tractors, and cows dot the country side. Deer in these parts eat corn and often drink from the same troughs cows do. When hunting these deer, being still and silent outweighs being scentless in my opinion. Deer in these areas are used to smelling people. Human scents are always in the air and they just make up part of the scent landscape.
A few years ago, I took a trip to British Columbia to do some fishing. After a few minutes of casting, I was startled by a huge brown bear planning to do some fishing of his own. He was used to encountering humans on this river. I was not used to seeing huge bears up close while fishing. I didn’t have any holes in my waders but was close to becoming very wet if you know what I mean. By the end of the trip, I was no longer fearful of these huge beasts. They could kill me whenever they wanted but they were not interested in eating me. They wanted salmon.
Farmland deer are in a similar situation. They learn to live around people and eventually don’t see them as a real threat. They respond to pressure more than scent. If their territory is invaded by large groups of humans during hunting season, they are going to react. If you tread lightly and don’t overpressure the area, deer will continue to act as they normally do regardless of scent.
Do I think scent control programs are a waste of time and money? I believe that you should do what you can. There are situations in which scent control can be more beneficial than ignoring scent. But I also believe that most people are far more conscious of it than they need to be. Yes, there are plenty of hunting “experts” that will disagree with me. I encourage you to take a look at their sponsor list before believing everything they say.
More deer hunting articles:
How Terrain Affects Stand Locations by Cole Daniels
Understanding Deer Scrapes & Rubs by Naomi Shapiro
The Hour Glass Rule: Deer Recovery Made Simple by Cole Daniels