It's natural for hunters not to think about scent control until the season rolls around. I mean, why put time and energy into worrying about your scent when you can't even go out to hunt? Well, I have some bad news. Deer don't just start feeling pressure on opening day. They feel pressured whenever you walk onto your property and leave a trail of human odor.
You might not think you smell when you're going to pull trail camera SD cards or when you're prepping food plots, but trust me, to a deer, your smell is alerting the entire woods. It's estimated that a whitetail's sense of smell is between 500 and 1,000 times more acute than humans. So think twice about wearing that Irish Spring body wash on your next off-season trip to the farm.
A wise hunting friend used to say, "Just like you pattern deer, deer can pattern you." Sometimes, sayings are too cheesy to take seriously. While the cliches of it might drown out the impact of that statement, it couldn't be more accurate. Deer are creatures of habit, and if you start putting pressure on their daily routine by leaving scent around, sooner or later, they will create a new pattern in a place that feels much safer.
Here are some off-season scouting tips I follow regarding my scent control.
Get In & Get Out
When pulling SD cards from trail cameras, checking for deer signs, or monitoring your food plot's progress, it's easy to want to hang around on your property. After all, seeing the fruits of your labor is part of the fun. But it can also be dangerous. The longer you stay in a buck's home area, the greater the risk that he picks up on your being there. Go with a clear plan, get your business done, and leave. I have bumped several bucks in years past because of lingering around on my farm. Only for those same bucks to never be seen on camera again.
Focus On Boots & The Wind
What part of your body touches most when scouting on your property? Your feet. I have witnessed so many hunters walk onto their property to check cameras in the same boots they just used to walk into the gas station. I have a separate pair of scouting boots that I store in a scent-free area. I then keep them in my truck bed on the way to the farm, spray them down as I start to scout, put them back into the truck bed on my way home, and then into the scentless storage container they go to when I get home.
This may sound overkill, but odds are it will be through your boots if a summer whitetail picks up on your scent. Invest in a quality pair of rubber scouting boots and always store them in a scent-free area when not in use.
It might sound crazy to focus on the wind during the offseason, but this extra step can save you from spooking a buck without even knowing it. Many team bucks will be bedded relatively close to the primary food source during the summer months. Take note of where the deer might be bedding, and only check those cameras with the right wind.
Place Cameras Wisely
I would love to place trail cameras in many areas on my farm. Thick bedding areas where I know a mature buck is hanging out. But is trying to sneak a camera in worth the risk of running off that buck? Absolutely not. Place your cameras in areas that are easily accessible and that don't require rubbing up against a brush that will hold onto your scent for hours.
Time it Right
We all have busy schedules, and sometimes the only chance we have to check cameras is right after work, as the sun is starting to set. While this might be the most convenient time to review, closing in on those twilight hours is always a risk. Since deer are crepuscular (most active during dawn and dusk), it's best to scout the property mid-day when they are likely bedded down, and you won't risk them spotting you.
Use Rain to Your Advantage
I love seeing heavy rain in the forecast whenever I plan to scout one of my properties. Heavy rain can be great for washing away any scent trail you left behind as if you were never there. Sometimes it's hard to predict precisely when the rain will start, be mindful of that when using this tool. Bring a raincoat, just in case you get caught in it!
As deer hunters, we need to take any extra precautionary steps we can not educate our deer. Bucks don't become mature by taking risks, and they will trust their nose over anything else before entering an area. Keep field spray on you whenever you check your cameras. Go the extra mile and spray down your cameras every time you check. Check your wind and scout at the correct times, and have an entry and exit strategy for every trip. The best deer hunters I know are the ones who take scent control seriously all year round.
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