The Why, When, Where, and How of Scent Control When Scouting for Deer
Around this time of year, many hunters start looking at the calendars to count the days until they can get back in the woods to seriously chase some whitetails. We usually start this pursuit by scouting for deer tree stand locations or finding new land to hunt. But many people don’t always consider scent control while they’re in the woods scouting. Sure, they’ll take all the necessary steps while they’re hunting to make sure their scent doesn’t end up in front of a wise whitetail buck. But when they’re simply walking around the forest in August or September scouting for deer, they don’t give it a single thought. Why is that?
Why Scent Control Matters While Scouting for Deer
There are probably a few reasons for this. One, it just might seem too early to really adopt a hunting mindset. If deer have weeks to settle down before you actually hunt them, they shouldn’t be bothered by your scent, right? Well, maybe not. If you’re hunting a farm or somewhere with lots of human activity, they might not care about one more scent trail left by us. But if you’re hunting in a more remote area, the scent of a human in late summer when they’re not used to it might put them on high alert, altering their behavior patterns. Remember, they don’t know that you’re not hunting them. You’re just another potentially dangerous predator in their minds. This makes it more difficult to get a good understanding of their natural patterns so that you can hunt them effectively.
Second, which is related to the first, a mature buck has little tolerance for disturbance. Especially if it’s a big woods buck like we discussed above. If you don’t do everything you can to stack the deck in your favor, you could just blow your chance at finding and hunting him before you really even get a true opportunity. For that reason, you should use the latest technology to help you. Ozone is probably the best scent eliminator for deer hunting because it requires no lengthy process to do and can be adapted to scouting or hunting very easily. More details about that in the “how” section below.
When to Scout for Whitetails
As far as scouting deer tips, there are a few kinds of scouting you can do that have different purposes. The absolute best time is to go scouting deer after season closes. Whether firearm or bow hunting, walk around the woods once you have no more intention of hunting that particular season. That way, you can see exactly where whitetails tend to hide out when the hunting pressure increases. And the best part is that you don’t have to really worry about scent control at all. Deer have all winter, spring, and summer to forgive your intrusion.
Often, late summer scouting for deer is when you’re really just exploring new places and finding potential new hunting spots. This means you’re looking for broader and more general habitat features instead of specific setups. This can really occur from July to early September, depending on when your hunting season starts. An even better way to do this, though, is to use an aerial deer scouting software. This allows you to explore the area’s topography and land cover without spooking any wild game at all. Whitetails have pretty good noses, but they definitely can’t smell you if you’re at home on the computer. The less time you spend on the hunting property before your season starts, the better your chance of surprising a wise old monarch of a buck.
As opening day gets closer, there’s another type of scouting for deer you can do. It’s a more precise and laser-focused scouting that helps you find specific hunting spots in the areas you scouted in late summer. For example, you might have found a really cool new ridge during your late summer scouting trip that you want to check out again in more detail. On your deer hunting scouting trip, you should inspect that ridge with a fine-toothed comb, looking for deer sign, specific funnels you can hang a tree stand in, or easily-accessible ambush sites. This type of scouting for deer should be done a week or two before you plan to hunt. This timeframe is close enough that you should still be able to use the information you gathered, but just long enough to give the woods some time to “cool down” from the human disturbance. This type of scouting is great for early season deer hunting since it allows you to key in on good locations really quickly, without alerting a lot of deer to your presence. You need to make sure you have all your hunting equipment ready to go in a situation like this one.
One of the best deer scouting tips you’ll hear is to enter the woods during bad weather. That doesn’t mean you should go walk under the trees during a lightning storm. But when there’s moderate rain or gusty winds, whitetails aren’t as likely to wander the woods. That means you’re not as likely to run into them. All the extra sound covers any noise you might inadvertently make too (though you should still try as hard as you can to be discreet). Additionally, it helps mask your scent as you walk along. Think of all the things we can smell in the forest after a rain storm. Now multiply those earthy scents up to what a deer can smell, and it’s no wonder our scent gets washed out. Generally, human scent and deer hunting don’t mix very well, and this is a good way around that issue.
The middle of the day is usually the best time to go scouting for deer, since most of them will be bedded down for the day. This is usually the hottest part of the day, and in late summer or even early fall, deer don’t want to move much in those conditions.
Where You Should Look While Scouting for Deer
When you’re on the hunting property, there are a few things to keep in mind. Open exposures (e.g. farm fields, pastures, meadows, swamps, etc.) can be a little more visible from further away. These areas are great to observe from a distance with binoculars or a spotting scope. This allows you to scout deer behavior and travel patterns without setting foot where a discerning nose could pick up your scent. Many people will even hang “observation stands” just for this purpose. It’s a great way to see where the bachelor groups enter a field when you’re hunting early season bucks.
In denser settings, this isn’t an option. You’ll physically need to inspect some areas prior to hanging your tree stand. Try to stay away from potential buck bedding areas (e.g., really dense shrub thickets, upland islands in a cattail swamp, etc.) as you could alert a bedded buck. Instead, focus on feeding areas (e.g., food plots, recently logged areas, or hard/soft mast trees, etc.) where deer are unlikely to be in the middle of the day. Theoretically, this will reduce the chance of running into a deer while you’re out there. Deer will sometimes forgive the sight of a human, and occasionally forgive the scent of a human. But if they see and smell you, your game is likely over.
How to Maintain Scent Control for Deer Hunting Scouting Trips
While scent control for deer hunting is an almost necessary approach these days, scent control for deer scouting is often neglected. But now that you know why scent control is important for deer scouting, when you should do it, and where you should look, let’s examine some deer hunting scent control tips so you can remain as scent-free as possible.
First, just like a hunting trip, you should always start your scouting trip with a shower. Then dress as if you’d be going on a hunt, using your scent control hunting clothes and rubber boots to conceal the scent you produce while walking around the woods. Before you leave for your hunting land, use an Ozonics HR300 unit in combination with an Ozonics DRIWASH Bag, place your clothing inside the DRIWASH Bag which will fill with ozone and remove any leftover scent from them before you get dressed in the field.
Second, make sure to pay attention to the wind direction as you’re moving around the woods. While food plots and other open areas should be fairly safe in the middle of the day, other areas are not. As mentioned above, you should steer clear of bedding areas due to the risk in bumping deer. But that also means making sure your scent doesn’t blow into them when you’re a couple hundred yards upwind. It’s unlikely, but if the wind is gusty enough, you never know what could happen.
Finally, give yourself a little some additional insurance on your next scouting trip by employing active scent control technology. Wear the Kinetic Backpack, paired with either an Ozonics® HR-300 unit, or an Ozonics HR200 unit as you walk along. This mobile combination will continually introduce ozone into the downwind airstream of your scent zone effectively eliminating, altering and reducing the residual human odor you are releasing. In turn keeping the air between you and any downwind animal “clean” so if you happen to walk upwind of a bedded deer in a location you didn’t expect, you will remain unnoticed by scent.
Hunting Scent Control = Scouting Scent Control
As you can see, you should really be putting in about the same effort in the scent elimination process between hunting and scouting. A thorough process and attention to detail, combined with ozone hunting scent control and active scent control is a winning combination. It might seem like a lot of work, but if you can dedicate the same amount of time on scouting as you spend on scent control for deer hunting, you’ll do just fine this season.