Tuesday, October 26, 2004
For A Buck: Their Nose Knows
Deer camp. It’s a perfect vision of smoky woodstoves, strong whiskey, wet wool and greasy foods. It’s rifle season in upstate New York and the lure of antlered whitetails draw big game hunters into the rich lowlands along the lake and river plains to the over-regulated, sterile high peaks of the Adirondacks.
Prior to the rifle season, thousands of deer hunters spend a few weeks in the deer woods with bow and muzzleloader. During that time, hunters make a practice of paying close attention to their stealthy approach while afield. Most early season hunters – especially bowhunters – are anal about keeping both body and clothing odors down to a bare minimum.
Unfortunately, rifle hunters think that cleanliness isn’t as important as a straight shooting, high-powered hunting rifle. What they seem to forget, or simply not know, is a whitetail’s nose can detect the presence of a hunter further than what a deer hunter’s rifle can reach.
The ideal scenting condition for a cagey whitetail would mean a humidity of 20-80 percent, with temperatures ranging from 40- to 90-degrees, coupled with breezes up to 15 or 20 miles per hour. With those perfect conditions, a deer can detect danger up to 800 yards away, or perhaps farther. And, the north country deer hunter often will hunt within those temperature/humidity conditions.
The average human can detect skunk odor when it is dissolved to 1/25,000,000 part of 1 milligram. But, the most sensitive human nose pales to what a dog’s nose can detect. For example, a bloodhound can follow a track that is two weeks old. That said, a deer’s nose may be equal to a dog’s.
Except during the rut, when reproductive urges cause bucks to lower their guards, the animals use all their senses to make constant safety checks. Younger bucks tend to be more skittish but less apt to run far when bothered.
Maturity teaches deer to put safe distance between themselves and a major threat first, and then figure out why they ran later.
Unfortunately, the human scent cannot be eliminated, but there are many things hunters can do to nullify it.
Personal cleanliness is the chief way. Smart hunters bath with unperfumed soap, don’t use perfumed aftershaves, cologne and deodorant, and wash their clothes with scent eliminator detergents.
If at all possible, place your hunting clothes in a clean, plastic bag and hang the bag out on your camp or house porch. Some hunters will toss a cover scent pad or fresh pine or cedar bows inside the bag.
Be sure not to store your clothes inside the hunting clubhouse because the odors from the fireplace, tobacco smoke and food smells will permeate your clothing. Have those odors in your clothes can and will alarm the deer you’re hoping to take.
One of the worst things you can do is to hang those clothes in front of an open fireplace to dry out and then plan to hunt in those same clothes that afternoon. I realize the image of wet hunting clothes drying in front of a wood fire appeals to every deer hunter but the reality is a mature buck’s nose will have you pinned as soon as you step out of your vehicle for the morning watch. Your hunting clothes may be dry, but they’re also full of every odor in the lodge.
No matter how clean you or your hunting clothes are do use some form of cover scent. Most animal cover scents work fine – like fox or raccoon. Although I do not recommend the use of skunk scent since the only time a skunk discharges is when it is in danger – and all wildlife associate this odor with danger.
For years I have been using a cover scent called Essence of Fall. It’s a fairly sweet smell and it reminds me of a freshly raked pile of leaves.
Hunters chasing big whitetail bucks around farmland use the natural, fresh cover scent left on the ground from grazing cattle. It may sound a bit gross, but smearing fresh cow dung on your rubber boots definitely acts as a great cover scent.
The bottom line is if you are having a difficult time seeing bucks during rifle season start hunting and acting more like a bow or muzzleloader hunter. And keeping your scent to a minimum is THE number one way to seeing more “tagable” whitetails.
“But I Didn’t Want To Get It Wet”
Thought I would pass this little story along.
About a month or so ago a lady I work with asked if I could pick out a set of hunting rainwear for her husband for a birthday present. I chose a top-of-the-line Cabela’s Gore-Tex camo raingear.
Last week while on a soggy, early season deer hunt her husband found himself after the hunt uncomfortable and soaking wet. When his wife asked him what happened, he said, “I didn’t want to wear my raingear and get it wet!”
“Wet,” she said. “That’s what raingear is for.”
“Yes, I know,” he exclaimed. “But my raingear is so nice I didn’t want to get it wet and dirty.”
Do you know anyone in hunting camp who would use that same logic?
Keep Those Photos Coming
Have a nice photo of your tagged whitetail, a nice fat puddle duck or some other interesting outdoors image you would like to share with others? Simply email me your photo to me via my website: www.tonyzappia.com. While you are there, feel free to check out my images of dogs, wildlife, fishing, hunting, and other reader’s photos.