By Chris Eberhart
The first step to understanding scent control is learning how animals detect scent. The second step is to understand how you broadcast scent while you are hunting, and what this means to your hunt. For this post I want to simply describe what happens when you just play the wind and don’t take all the measures possible to control your scent.
Traditional hunting wisdom says you have to play the wind. So at home you step outside and check the wind direction. The wind is not quite right for your best stand, so you weigh your options and come up with a stand location that doesn’t really have a lot of deer activity right now, but the wind is right. You decide to hunt there because of the wind, so you don’t muck up your best locations that are hot right now. This is already limiting your potential for success, because you aren’t hunting where the majority of deer activity is at the moment.
Arriving at your hunting property you select your path to your stand carefully. Unfortunately, you leave a ribbon of fresh scent on the ground all the way to your stand. This ribbon of scent is fresh and every deer downwind will be able to pick up the scent from you entry path for hours. You figure this isn’t a problem because the wind is still good though. You arrive at your stand, climb up, and check the wind one more time. Everything is still good. You sit for a couple hours without seeing a deer and the wind remains constant, and your anticipation is high, but right at prime time the wind suddenly shifts, and starts blowing straight into the bedding area. The wind is such an unreliable partner. You think about breaking off your hunt, but it’s probably too late for that. A bit later a doe and a fawn step out from the bedding cross wind and start angling towards your stand. Behind them you catch a glimpse of a nice buck. The doe gets closer, and the buck reveals himself in the distance. You keep your fingers crossed that the doe stays out of your wind, but too late. She casually moves straight downwind and her head pops up and stares right at your stand. She stomps her feet for a few minutes, snorts, and dashes back into the bedding area. Needless to say the buck vanishes without making a sound. You don’t see another deer, and leave the woods with mixed emotions. You are happy that you saw a nice buck, but disappointed that you were winded by that doe.
Encouraged by the sight of that big buck you hunt that stand a couple more days. The following hunt you see a few does and young buck, but after that it is as though all the deer in the area simply vanished. Obviously, the area has been contaminated with your scent and nothing is moving there during daylight. You are forced to change areas. The deer have pinpointed your spot by the scent you left behind during your hunts. The only buck activity becomes nocturnal.
I hunted like this for a very long time. Playing the wind is good, but even when you play the wind your bowhunting success without scent control is almost totally dependent on luck. The good news is that instead of relying on luck, you can rely far more on hunting skill with a few easy scent control steps. By taking measures to reduce your scent you reduce your overall scent signature, and your hunts turn out a lot different than the one I’ve just described. More about that next week.
– Chris Eberhart