Total scent control is one of today’s hottest topics among serious hunters. Whitetails live and die by their noses, and by the time a buck reaches maturity his nasal gland has filtered millions — if not trillions — of odors.
Is a whitetail’s sense of smell as good as it’s cracked up to be? I’d say definitely. Scent, or lack of it, probably plays a role in every successful hunt. Some hunters undoubtedly get lucky by guessing right or happen to catch a deer with its guard down, but consistent success completely hinges upon a hunter’s ability to reduce his scent while basing his hunting tactics around thermal currents and prevailing wind directions.
Thermals are fairly easy to understand. In a nutshell, air currents flow uphill during mornings and filter downhill during evenings. Topographical characteristics do provide for some wrinkles in those descriptions, but cross currents, etc., aren’t worth worrying about, because they’re simply too unpredictable.
A DEER WALKS INTO A RESTAURANT …
Some guys like to make up “newfound research” concerning the whitetail’s sense of smell. I recently read a piece in which the author used another tired anthropomorphic analogy where he compared humans to deer.
“A human might walk into a restaurant and smell onions and beer,” he wrote.“If a deer walked into the same place, it would smell onions, beer, pickles, mustard, cigar smoke and cheap perfume, and react based on past experiences.”
Buck pellets! Although the general point might be valid, the analogy is terribly flawed. Deer don’t walk through the woods with cognizant thought. They’re not ambling around saying to themselves, “Hmm, I smell dog urine in Old Man Johnson’s back forty. Guess I best be avoiding that place for a while.”
Deer are intelligent animals, but their intelligence is based purely on the instinctual reflexes of a prey species. In other words, they react — most often quickly and decisively — to out-of-place stimuli. It might be an odd odor, flash of white from a T-shirt, or subtle metallic sound from a treestand. They sense something and skedaddle. They don’t stand around analyzing it.
Commercial scent makers have received much criticism over the years because a few shady characters viewed the industry as a way of getting rich by hawking inferior products. As is the case with most businesses, the wannabes have run themselves out of business. Today’s market includes some great products that definitely help hunters fool more deer.