Estrous Scents

By Bob Robb

Trick or Treat? That’s the big question you face as a whitetail hunter every time you enter the woods. Do I slip in quietly, like a stealth bomber, striving to get in and out of the woods without being detected? Or do I become more aggressive and try to bring bucks to me, knowing that in doing so I risk spooking Mr. Big and blowing my opportunity for the entire season?

99 percent of the time I believe in the stealth bomber approach—except for right now. In much of the country the pre-rut is about to begin in earnest, with the first does showing signs of breeding behavior and the bucks unable to stay away. That’s why it is time to break out the doe-in-estrous scents and bring a buck to you on a string.

Conventional wisdom says to not use these expensive products until you actually see bucks chasing tail-wagging does. But if you have hunted the same area for any length of time, you know when the rut generally peaks, and thus when the bucks usually begin chasing. I prefer to use estrous scents a bit early, hoping to pique the curiosity of the mature bucks in the area and giving them a reason to start moving more during legal shooting hours.

There’s more to successfully using these products than massively spreading them all over the woods, however. Use them judiciously. Remembering that because a deer’s sense of smell is so much more acute than ours, a little bit of scent goes a long way. When I first started playing with scents more than 20 years ago, I did the opposite, dousing the woods with estrous scents. All I ended up doing was terrifying the local doe population, which moved on, taking the bucks with them. It took me a while to learn that less is often more when it comes to using rut-based scents.

Here’s all you need to do during the pre-rut phase. Making sure that you are completely scent-free, use a scent drag as you walk to your stand, taking care to walk through your shooting lanes on the upwind side of the tree stand or ground blind. Then, once at the stand, freshen the scent on the drag and hang it in one of your shooting lanes within range of your stand. Place another scent wick on the other side of the stand, and start hunting. When you depart, place both wicks inside a freezer-strength Ziploc bag and take them out of the woods with you.

I like to begin the season using only doe-in-estrous scents. However, about Halloween it is time to add some buck tarsal gland-type scents to the game as you attempt to stimulate a rutting buck’s territorial urge and sexual proclivities. A double-drag system, with one wick coated with doe-in-estrous and the other in buck tarsal gland scents, is an excellent program.

As in all thing whitetail hunting, nothing works all the time. And when using scents, remember than less is usually more effective as well as less invasive. And always make sure you follow a meticulous scent-elimination program each and every time you hit the woods. You may want the deer to know that Cupid is in the house—but you definitely cannot afford to let them know that you have slipped in the back door, too.

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