By Cody Altizer:
Whitetail deer are, without a doubt, one of, if not the, most adaptable species of hunt-able game in North America. They can live in a myriad of different situations that other animals simply couldn’t tolerate. Their toughness and intelligence allows them to thrive in suburbs, city limits, the fertile Midwest, and rugged mountainous regions. In turn, this gives hunters all across the country the opportunity to pursue the whitetail deer. Unfortunately, however, while harvesting mature deer is never easy, some of the environments that whitetails call home make for some difficult hunting. In today’s post, I am going to share with you some scent control tips that I’ve learned over the years for hunting mature whitetail deer in their most protected and rugged environment, the mountains.
Anytime you head into the woods after whitetail deer, scent control, and everything that encompasses that term, should be at the top of your list. When you’re hunting in the mountains, however, prepare to take scent control to new extremes, and throw out some of what you think you may know about hunting the wind. Let me explain.
I know of some hunters who routinely kill big mature deer every year simply by spraying down with some scent eliminator once they get out of the truck and by playing the wind. It’s a sound and simple strategy. Those hunters also hunt in flat terrain with predictable and consistent wind patterns. If those hunters applied the same strategy in the mountains, they’d be lucky to see a deer.
When hunting in the mountains I become more concerned with what I control (my scent print), and less with what I cannot (the wind direction). Please don’t get me wrong, all of my stands are hung with specific wind directions in mind and I am religious about hunting stands with only the correct wind. However, the wind has a mind of it’s own in the mountains, and shifts, dips, ducks, and dives without warning or reason. Further, in big timbered mountains deer have lesser-defined paths of travel, so they’re free to meander through the woods, making predictable deer movement near impossible. One day your stand may be situated perfectly downwind of the deer’s approach, until the next day when the same deer comes from the complete opposite direction. Trust me, it happens, and it’s incredibly frustrating.
It’s for those reasons that my hunting clothes and boots literally (and trust me, I fully understand the correct definition of literally) never see the inside of a hunting camp, house, truck, or similar odor factory unless in an air tight container. This keeps my scent-print to a near minimum and ensures that no foreign odors can reach out and stick to my clothing. I get fully dressed outside, regardless of temperature; spray each layer down with Dead Down Wind, and wear rubber boots and gloves on all hunts.
I will probably get ripped apart for this next article point, but there are many times during the rut when I will pay little to no attention to wind direction. It may sound like a no win situation, but in the mountains chances are you have to sacrifice something. During the right time of year, I will sacrifice a perfect wind for tree time when bucks have their guard down just enough.
I do, however, pay close attention to thermals and terrain features and how their impact on my scent can factor into the outcome of a hunt. Generally speaking, warm, morning thermals rise, and cool, even thermals fall. Cold air sinks, warm air rises. Applying this basic knowledge to your hunting strategy, especially when you’re hunting in hilly environments, can go a long way in determining the success of failure of a hunt. Getting high on a ridge in the morning will make you smell invisible to deer traveling the ridge below you, and vice versa. Once I figured out this simple phenomenon, my hunting success increased almost immediately.
Scent control is the name of the game when it comes to deer hunting. Many times, without even realizing it, the outcome of a hunt can rest solely on how closely you paid attention to scent control and wind direction. However, all bets are off when hunting in the mountains, and it takes a different strategy and playbook to successfully harvest mature deer. I hope this article gave you some perspective and useful information you can apply to future hunts when chasing deer in mountainous or hilly terrain.
- Cody Altizer, CodyAltizerPhotography.com