Being first can be a good thing. The front of the line gets top choice for steak, ribs or a slice of pie.
The back of the line has to select something that has already been picked over or dipped through. And there is not much difference with deer hunting.
Bowhunters get the first crack at deer. But, it is the firearm season that really gets hunters anticipating the upcoming season. This year in Alabama, the firearm season opened Nov. 18 and runs through Feb. 10 in most of the state.
During the first part of the season, the deer are more relaxed and haven’t experienced the sounds, sights and smells of humans. In the early season, deer are not in a hurry and at times can be more curious with an unfamiliar scent or call. Hunters can take advantage of the early season and punch their tag on a buck.
Deer hunters using firearms may not think human odor control is important, but it is. A buck may be approaching from downwind before the hunter can get his rifle in position for a shot. The deer gets one faint whiff of the hunter, and it is game over.
The most important weapon in a deer’s arsenal of defense is their nose. Hunters can win the battle if they can defeat a deer’s olfactory system. One of the first steps to beating a deer’s nose is not carry any foul odors into the woods.
“I will wash all of hunting clothes in Scent Away laundry detergent,” said Wesley Fielder, longtime hunter from Talladega. “After they are dry, I put them in a plastic container, and I don’t put them on until I am in the woods and ready to hunt.”
Fielder also suggests staying clean even when scouting. Keep your clothes and boots away from any foreign odors or scents that could be carried into the deer woods. Don’t wear your hunting gear while you are pumping gas, cooking breakfast or even riding to your hunting location.
“You can never completely eliminate your scent but you can keep it to a minimum and mask it,” Fielder said. “Use some type of scent cover like pine or other natural cover scent to help mask your human odor.”
Deer hunters need to be aware of where they walk and where they put their hands. On warm afternoons in the early season it is impossible to keep from sweating while waking to a stand. Many hunters will carry a change of clothes and re-dress in fresh scent-free camo before the hunt.
Several companies offer scent elimination products: Scent Away, Scent Killer, and Dead Down Wind are a few that have laundry detergent, body and hair wash, deodorant and scent sprays to counteract human odor. Ozone generators like Ozonics and Scent Crusher help neutralize odors downwind.
Give calling a try
Deer are more vocal than many hunters believe. Bucks, does and fawns use different calling sounds throughout the season to communicate. Although many deer hunters will use calling during the rut, often calls in the early season can bring a buck into range.
“Deer will bleat throughout the year,” said well-known deer and turkey hunter Eddie Salter of Evergreen. “I’ll use three soft bleats in the early season to peak the deer’s curiosity.”
Salter advises to begin with soft grunts at a low volume. He said sometimes the deer may be behind you or close by and not in view. The softer grunts will get the deer’s attention and they may walk in. Salter reports that does, young bucks, and older bucks will respond to a bleat call.
During the early season, it is more typical to hear does bleat and grunt than bucks. However, Salter mentions older bucks will respond to certain calls and slip in. He uses the bleat call about every 15- minutes when on stand. During the early season Salter feels the doe bleats are more reliable.
In some instances, a deer may be out of rifle range or not in a good location for a shot. A soft deer grunt or bleat may get the deer to move closer or turn to present a shot. Hunter should experiment with different calls to determine which one is louder and sounds more like a deer.
The fawn bleat or bawl is a distress call of a young deer. Maternal does, young bucks and older bucks will respond to this call. When using this call, hunters need to be prepared to shoot. The deer will usually come in to the call quickly and from any direction. Some hunters will use the fawn bawl mid to late morning if there has been little deer activity around their stand.
In the United States, the deer urine or scent market is a multi-million-dollar a year business. Many deer hunters believe in the use of deer scents. Others say scents don’t work. Although some hunters may have had a negative experience with deer scents, they can attract deer throughout the hunting season, especially in early part.
There are many top brands of deer urine and scents. Some companies have been around for years and offer a good product. Code Blue, Tink’s and Wildlife Research Center have a complete line of doe and buck scents available to hunters.
“Try some doe urine around your stand,” said Terry Rhom of Tink’s Deer Lure in Georgia. “You want to make sure it is fresh and a few drops are plenty to get a deer’s attention.”
Some deer researchers and successful hunters feel too much urine or scent can spook deer. A few drops on a bush or ground in a couple of locations around your stand is plenty to attract a deer. A drag rag coated with some doe urine can lead a deer right to your stand. But, don’t take the rag with you in your stand. Hang it on a bush several yards away. This will divert the deer’s attention away from you.
Some brands of deer urine will have a bottled date stamped on the container. This is a good indication of how fresh the urine is. Another method is to check the color of the product. Fresh urine should be a yellowish to a light caramel color.
To help keep your bottle of deer urine fresh store it in a cool place away from sunlight, preferably in the refrigerator. Be sure the cap is on tight to keep air out.
A recent product in the deer hunting market place is called Nose Jammer. It is not a scent, but rather a chemical that overloads the sensory receptors in the nose of a deer. Hunters can spray Nose Jammer on bushes, leaves, and stand to keep your human odor from being detected by deer.
One tactic any deer hunter should use anytime during the season is stealth. Anytime a hunter approaches a stand or climbing into a shooting house or stand silence is key. A cracked stick or a bump on a ladder will put any deer close by on high alert.
Charles Johnson is The Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at email@example.com.