Back in a time when I was younger and the herds were smaller, it seemed like there was no limit to the complexity. Yes, I used to do scents, decoys, calls, mock scrapes-- the works. A few things happened to change all that, and repent my ways. I did not understand it all at the time. In fact, at the time it happened, I treated it as just another gimmick. Let me take you back to 1998 and show you the progression.
Opening Day of Ohio Bow Season 1998: Third season at Trusty Pines, a private campground. Long story short, I got twisted around in the dark and miss my elaborately prepared stand. I ended up sitting on a stool behind a 4X6' camo blind waiting for the light to come up. I never had any time to get deploy a single gimmick. The deer came in and I nailed one at under 10 yards.
Opening Day of Ohio Bow Season 1999: Same spot. My foot went bad far from the truck and I had to crawl back with way to much gear on my back. Doc found a Muldar's Neuroma, and decides to operate. I still made it out a little, but I was forced to pare it down to the bare essentials.
Opening Day of 2000-- Same Spot, however this time I added a new Climbing Stand that was 20 lbs heavier than my previous one, and a full-bodied decoy. I was in ultra-gimmick mode, because I now had my foot fixed and could carry more in with me. Deer gave me a wide berth. I finally pared it all back to the necessities and had a few nice close encounters during shotgun season.
A month later Trusty of Trusty Pines died and I lost my last good hunting land. I might have given it up for good, but a farm came up in Bracken County, KY, and we bought it. The deal closed in mid-September, and I did not have a chance to set stands until mid-October. It was such a hectic schedule, I did not have all that much time to buy fresh scents, and all that other good stuff, and I also purchased a few cheap ladder stands and placed them permanently. The net effect was that my first time out at the new place in 2001, I was operating a good 65 lbs lighter than my first time out in 2000. I spent less time on the ground, messing with scent drags and scent bombs. I was also not quite sure what the poaching situation was so the decoy stayed in the barn. I felt naked, but in a lot of ways I felt good.
From that point on until today, my hunting luck has improved tremendously. Once I cleared out the poachers from the new property and had a chance to put up permanent stands that weren't stolen my life as deer hunter soared. Now, several seasons later, I can look back on it and see it clearly.
There is no replacement for having a good deer population. No gimmick will manufacture deer. With a small deer population, there is little you can do right. Where there are good deer numbers, there is little you can do wrong.
No gimmick will replace good long-term year-round scouting. Once I became the apex predator on my little 200 acres of heaven, I realized that I had been missing most of the picture. My deer success comes from knowing and following patterns that the deer have been set into for generations.
Either I am the noisiest critter that ever set a stand, or there is no replacement for having a preset tree stand that can be left up all season. Do not get me wrong. I have walked out with a 50 lb metal climber, attached it to a tree and shot bucks at 15 yards a half hour later. I am just saying that crawling into my buddy-style ladder cuts out a lot of problems. Noise is chief among them. However, climbing up a ladder at 0'Dark-30 without a drop of sweat to show for it trumps any charcoal suit.
Scents? 15 years ago, I would have sworn to you that one boot pad with interdigital on it and another with tarsal was IT. I could wax eloquent about 35 mm cans filled with doe estrus. Now, my bottles sit idle on the shelf, I wiz off my stand. I see more deer.
Calls. Most calls I can make with just my mouth. However, I do still carry a grunt tube and a tunable doe bleat. I call very sparingly and passively, and I have given up blind calling all together.
Decoys. The big full-bodied Carry-Lite decoy finally came out again a few years ago for an early season bow hunt. Walking through tall weeds with it and a lightweight stand on my back caused so much drag that I ended up with heat exhaustion. I had to dump everything, call on the walkie-talkie for a pickup, and throw myself in a cool shower before I melted down. I went back after sundown, retrieved the decoy and the rest of the gear and put it all in the shed. Both the decoy and the treestand have not been back out.
Scent-proofing. Do not get me started. Suffice it to say that I only use sodium bicarbonate, and a lot of it. I have a technique that I learned from D&DH magazine over a decade ago. The charcoal suit was one gimmick I never did fall for.
Call me a curmudgeon. However, the premise of this thread is dead on. You cannot gimmick your way to deer hunting success. There is nothing you can buy from the shelves that will replace the essentials of good scouting and time in the field. It took getting knocked down a few times, but it finally sunk in.