Most of the bowhunters I know rely heavily on the use of deer scents. Most gun hunters of my acquaintance do not. That I believe is a big mistake.
There are many different methods for deploying deer scents, but here are two that are most useful for the gun hunter.
The "drag rag" has been around ever since some deer hunter got the idea that if he laid down a trail of deer urine to his stand that another deer might just be curious enough to follow that scent trail. In the old days, drag rags were real rags, today, they are more likely to be a commercial drag of some type, but the idea is the same.
Before hiking to your stand, apply a liberal dose of your favorite deer scent to your drag rag. Drag the rag behind you as you walk to your stand, stopping every 50 yards or so to add a little more scent to the drag rag. When you get to your stand, hang the drag rag on a limb or bush out in front of your stand. What you are hoping happens is that a buck comes along with his nose to the ground searching for a hot doe, smells the scent trail you have laid down and follows it right to your stand. No, a drag rag does not work all of the time, but what does? But I have had it work dozens of times and most of those bucks are deer that I probably never would have seen had it not been for that simple drag rag.
Use Scent Wicks
The other method of using scent, which I like to employ when hunting with a gun, is the use of scent wicks. Scent wicks are super-absorbent pads that hold a lot of scent and attach easily to brush or tree limbs. Some of you gray beards will remember the fore-runner to the scent wicks, what we called "scent bombs." These were 35mm film canisters stuffed with clean cotton. We would pull a little cotton out to form a wick, add scent and use a clothespin to attach it to a limb. Scent bombs still work, but scent wicks are even better because they hold more scent and expose more surface area to the air than the old scent bombs ever did.
Scent wicks do not attract deer from a distance, but they are excellent for holding deer long enough for you to size up the buck and get off a good shot. A few years ago, for example, while filming a hunt in Saskatchewan for the "Realtree Monster Bucks" video series, I was hunting from a stand, which overlooked a pair of cut lines.
It was heavy brush on both sides of the cut line and I knew that a buck could easily slip across the cut line before I could get on him and certainly before the cameraman would have enough footage of the deer. So before climbing into the stand, I hiked out on both cut lines and hung a couple of scent wicks doctored with doe-in-estrous urine on each. At the last minute of the last day of the hunt, an ancient, heavy-horned 10-point came to the sound of my rattling antlers, crossed a cut line, and just as I had hoped, put his nose to the air and tried his best to locate the source of the aroma drifting off of those scent wicks. The camera rolled and I made the shot and scent wicks played a big part.
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Gary Clancy writes a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Gary has hunted whitetail deer in 20 different states and provinces. He has harvested many record-book animals, and presented hunting seminars from Tennessee to Wisconsin. Gary also has authored or co-authored six hunting books, four on whitetail hunting.