Hunting > Whitetails

Six Secrets for the Bargain Hunter

Want to successfully hunt deer on the cheap this fall? Here are the season’s six best bargain-hunting tips.


1.) Can’t afford pricey scent-blocking clothing and sprays? Why not do what we used to do before commercial scent-eliminating products became available—employ the power of inexpensive household baking soda.

There are literally hundreds of uses for baking soda (which is pure bicarbonate of soda, not to be confused with baking powder). The beneficial qualities of nontoxic baking soda are the result of its ability to act as a buffer, neutralizing both acidic and alkaline substances to regulate pH. This is the secret behind its effectiveness as an odor remover—it doesn’t just mask offensive smells, it neutralizes them.

At home it can be used to sweeten the smell of garbage cans, diaper pails, litter boxes and more. To eliminate odors in hunting camp you can sprinkle baking soda inside your stinky hunting boots. You can even make your own scent-eliminating spray by mixing a solution of ¼ cup of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water (I like distilled water) in a clean, plastic spray bottle. Use it just as you would a commercial scent-eliminating spray, hosing down everything—including your hair and skin— and the soda will absorb odor-causing bacteria. I re-spray often when on stand, making sure to keep it out of my eyes.

Oh, yes ... keep the wind in your face, too. That’s the best scent-control program of all!

2.) Can’t afford commercial deer scents? Save the tarsal glands from both bucks and does killed in your camp, as well as the urine found in a deer’s bladder, and use them instead.

To collect tarsal glands—which are located on the inside of the deer’s rear legs at the knees—first don a pair of clean rubber gloves, then find a razor-sharp knife. Simply slice around the gland, then filet it off the leg, leaving as little flesh as possible. Place it inside a clean Ziploc bag and seal it tight. In the field, use the glands with a drag rope to create a scent line to your stand, then hang the glands in shooting lanes. Always handle with rubber gloves. You can freeze the glands for future use, too. Once thawed, I refrigerate between uses in the field, and I can usually get a solid week to 10 days out of each gland before they begin to rot.

To collect deer urine, during the field-dressing process (you are wearing your clean rubber gloves, right?) locate the deer’s bladder. If it holds some urine, pinch the bladder off, cut the tube leading to it to free it, then gently remove it. Empty the bladder into boiled-out plastic or glass bottles, cleaning the outside of these containers with hot water to remove any spillage. Refrigerate until you are ready to use. This fresh urine can be used just as you would the stuff you buy—in scrapes, along trails, as a cover scent, etc.

3.) Can’t afford expensive scent-blocking boots? A pair of 20-dollar rubber boots will block your scent just as well for a fraction of the cost.

How so? Simply stated, when it comes to not allowing human odor to permeate rubber boots, rubber is rubber. Thus, an inexpensive, knee-high rubber boot designed for mucking out stalls or doing yard work—while probably not as comfortable to walk in nor as durable—will block human odor just as well as a more expensive “hunting” boot with its price inflated to pay for the camouflage finish.

The difference between rubber boots and more expensive boots with Scent-Lok is that the Scent-Lok boots feature an expensive micro-porous membrane in which the pores are small enough that human scent molecules cannot escape, yet large enough that water vapor —sweat—can. They’re way more comfortable to wear, but they don’t block odors any better.

4.) Can’t afford a pricey deer lease? Try hunting public land. It will take some scouting to dial it in, but I’ve found that as I get farther from the road, the hunting improves. I also like to pattern other hunter’s movements, letting them drive deer to me. By packing a lunch, sneaking into the woods early and sitting tight for the rest of the day, it is amazing how many deer you see pushed by other hunters.

5.) Can’t afford to replace that squeaky old treestand?  Take petroleum jelly and melt in an old sauce pan on low-medium heat. Once melted, add a favorite liquid cover scent (earth scent is good for this). Mix the solution thoroughly, then pour in a clean container such as an old mayonnaise jar. Once the solution cools it is ready to be applied to noisy metal parts without game-frightening smells. Caution: Do not use petroleum jelly on rubber parts.

6.) Can’t afford a commercial ground blind? Build one out of natural foliage.

Here’s what I do: In an area where I think a ground blind will be the ticket, I use the area’s natural foliage—including downed limbs for poles—to build it up, and if I can find downed logs for a base, so much the better. Just as when using a commercial pop-up blind, I try and build my natural blinds well ahead of hunting time so deer can get used to them. I use dark green parachute cord to tie things together and inexpensive commercial camouflage netting as the basis for my walls and roof to keep it dark inside. As the season progresses and the natural leaves on the blind begin to die off, I will trim branches off trees with fresh leaves to replace them.

Sometimes, a quick blind works well, too. One time bow hunting in North Texas I was off on a midday scouting trip and found a smoking hot spot that begged to be hunted right away. With no time to go back to the truck and get a tree stand before dark, I pulled some downed logs up against the trunk of a big cottonwood, then cut some branches off a nearby tree and inserted them vertically into the logs to create a blind. I sat on the ground —it was not the most comfortable afternoon I have ever spent—and when a very nice 8-point buck strolled past right before dark, I shot him from my knees. He never knew what happened.

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3 Responses to Six Secrets for the Bargain Hunter

Zermoid wrote:
October 28, 2010

One Caveat about the natural ground blind, it may be illegal in some states! PA used to (not sure about current rules) Require all blinds to be made out of 'man-made materials', no clue why but it was the law about 3 years ago. Another good 'blind' is to find a nice pine tree with branches to the ground, crawl inside, trim a few branches if needed, and you have blind and cover scent in one. Also keeps most of the snow off of you as well.

Tony Zuniga wrote:
October 05, 2010

Great article, on deer scents and eliminating odor.!!

Henry Jasper wrote:
October 04, 2010

I've been using most of these techniques for years. Been very successful with them. I strongly agree. You don't have to spend a lot of money to be successful in the woods.have