This is from my book The Complete Whitetail Addict's Manual, it is copyrighted.
Using Scents to Attract Whitetails
Attracting with ScentsWhen you are using food, scents, calls, rattling or decoys to attract animals there are two things to remember:
1. The best way to get an animal to come to you is by being in a place it is used to, comfortable with and going to. It's much easier to get the animal to come to you if it routinely uses the area. If you are not in a regularly used area then the animal should feel secure in the area, which should provide concealment or nearby escape cover. If neither one of these apply then you should be in a travel lane, or in a feeding area the animal is going to. Why should the deer come to you if it knows what it wants is in another location? 2. Using the best hunting techniques won't help if you produce or leave a sight, scent or sound that alarms the animals, or alerts them of your presence. Be careful to take precautions to avoid detection and go completely unnoticed when you hunt. Attracting With Scents
Scents are one of the most widely used methods of attracting deer. Manufacturers have responded to demand by providing a wide range of products in different forms; sprays, liquids, gels and solids. There are buck, buck-in-rut, doe, and doe-in- urine scents; forehead, tarsal, metatarsal and interdigital scents; food, curiosity and secret formula scents. Many hunters use fox, coyote, mink, raccoon and skunk scents, as either cover or curiosity lures. Others use unnatural or human scents to block deer from using escape trails. This vast array of scents can be confusing if you don't know which scents to use, or when to use them.
Types of Scents
Deer scents fall into different categories based on how they are used and how deer respond to them. These categories are; Recognition/Trailing, Sex, Territorial/Dominance, Food, Curiosity, and Blocking. Recognition/Trailing scents are present all year long and can be used all year. Sex scents are most prominent during the rut and can be used during any part of it. Territorial and Dominance scents are most prevalent during the rut and should be used then to be most effective. Food, Curiosity and Blocker scents can be used all year long. Many of these scents fall into more than one category and can be used for different purposes. They can all be used effectively to hunt deer, if used properly and at the right time.
Deer pheromones, the scents given off by deer, are used as a means of communication. Pheromones serve to stimulate a behavioral response in another animal. Whitetail deer pheromones are present in the forehead, interdigital, tarsal and metatarsal glands, while estrogen and testosterone are found in the urine.
There may also be pheromones associated with the nasal, pre-orbital, Preputial and salivary glands. Many of these scents are used in combination during self impregnation (rub-urination), and sign post marking (rubs, scrapes) and are interpreted by individual sexes and age classes differently. When used by themselves these scents may be interpreted differently than when they are used in combination with another scent or scents.
Tarsal scent is used in combination with urine as the primary recognition scent in whitetails. This scent is both sex and age specific, which means that deer encountering tarsal scent from another deer can determine the sex and the age of the animal by the scent. Tarsal is used in combination with urine during rub-urination all year long. All deer rub-urinate, often just after rising from their beds. Bucks rub-urinate more frequently during the rut while making scrapes. Rub-urination is used by moose (possibly elk) in response to danger - probably as an alarm signal. Deer often sniff and lick each other's tarsal area during social grooming, for identification, and to reinforce the social hierarchy. Because of this the deer know the smell of all the animals in their areas.
The Metatarsal gland is largest in mule deer, next largest in blacktails and smallest in whitetails. It's been suggested that blacktails and possibly mule deer use it when alarmed to express danger. It's not totally understood in whitetails.
Interdigital scent is how deer track other deer. Does use it to locate their fawns, bucks use it to track does. The scent of each deer is so specific that an animal can track one individual deer, no matter how many others are in the area. Because scent molecules evaporate at different rates, an animal can also determine which direction the other is traveling.
Forehead scent is used as a recognition and dominance scent. Bucks take part in social grooming prior to the rut, sniffing and licking the forehead and tarsal area. Once the sparring and fighting begins dominance is established, and the bucks recognize each other by scent and associate the scent with the social level of the buck that it came from. They also recognize the scent of other bucks once signpost marking begins, and they know which rubs and which overhanging branches at scrapes are used by which bucks. After being threatened or attacked subdominant bucks soon realize they should not be in areas near a dominant buck and its rubs and scrapes.
Because recognition and trailing scents are present all year they can be used any time during the rut, or any time of the year, without fear of alarming deer. However, forehead scent is most prevalent during the rut and is more effective at that time. Because deer are curious about their home range and often exert dominance (even does) in their core area, they investigate any new scent to find out which deer is leaving it.
High amounts of testosterone in urine signals a buck's sexual readiness to does. Estrogen in the urine of a doe signals sexual readiness to bucks. Both buck testosterone and doe estrogen levels rise during the rut. Bucks readily respond to estrus urine, or doe in heat scents, soon after they shed their velvet through the second and possibly the third estrus, which may occur in January, even in northern latitudes. Because bucks are curious, estrogen can be used anytime of the year to attract them.
Does move a lot when they are in heat, sometimes traveling outside their core areas, possibly in search of healthy dominant bucks to breed with. It has been suggested that does can determine the physical health of the buck by the amount of protein in its urine. The doe may choose the buck it breeds with by the combination of the protein, testosterone and tarsal from rub-urination. Testosterone scents may attract does to a particular area, in turn attracting bucks because the does are there. Bucks may respond to testosterone out of curiosity, dominance or territoriality.
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May Yahweh-God bless you and yours,
Urine Based Scents
Urine based scents are used because it is thought that bucks determine if a doe is ready to breed through the Flehmen sniff, which introduces urine to the vomeronasal organ. But, the vomeronasal organ accesses a part of the brain that regulates reproductive physiology, and does not elicit the immediate response needed to ensure successful breeding. In contrast, the nose accesses parts of the brain associated with immediate behavioral responses.
So, using urine may not be the way to go about attracting a buck. Several researchers have suggested that bucks detect pheromones through stimulation of the nose (rather than the vomeronasal organ), and that the stimulation of the nose is what elicits approach and copulation by the buck. Urine may not need to be present for a buck to detect an doe; the buck is probably able to determine the readiness of a doe by the chemicals in vaginal secretions. If this is true, the best way to attract a buck is by using the vaginal secretions of a doe in , not urine or urine based scents.
Both the signposts of rubs and scrapes are "dominance areas" of mature bucks. These signposts signify areas used by the buck. The rub route is the path the buck travels as it goes through an area. The area along the rub route and the nearby areas are often patrolled by the buck during the rut. Each rub on the route contains scents from the forehead glands of the buck. In addition, bucks often lick their rubs, and because they sometimes lick their own tarsal after rub urinating there may be urine, testosterone, tarsal and saliva on the rub. This combination of scents is a territorial sign proclaiming dominance by mature bucks.
These same scents may also occur on the overhanging branch at a scrape (forehead, urine, tarsal, testosterone, saliva, possibly pre-orbital) because the buck sniffs, licks, rubs and chews the branch with its forehead and antlers. Urine, testosterone and tarsal are also deposited in the scrape during rub-urination. The buck also leaves interdigital scent on the trail of its rub route and in the scrape as it paws the ground. This combination of scents is again a dominance and territorial signal to other bucks, and the sign of a mature dominant, breeding buck to does.
The complex combination of scents left on signposts occurs primarily during the rut. The scents of the rub occur as soon as bucks begin to shed their velvet. The scents of the scrapes begin shortly after rubbing begins, but become most evident from one to two months later. These scents can be used anytime once the rubbing phase occurs to attract bucks, but they become less effective after the primary breeding phase. Because a dominant buck makes rubs and scrapes as a prelude to breeding (to express dominance) it is impelled to check out the smell of any unknown buck intruding on the area, therefore these scents work especially well during the pre-primary breeding/scraping phase.
Food scents can be used anytime and anywhere. Because these scents do not contain pheromones they usually do not alarm deer. The deer in my area of southern Minnesota eat corn, apples, acorns, squash, grapes, vegetable greens, and many other hard to find foods that I leave out in the winter, spring, summer and fall. They also take advantage of foods in areas where they don't normally occur. Whitetails, mule deer and elk readily eat apples in the mountains where few apples occur. Once they are accustomed to finding these foods in an area, you can attract them by using similar scents, even if baiting is not allowed.
Because deer need to be familiar with their home range, they want to know about anything new. Many of the responses of deer to pheromones, urine, sex and food scents can be attributed to curiosity. In that respect all these scents attract deer out of curiosity. Deer have been known to investigate WD 40, gun oil, mink oil and several secret formula deer scents. Deer, elk and moose will investigate urine and pheromone scents of fox, coyote, raccoon, skunk and other animals, as long as the concentration is not so high as to alarm them. While most of these scents are used as cover scents to avoid detection, they can also be used to attract deer. I once watched a doe trail me by the fox scent I had on my boots. She followed along about ten minutes behind, just like a dog with its nose to the ground.
A few knowledgeable hunters use blocking scents to move deer to their position. While this is not actually attracting deer it is a means of getting deer to come to you by blocking all trails but the one you choose. By strategically placing human scent; predatory scents from dogs, coyote or wolf; or large amounts of metatarsal scents associated with alarm, on the trails you don't want deer to use, you can direct them to you. Blocking works especially well in areas with numerous parallel trails near core areas, or in heavy cover. You can also keep deer from using normal escape routes and avoiding you, by blocking the trails you don't want them to use. Blocking Scents can be used anytime of the year.
I hope this helps some of you this fall.
May Yahweh-God bless you and yours,