Early-Season Scent Schemes: the Smell of Success

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Todd Amenrud finds the greatest success in early-season hunting depends on your choice of scents and how you use them to lure whitetails.

During September, considerably amplified amounts of the hormone testosterone begin flowing through a buck’s body. Few understand that from this point on, a buck is ready to breed, but it’s the females in the herd that actually dictate when and where breeding will take place.

I’ve heard naysayers comment that scent only works on younger bucks or does and fawns, and I couldn’t disagree more. Every animal is unique and has a different personality. When testing scents, I’ve seen one buck come in and do a back-flip and bolt away from a smell, and the next buck enter a few minutes later and sit there for over five minutes doing a lip-curl, relishing the same scent.

Typically, when it comes to “deer smells” (gland- and musk- type lures, and urine scents) you want to use the smells when they would naturally occur in the wild. Although I’ve had a positive reaction to an estrus lure during early September, if you’re after “any ol’ buck or a doe,” rather than starting off with an estrus lure, you’re probably better off with scents like Trail’s End #307 or Golden Buck. However, if you are specifically after a “mature buck,” a scent like Special Golden Estrus is something you may wish to try. Sometimes estrus lures can work like they’re supernatural, even during early season.

My favorite scent to use from opening day and into the first part of October is Trail’s End #307; actually, this lure will work all season long. And I implied above, it works for “any ol’ buck,” but some of the best bucks I’ve arrowed to date I owe to that lure—a couple actually had their noses either touching, or close to touching the #307-soaked wick when I released my arrow.

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There are a number of things a breeding size buck needs to do in the fall, but the one thing that trumps everything is breeding. That’s the “reason for the season” to a whitetail buck.

During early season, for any age deer (buck or doe), for most instances you’ll be better off with a curiosity lure (like Trail’s End #307, cherry extract, anise), plain urine or glandular secretions (like Golden Buck or Select Doe Urine), or a food scent (like acorn scent, essence of apple, etc.).

Last year, I tried a totally new brainchild, “Scent Reflex Technology.” This is a cutting-edge, proprietary breakthrough by Wildlife Research Center. It’s been developed over a period of years, and takes the performance of certain smells to an even higher level for better responses. The way I understood it was that it “amplifies” the smell, making it stronger, more dependable and longer lasting.

There are many ways you can dispense scent during this period, but three of my favorite tools are a Key-Wick, Pro-Drag and a Magnum Scrape Dripper. The Key Wick is the easiest way to create a simple scent-wick set. The idea is to let the smell waft downwind and to position yourself crosswind of the wick.

The Pro-Drag is the best tool that I have found to create a scent trail, for several important reasons: it holds a lot of scent, and it’s easy to control. You can use any type of liquid scent when making a trail—it doesn’t have to be a “deer smell”—and you are all right to use food lures or curiosity scents, too.

The Magnum Scrape Drippers that are associated with making mock scrapes are another great tool for dispensing any type of liquid scent, not just those associated with mock scrapes. This heat-activated device will drip only during daytime hours, so it conditions deer to show up during legal hunting hours and spend more time in the area. The Magnum Dripper will fit a full 4 ounces of scent! This unit freshens your scent setup during legal shooting hours, so you don’t have to. So, when you’re ready to hunt, the site is pristine and void of human scent.

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Even seasoned hunters can learn something new about how, when, or where to hunt this fall by reading MidWest Outdoors, available by subscribing on our website.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>