June 11, 2008
Sometimes you want to bring a whitetail within range; at other times, your goal is to keep it from knowing you're around. These calls and scents can help you either way.
Nothing beats being in the right place at the right time, but in hunting that sort of precision isn't always possible. Unfortunately, being off by just a few yards in your stand location can spell a missed chance if you aren't able to bring the deer closer.
Fortunately, there are many attractants to help shift the odds your way. These products give you a set of tools that can narrow the range between you and a big buck when your stand isn't exactly where he wants to walk on his own. Combine these attractants with scent products that can help you stay undetected by deer, and you have a winning combination.
I've divided this broad overview into two categories of products: scents and calls. Both serve an important purpose in the strategy of successful deer hunters.
When most hunters hear the words "deer scents," one thing immediately pops into their minds: doe urine -- more specifically, estrous doe urine.
The words bring to mind an image of scent pads hanging from a bush 20 yards from the stand and a big buck grunting up the trail. He stops for a whiff as the hunter tries to calm his nerves and steady the sights.
But there's a lot more to the deer scent game than simply pouring out a little urine. For the best results, the use of deer scent should be part of a total system that includes human scent elimination, attractor scents and cover scents. Here's a rundown of companies making products in one or more of these categories:
Code Blue: The secret to Code Blue's success is its focus on single-deer collection. Each bottle of Doe Estrous comes from one deer. Code Blue even writes the deer's number on the bottle. The company's research suggests that each deer has its own characteristic odor and therefore, other deer can tell them apart by the smell of their urine and other secretions. By limiting each bottle's contents to a single deer, Code Blue drastically reduces the chance that any two hunters in the same area will be using lures that smell just alike.
There are five scent lures in the Code Blue line. Doe Estrous is most applicable during the peak breeding phase of the rut. Buck Urine stimulates a buck's dominance reaction and his curiosity reaction. It can be effective all season.
Tarsal Gland is ideal for use around mock scrapes or when decoying to present a territorial infringement situation. Real Scrape is unique because it contains Doe Estrous scent and comes with a separate baggie filled with actual doe droppings. By applying these to a mock scrape, you create the illusion that a doe recently visited it. Doe Urine is an all-season curiosity lure.
Code Blue also offers this same product selection in "popper" scent capsule form and in a gel formulation.
Code Blue Standing Estrous: This is a separate category within Code Blue's product line. It's a one-of-a-kind product that Code Blue collects at the moment a buck attempts to breed a captive doe.
At no point in the reproductive cycle is the scent of the rut stronger. Have you ever seen what happens when a buck gets downwind of another buck that's standing with a receptive doe? I've seen other bucks turn inside out at these times in an effort to get in on the action. They obviously pick up the intensity of the situation in the scent they smell and attempt to steal the doe.
I've also seen times when a small area practically crawled with bucks. In the middle is generally the area's most dominant buck, standing with a receptive doe. Reportedly, Standing Estrous lure comes as close as possible to matching the odors of a buck and doe during the time of actual breeding.
Hunter's Specialties: HS makes one of the most complete lines of scents and scent-elimination products on the market. We've all seen those thin Scent Wafers on hunters' clothing. They were among the first scent products in the HS line, and since that humble beginning HS has added dozens of types of bottled lures. The company now offers estrus urines (Premium Doe Estrus), tarsal gland odors (Tarsal Supreme), scents for licking branches (Lick'N Stik) and all the innovative products required to dispense and transport these lures.
For example, Magic Scrape is a mock scrape lure blend encapsulated in a slow-dissolving compound that looks like dirt. You sprinkle it directly into a scrape.
HS currently has 13 Scent-A-Way odor-eliminating products in a complete system that includes several kinds of neutralizing sprays, odorless shampoo, laundry detergent, bar and liquid body soaps, odor-eliminating powder, dryer sheets, deodorant and even unscented wash towels. HS also offers fox and raccoon urine cover scents to help disguise your route to and from your tree stand.
Knight & Hale: This company makes a huge line of deer scents. In fact, Knight & Hale is the only company in this buyer's guide to offer both natural and synthetic deer urines.
There also are several options for dispensing scent. For example, you can find the traditional glass-bottled urine, "Poppers" (ampules of scent, similar to the construction of an ammonia capsule), synthetic liquid and synthetic gel. Knight & Hale also offers scent-elimination products: Eliminator Spray, Body Wash, Laundry Detergent and dry granulated Stealth Dust.
Knight & Hale's scent lures occupy several categories. In the Attraction series you find Doe Estrus, which is obviously estrous urine, packaged in a 2-ounce bottle. Attraction Buck Urine is, as the name suggests, collected only from bucks. Doe Urine is a non-estrus urine. Buck Poppers come in four scents: Hot Doe, Dominant Buck, Doe Urine and Fox Urine cover scent.
Synthetic scents are new from Knight & Hale in 2004, and they're available in 4- and 12-ounce bottles. Because these lures aren't collected from live deer, it's economical to offer them in much larger sizes than is typically the case with natural urines. Due to advances in modern chemistry, these manmade scents are quite realistic. Synthetics come in Doe Estrus, Big Buck Scent and Doe Scent in both liquid and gel.
Buck Stop: This is the oldest scent-attractant company on the market; in fact, Don Garbow started Buck Stop way back in 1953. In 1971, Buck Stop was first to market with a doe in heat lure called Mate-Triks. Today, Buck Stop offers five doe in heat scents including X-Cel, 200 Proof, original Mate-Triks, new Alure and new Five. Each is made up of a special blend that appeals to bucks during different phases of the rut.
New Alure actually combines a strong curiosity scent with doe in heat, making it a good choice for all-season use. Five also contains doe in heat urine, along with four other scents (buck urine, a calming agent, a curiosity scent and an enhancer), making it a good choice for the pre-rut period.
Buck Beads is another recent innovation from Buck Stop. Be careful not to store this product too close to the kitchen table, because the contents could end up on your next plate of lasagna. That's because you shake the time-released beads right onto the ground from what looks like a large condiment dispenser. As the beads draw in moisture, they dissolve and release their scent over time. Buck Beads come in three scents: Doe-In-Heat, Gland-U-Lure and Red Fox Urine.
Black Widow: This company bottles two types of deer urines: one for Southern hunting, the other for use in the North. Gold Label lures come only from Black Widow's captive herd of Northern whitetails, while Red Label lures come from the company's herd of Southern deer. To my knowledge, Black Widow is the only scent company that takes this approach.
Black Widow offers four deer urine products. Hot-N-Ready is estrous urine collected during the peak of the doe's estrus cycle. Company owner Andrew Bugolski recommends this lure for making scent trails and for hanging near your stand on a scent wick.
Scrape Master is half doe-in-estrus urine and half buck urine. It's intended for use in mock scrapes. Dominator is a purely buck urine lure with tarsal and interdigital gland scents added. Bugolski recommends it for early-season hunting in mock scrapes. Straight Doe is simply doe urine that is effective at any time of the season as a cover scent or curiosity scent.
Tink's: Tink's #69 is possibly the most recognized name in the deer-scent industry. Tink Nathan started the company at a time when estrus scents were just taking off, and the name has stuck with the category ever since. The original formula has changed little over the years. It is still 100 percent naturally aged doe estrus urine. The process and formula reportedly keep the lure at the peak of performance.
Over the years, several other products have spun off from the #69 brand. Now you can get the lure in a gel form, and you can buy it with a Scent Stone for economical dispensing. Scent Stones have tiny pores that hold liquid lure and dispense it naturally over time, to ensure little of the product is wasted.
Tink's also offers a number of scent products that attract bucks outside of the rut or bring forth an aggressive reaction to perceived competition. For example, the company's Doe-P is an all-season lure, while Trophy Buck Lure and Intruder Tarsal Gland Lure are intended to play on a buck's dominance instinct.
Tink's also makes its own brand of odor-eliminating products that include an oxidizing agent known as NoRoma to quickly break down odor molecules.
Mrs. Doe Pee has for years been one of the most recognized -- and memorable -- names in the deer-scent industry. Sam and Judi Collora maintain their own private herd of whitetails for scent production, and they handle the entire collection and handling process from start to finish.
Mrs. Doe Pee was the first to offer freshly refrigerated whitetail urine, then broke new ground with freeze-dried lures. Now there's even a line of deer calls. But for 2004, the Iowa company's primary new scent product is one made for establishing and maintaining mock scrapes: Continuous Scrape Set.
With this product (available in 16-ounce bottles), the idea is to start developing mock scrapes in mid-August, just as bucks are preparing to remove their antler velvet. Most real scrapes don't get going until weeks or even months later. In theory, if you can get bucks hooked on visiting a spot of your choosing, it should improve your chances of later having success in that spot.
The company says it has tested this concept and product for the past six seasons, and the results have been extremely encouraging. By getting such an early start each summer, the staff reports having experienced great success in keeping scrapes open all season long.
Wildlife Research Center: As the largest company in the deer-scent industry, Wildlife Research Center has a wide range of products. Look at the WRC catalog and you'll see huge buck after huge buck paying silent tribute to the effectiveness of the company's wares.
The Scent Killer name is a familiar one to whitetail hunters. This is WRC's odor-eliminating product line. You'll find spray, body soap in both liquid and bar form, shampoo, carbon clothes wash, deodorants in two forms, as well as liquid and granular laundry detergents. I've tried these products, and they work as advertised.
Trail's End #307 is WRC's most popular attractant scent. A blend of natural ingredients draws bucks at any time of the season. Special Golden Estrus is another popular scent collected in advance of the season by bringing does into heat early, using special lighting and hormones. Each container of Single Doe Estrus is collected from a single deer.
The company also makes several buck urine and mock scrape lures, such as Grunt Ã”N Lure, Active Scrape and Mega-Tarsal Plus. Moon Fire is a special attractant lure that appeals to a whitetail's innate curiosity but doesn't contain any deer urine.
WRC's Ultimate Scrape Dripper is the industry standard for mock scrape scent dispersal. It drips whatever scent blend you place inside it, but only during daylight hours. As the temperature rises, the dripper expands and allows the lure to drip into the scrape.The dripper will operate for a week on one ounce of lure.
VMASS: There is no disputing the claim that bucks need an adequate supply of minerals when growing their antlers. It's also clear that does need an equally balanced diet when producing milk to nourish fawns. Deer obviously get many of these minerals from plants they eat, but all too often this forage doesn't meet all of their nutritional needs. That's where supplemental minerals come in.
VMASS is a vitamin and mineral attractant that also serves as a dietary supplement for whitetails. The product serves two purposes. First, it benefits the overall health of the deer that eat it. Second, it attracts deer, and that's an important point; after all, a mineral supplement is only valuable if the animals actually consume it. VMASS increased the attraction of the formula by adding molasses and apple aroma.
There's no quicker way to turn the head of a buck that's out of range or to pull deer to your stand than with a deer call. In fact, roughly half of the bucks I've taken during the past decade have ended up with my tag on them as the direct result of calling. It's not surprising, then, that calling is such an important part of my strategy. Typically, I've spotted the bucks moving through the timber out of range and then after only a few grunts or bleats I've had them come in close. I'm so worried about being caught without a call that I even carry a spare.
There's no doubt that calls work and work well. I can think of no better way to increase your odds for success this fall than to buy and carry a good one. Here are the calls that will bring bucks close.
Knight & Hale: Knight & Hale makes four basic categories of calls for whitetails. There are two hands-free models (Hands Free Soft Grunter and Hands Free EZ-Grunt-er Plus), a high-volume call (Mag-num Deer Grunter), several versions of the basic EZ-Grunt-er and three doe and fawn bleat calls.
Each category of calls meets of specific need. For example, I don't like to carry rattling antlers most of the time I'm hunting, because they're a hassle. I don't feel I've given up a lot of opportunity over the years by not carrying them, but when it is windy or when a buck is a long way off, grunting is not as audible as rattling. That's why I choose grunt calls I can blow either loudly or softly -- calls such as the Magnum Deer Grunter.
Hands-free calls are very effective for bowhunters who want the flexibility of being able to make a call while at full draw. Not having to fumble with a call as you're concentrating on the target can be a big advantage. The Soft Grunter is only two inches long and is soft and pliable, allowing you to hold it comfortably in your mouth and make a call while at full draw.
Knight & Hale's EZ-Grunt-er series consists of deer calls that offer value and added features, including hands-free operation and adjustable tones.
Hunter's Specialties: The True Talker was one of the first adjustable-tone deer calls on the market. It lets you quickly and easily manipulate the working length of the reed. By moving your finger along the rubber-encased opening to the tone chamber, you can press in one of four locations (or not press at all) to make the entire range of deer sounds, from deep grunts of mature bucks to higher-pitched grunts of young bucks and the bleats and bawls of does and fawns.
HS also makes three styles of estrus-bleat can calls that are very easy to us. They will at times bring in a buck when conventional grunt calls won't.
In addition, HS makes the predecessor to the True Talker, called the Quadgrunter. This call requires disassembly to adjust, but you can easily fine-tune it to produce the exact tone you desire.
HS was one of the first companies to offer a rattle bag and still has two products of this type in its line. The new Heavy Horns bag produces a higher volume and the sound of heavy antlers clashing, allowing you to produce good volume without having to tote a pair of big antlers into the woods.
Kolpin/MAD: This company's wide variety of deer calls includes products in four categories: a can-style bleat call, adjustable calls, snort-wheeze calls and in-mouth calls.
MAD was the first company to offer a commercial snort-wheeze call, and recent efforts to promote it have educated the hunting public as to this unique whitetail vocalization. The snort-wheeze is an especially aggressive sound, one that can tip the odds in your favor when a buck hangs up out of range. It is the deer world's equivalent of one buck calling another buck out for a fight.
If you catch a big buck in the right mood, a snort-wheeze will trigger an aggressive response from him. Kolpin/MAD's highly affordable Compact Grunt Snort Wheeze call to take advantage of this behavioral trait.
The bulk of the line is made up of adjustable calls. With a few simples twists, one appropriately labeled The Twist automatically changes the configuration of the reed to make buck, doe and fawn calls flawlessly.
The Power Punch is another adjustable call. By varying the pressure you apply to the call's tone button, you can produce realistic buck, doe and fawn sounds.
One of the company's more interesting calls is the Inhale Exhale Grunt Snort Wheeze call. It can make hyperventilating grunting sounds that mimic those of a rutting buck. As the name suggest, the call works as you inhale or exhale.
Flextone: The idea of a flexible deer call is a great one. The new All-N-One Deer Call is flexible in both its physical construction and in the range of sounds it can perform. The call's body is made of a soft plastic that is very durable and quiet; if it bumps into your gun or bow, it won't make noise. Because the mating parts of this call are soft, they fit together snugly and conform to each other, so they aren't likely to accidentally come apart.
In my view, the All-N-One's greatest feature is the ease with which you can switch vocalizations. If you press on any of the sound chamber's three embossed pressure points, the soft body flexes and makes contact with the reed. With this single call, you can make a wide range of buck, doe and fawn vocalizations.
Extreme Dimension: I had the opportunity to test one of the first calls that came into production when Extreme Dimension introduced its Phantom line. I was excited about it, because I could see the potential of an electronic call that was remotely located.
As most hunters know, when deer come in looking for the source of a call, they're very good at finding it. As a result, sometimes they come too close. By moving the source of the call away from your stand, you can better set up a good shot and direct attention away from yourself.
The first electronic whitetail calls relied on a wire to connect the transmitter to the small speaker. For this year, Extreme Dimension made the Phantom available with an optional wireless system. You can set the speaker in the leaves or on a tree and activate it from your stand at a distance of up to 200 yards without requiring the use of a single wire. This new system is called the Phantom Pro-Series. This model also features greater audio resolution for highly realistic whitetail sounds.