Don’t Spook Deer Before the Hunt Starts!
By Dan Johnson
Right now a majority of you probably have your trail cameras out capturing the velvet rut and taking inventory of the bucks you will be hunting in the fall. Some of you have may have already been out in the timber scouting the properties you can hunt looking for the best stand locations. Some of you may even be in the process or have already completed hanging those stands. But, have you put any thought into how you are going to access those stand locations? I don’t care how quiet or scent-free you think you are, if you haven’t studied the entry and exit routs to your stands, then you run risk spooking the deer you are trying to kill.
As we all know, deer live and die by their nose, simply put their nose allows them to detect what their eyes can’t see several hundred yards away. It truly is there most powerful defense mechanism. Like a second set of eyes, they put themselves in a position where if they can’t see what’s going on in the area they want to enter they sure as heck are going to try and smell it. Whether you are already in your stand or walking to it, your scent is going wherever the wind goes and will contaminate that area for a certain period of time.
Image 1, below, shows a stand location that I am really excited to hunt this year. It is a huge pinch-point next to a known doe bedding area. There are three main trails that all connect at a fence crossing and that is where I will want to set my stand. Last year we had several trail camera pictures of mature bucks crossing the fence over the last week of October and throughout the first two weeks of November during a variety of winds. The north and northwest winds seemed to produce the most movement through this area. Coming from the south and either dropping off the ridge or staying on top to feed on acorns, they feel comfortable with the wind in their face. With a north wind, all of my scent blows into a cattle pasture that is one of the reasons that makes this pinch-point so good. They don’t like to expose themselves and stay in the cover as much as possible. A north wind also provides the perfect access to this stand without my scent crossing any type of deer movement or bedding. Whenever possible, I like to have the wind in my face when I am walking to my stand. Mostly because my ground scent and air scent will be going in the same direction thus keeping my scent profile at a minimum.
This same stand location (Image 2) is also good on an east or southeast wind. The deer are coming from the bottom or off the ridge and traveling from the northeast to the south towards the bedding area with the wind quartering off the cattle pasture in their favor. In this example it would be stupid for me to use the same access route I use for a NW wind as my scent on the east or SE wind would be blowing directly into the bedding area. Instead I would have to take a different approach to the stand from the NW. It’s a harder walk to the stand, but my scent profile would drastically reduce any scent-based alertness. But as we all know, anything can happen in the deer woods.
In the diagram above the yellow circle in the middle represents your tree stand. In this specific example you would be accessing your tree stand with the wind blowing in your face and your scent zone would only be disrupting the Q4 quadrant. Remember, the smaller the scent zone the better.
Keeping the wind direction the same but changing the access route, you can see that the scent zone has now increased in size and has contaminated both the Q2 and Q4 quadrants. This is not good if you’re trying to put the sneak on a mature buck. Hopefully these two diagrams have opened your eyes to how important access is and how big of a scent profile you can leave behind if you are not paying attention to the details.
There are exceptions to the rules. One of my favorite stand locations to hunt during the rut is a travel corridor that connects two different parts of the farm. The stand is located about one third down off an oak ridge. I typically only hunt this stand location on a south wind. Here’s the kicker, I also access the stand from the south. As I am walking to the stand my scent is blowing directly to where the deer theoretically could be. My only other option as far as access is concerned is to walk a long distance through a large section of timber and I don’t consider that an option because I feel I would make too much noise getting to the stand. Because this is a stand located in a travel corridor, I will accept the risk of having scent blow into my stand location in order to cut down on my walk time. Once I am in the stand the south wind is again in my favor with my scent profile blowing off the ridge to the valley below. I run the risk of blowing the area up if the deer are there, but that would be happening no matter what access route I would take. The reward is a shorter and less invasive walk to the stand and I am only walking through cattle pasture.
With all that said, there are a couple products that I’ve been using over the past couple years that I have seen success with when reducing MY scent profile when accessing my stands. The first product is my Ozonics. I simply turn in on and hold it in my hand as I am walking to my stand. The second product, and the product that I have seen amazing results with is a vanilla spray called Nose Jammer. Every year I get busted from my ground scent, since I started using this spray I can honestly say that number has been reduced drastically. All I do is spray it on my boots and my legs before heading in. It has helped!
Pay attention to your entrance and exit routes and I guarantee you will have more deer sightings come this fall!