Allow me an admittedly elemental statement—deer change. Specifically, the animals themselves don’t change as much as their habits, including their needs, daily requirements, and reproductive urges, fluctuate throughout the course of the year. Simply put, September’s buck isn’t December’s buck in terms of what drives him.
That said, doesn’t it make sense that the substances, aka scents and lures, hunters use to take advantage of these drives also change over the course of the season? An accomplished archer, Ron Bice serves as director of communications for Wildlife Research Center (WRC), Inc., a company that has earned its reputation developing scents for today’s deer hunter. I asked Bice to walk us through a deer’s scent calendar, September through December, and explain the changes that take place in the whitetail’s world as seen through his nose.
“When you’re talking September, you’re talking about using curiosity and/or food type scents,” said Bice. “Deer are naturally curious, and scents such as Trail’s End No. 307 appeal to that.” Bice continued with this interesting sidenote.
“Curiosity scents,” he said, “appear to be most effective the very first time they’re used in the field. Presumably they’re new to the animal. With this in mind, I suggest that hunters take the scent—that is, the scent-laden material like Pro-Wick felt pads—with them when they go rather than leaving it and risk the animals growing accustomed to that particular scent.”
October marks a time of change in the whitetail buck’s world.
“This is the time when the bachelor groups of bucks are starting to break up, and they’re starting to become more aggressive,” said Bice. “Now’s the time to introduce territorial type scents. These are scents designed to create a challenge situation between the deer in the area. With this scent, you’re introducing a new or strange buck into the area, and in essence creating a situation not unlike the fire hydrant and the dog. A buck’s going to check this out and try to learn as much as he can about this new deer. It’s a very attractive scent at this time of year.”
Bice continued by saying that hunters might consider starting with a low-key challenge scent, something like WRC’s Select Buck Urine, before moving up the scale into a hardcore territorial or dominance aroma like that offered by the company’s Mega-Tarsal Plus.
“Mega-Tarsal Plus not only contains the buck urine, but also has tarsal gland secretions, both excellent territorial scents, and I’ve had incredible success with this scent throughout October and well into November,” Bice said.
In many parts of the country, November marks the beginning of the year’s firearm opportunities for whitetails. And while scents are popularly thought of as tools for the archer, Bice contends that gun hunters, too, can benefit from their use.
“Deer are going to breed, with or without the hunting pressure,” he said. “Sooner or later, these deer are going to find someplace safe and secure where they can go about their breeding undisturbed; hence, the use of estrus urines—doe-in-heat urines—as an attractant can be very effective. We hear tons of stories every year from folks around the country who were successful using something like Special Golden Estrus during the gun season.”
November, too, brings the rut into full swing across much of the U.S., and as such, curiosity, food, and territorialism go somewhat out the proverbial window in a whitetail buck’s world, all in exchange for one and only one thought—sex.
“I use the 28th of October, here in Minnesota, to start using estrus-based products,” said Bice. “Prior to that, I’m using the curiosity or territorial scents. But once the 28th rolls around, it’s time to pull out all the stops, and pulling out all the stops means going to a Golden Estrus or doe-in-heat type scents. I want to give myself all the advantage I possibly can.”
December, and while whitetails in the South are just starting to get interested in one another, breeding activity in much of the northern U.S. is winding down.
“Estrus scents can still be very effective throughout December and even into January,” said Bice. “But you really want to pull out your curiosity and territorial type scents again.”
For folks wishing to know more about the use of scents by the calendar, WRC has available excellent reference and educational sources, including a video titled Scrape Hunting, as well as a pair of books, The Hunting Scent Book, and Secrets of Hunting Scents & Scent Elimination.
Contact: Wildlife Research Center, Inc.; 800-655-7898; www.wildlife.com