Subscribe to the JMO Newsletter
The Hunting & Fishing Magazine of the Dakotas!

Deer Hunters Practice Scent Control When Deploying Whitetail Lures and Attractants

Story by Heath Wood

  The efficacy of lures and attractants in bringing in mature bucks remains a topic of debate among deer hunters. Some hunters swear by them because they have experienced successful results and, therefore, use lures and attractants year after year. Others have either never tried them or have used them without positive results. There’s not a lot of in-between; hunters seem to either love them or despise them.


  Interestingly, there’s similar ongoing debate over scent control. Some hunters use varying scent-control regimens consisting of scent-killing hygiene products and field sprays, cover scents, scent-control clothing, and other relatively new technologies such as ozone. Many hunters swear by such products, claiming their use has helped them get closer to deer for more shot opportunities. Non-believers tend to simply play the wind, believing all other efforts are gimmicks – either because they’ve made some efforts in the past and have not experienced any positive results, or simply because they’ve never tried them.


  So, who is on the right side of the debate?

  After years of trial and error, field testing new technologies, and thousands of hours of hunting, I have personally found that to decide on what works and what doesn’t, hunters need to first understand what a deer smells that will cause them to spook and leave, versus other smells that might illicit a different response – either varying degrees of caution without flight, or even curiosity and attraction. Once this is understood and reinforced through personal experience and observation in the field, hunters can make better decisions about the use of specific lure, attractant, and scent-control products to gain significant advantages.


  In my experience, individual deer seem to have their own tolerance thresholds for certain scents. Let me give you a couple examples. We all know or have heard about hunters who smoke in the stand or blind and still seem to kill deer consistently. We also know hunters who urinate from their stand and harvest deer on the same sit. So, how is it possible that cigarette smoke and urine do not seem to scare deer, yet other human scent sends them running into the next county? Well, it’s certainly possible that the deer these hunters are harvesting came within range from a direction where they simply never smelled the human urine or smoke, but it’s also possible that these odors simply aren’t as objectionable to deer as many of us think.


  There are three pillars of human odor which hunters can carry into the field. Bacterial odors are produced as a result of bacteria growing and feeding on our bodies – often as a result of perspiration. Metabolic odors result from substances we ingest, such as foods and alcohol. Finally, ambient odors are picked up on our bodies and clothing from everyday life. These ambient odors can come from almost anything – foods, buildings, gasoline, smoke, soaps, perfumes, our vehicles, grandma’s house, you name it. These ambient odors are the wildcard in my experience. Deer may tolerate certain levels of these smells because they’ve caught a whiff of them before and experienced no immediate threat. Metabolic and bacterial human odors, however, signal danger in most deer. Again, I believe there’s a threshold, but most deer seem to spook and flee from these odors more than any others.


  Because you never know for certain what specific odors or types of odors are going to spook any given deer, many hunters – myself included – believe a system of Complete Odor Management such as the one outlined at can and should be used to minimize all three pillars of human odor before and during any time spent in the field. This includes not only time spent scouting and hunting, but also includes any time spent deploying scents designed and intended to lure or attract deer. The reason for this is simple; by using lures or attractants of any kind, the hunter is hoping to use the deer’s nose against them. They are placing and calling attention to a scent in the deer’s habitat that they hope will cause the deer to investigate, follow, or linger. Therefore, it’s imperative that the hunter placing the scent avoids leaving any of their own potentially alarming odors at and around those locations.


  Hunters can get a head start against bacterial odor by cleaning their bodies in the shower with scent-free hygiene products like ScentLok Liquids before heading into the field. They can control and lock away any such odors that form while in the field by wearing activated carbon apparel like ScentLok Carbon AlloyTM clothing, including gloves to cover their hands and a face and head cover, which also is critical for trapping metabolic odors from the face, mouth and hair. Ozone is one of the best and most reliable ways to eliminate or reduce ambient odors on hunting clothing and gear. This can be done by placing anything to be worn or taken into the field into an ozone storage bag or closet. The unique OZ NFuse Ozone Sprayer can be used on any gear not placed into the bag, including your boots. 


  When deploying scents and lures, I like to take extra precautions to avoid leaving human scent in the field. I wear my Lacrosse Alphaburly rubber boots and wear my ScentLok pants over the top of the boots (not tucked in) so the carbon fabric can trap odors coming out of the tops of the boots with each step I take. Rubber is the only boot material I’m aware of that does not absorb odors, plus they’re very easy to clean. Regardless, I always spray my rubber boots down with my OZ NFuse Ozone Sprayer before leaving my vehicle or entering my hunting area. If I’m deploying a trail drag or making a mock scrape, I can be certain my boots are not leaving scent on the ground. When making the mock scrape, I use a stick or something from the natural surroundings to scrape the dirt instead of my feet. 


  I make sure I’m handling it with gloved hands, and by using something natural, I am assuring no odors are being left behind that might deter or alarm a buck before smelling the scent in the scrape. I take the same care when hanging a game camera over the mock scrape – or any game camera. I wear my Carbon Alloy gloves and spray the camera down after everything has been placed. I also do my best to avoid coming into contact with surrounding vegetation. The goal is for a buck to smell the lure or attractant and nothing else.


  Using scents and lures can be an effective way to attract deer, as long as you are using quality products you trust and are also being mindful of your human odor. Personally, I think that’s the primary reason some hunters are still so quick to dismiss both lures and attractants and scent-control products; they fail to go about things correctly so they don’t experience the desired results. That can be as simple as missing a single step like contaminating a site with their bare hands, failing to remove ambient odors from their boots, or brushing up against vegetation and transferring some of their bacterial human odor from their untreated apparel. It also might be that a hunter simply used the right product at the wrong time. Using a strong estrus doe product at a time or place when bucks aren’t expecting to encounter it, for example, sometimes creates an alarm response. It doesn’t mean the product is bad or ineffective, it just means it wasn’t used correctly.


  In summary, my advice is for hunters to learn how deer respond to different scents by personal observation and their own trial and error. This is simply good woodsmanship. Throughout this process, use only top-quality scent products and employ a system of Complete Odor Management while deploying scents, lures, and attractants. If you experience a negative result, before writing off the product, ask yourself what step you may have missed, what you may not have gone about correctly, and adjust your strategy the next time. Do this, and you’ll start to experience positive results that improve your success. •



Nexus Outdoors, headquartered in Muskegon, MI, USA, is a leading worldwide designer, marketer and distributor of performance, hunting and casual odor-controlling apparel, footwear and equipment under the ScentLok Technologies®, OZ®, Blocker Outdoors®, Whitewater, Hard Core® Waterfowl Hunting Apparel and Tree Spider® brands. It also owns American Range Systems, manufacturer and distributor of the world’s strongest and safest bullet traps. Nexus Outdoors is the only company with access to all scent-controlling technologies, including their patented Carbon Alloy™ and Cold Fusion Catalyst™ technologies, which provide superior success in the field. ScentLok and Blocker Outdoors are pioneers in the hunting industry, which many credit with creating a market focused on superior scent control to get closer to big game.