Editors Blog

Why Scent Control is Paramount in Bowhunting the Early Season


Ultimate scent control when bowhunting the early season is almost an oxymoron. It seems that no matter how hard you try, it is almost impossible to fool a whitetail’s nose when hunting deer in balmy weather.

While hunting at Ralph and Lenora Dampman’s Trophy Ridge Outfitters camp last week in Wyoming,  I was reminded that even a mature doe is always ready and able to detect even the slightest waft of human odor. I took this video clip during the second morning of my hunt. You must consider that I took the video with my phone. The doe was only 30 yards away at the start of the video.

This just goes to show that even the slightest misstep can cost you when you’re bowhunting. On this hunt, I showered with Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer shampoo; sprayed my Lacrosee Aerohead boots, clothing and gear with Scent Killer Gold spray and was running an Ozonics ozone generator on the “high” fan setting.

All of these precautions helped, but as you can see from the video, the doe still managed to detect something wasn’t quite right. She initially sidestepped the trail that I walked in on, and she appeared like she would high-tail it back into the woods. She didn’t. She very quickly calmed down and continued on her merry way. For perspective, the last few seconds you see her on this video clip, she is only 20 yards away. Had I had a doe tag in my pocket, that would have been a shot I would have very gladly taken with my Mathews Creed!

This was just one of several close encounters I had in from the tree stand over the past two days. Another great example of a deer walking downwind of my stand and not smelling me came the previous day when a very nice, young 10-pointer fed all around my stand. He eventually stepped into the woods just 5 yards from the base of my tree. Check out the video clip I took of him. He had no clue I was only 15 feet above him in this sprawling white oak.

It does help to hunt low-pressure deer. And Trophy Ridge Outfitters has hundreds of those, if not thousands. This part of Wyoming, on the edge of the Black Hills, is home to one of the most prolific whitetail herds I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been traveling for Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine. I was one of just four bowhunters in camp, and each of us reported seeing at least 50 deer per sit. These deer are not pressured much during bow season, as Ralph strictly limits the number of hunters he takes. What’s more, Ralph has leases that cover more than 300,000 acres of prime ground. Insane, huh?

But, despite the great numbers of deer, they are still deer. They have highly refined noses, and they will blow, snort and flee in a jiffy.

A polished buck and a velvet-clad buck feed peacefully in a crop field during daylight in Wyoming. (photo courtesy of Chad Drawbaugh)

A polished buck and a velvet-clad buck feed peacefully in a crop field during daylight in Wyoming. (photo courtesy of Chad Drawbaugh)


“I always tell guys that deer are pretty much deer no matter where you hunt,” Ralph said as he drove us around that first day. “You have to watch your scent, but even more, you have to watch the wind. I hang all of my stands so they take maximum advantage of the prevailing winds. If you can get the wind in your favor, you can sometimes get away without having to do so much on the scent-control end of things.”

Ralph is not only correct, he is one of the best outfitters I’ve ever run across. That’s because he has honed his hunting plans and strategies on whitetails based on his experiences with them over the past 20 years and his experiences chasing elk, antelope, wild turkeys, mountain lions and free-ranging bison on this Wyoming landscape.

“You learn a lot by chasing all of the different kinds of animals,” Ralph admits. “Especially the big-game animals. Bison aren’t easy to get close to; they have an incredible sense of smell. That helps remind you that you cannot take anything for granted when you’re hunting.”

Whitetails will maintain daytime activity as long as hunters remain vigilant about scent-control measures. (photo by Dan Schmidt)

Whitetails will maintain daytime activity as long as hunters remain vigilant about scent-control measures. (photo by Dan Schmidt)

 Editor’s note: Dan Schmidt’s Wyoming bowhunting blog will run in five installments this week.





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