With just a light inhalation of breath through your nose, you’ll notice it. It may smell like a cool rain, wet dirt, perhaps, or maybe even decaying leaves. It might be a combination of them all. In general, what you smell is the scent of fall wafting throughout the woods and waters.
Now ponder this: If you, the average human, is in tune enough to the outdoors to be able to smell the difference between the seasons, just think what fish and game—many with olfactory senses much grander than ours—can detect.
Without a doubt, I believe many hunters and anglers overlook the scent factor over all other aspects combined. And this is why many struggle when it comes to harvesting animals and fish.
Scent plays a significant role for all creatures when it comes to hunting prey or becoming prey. Some scents are an attractant; some are a repellent. Maybe no scent is best?
The real secret to hunting and fishing success, in my opinion, is recognizing when to use scents and knowing when to avoid them.
To stink or not to stink
Although my carrier has slanted more to the side of professional angler, I am an avid and proficient hunter too. And pursuing the white-tailed deer is one of my fields.
I’ve hunted this big game throughout most of the United States and Canada, including my home state of Michigan. There’s one factor I believe that has made me so successful when it comes to harvesting deer: I realize, I stink—like a human—and game can smell me a mile away. Literally.
Knowing that some aromas are stronger than my own, I could add scent to my body or clothing to cover it. But when it comes to hunting, I would rather do all I can to reduce human odor than blanket it.
This is because adding a smell to an area where it might not be an “ordinary odor” will alert game that something’s amuck in their living quarters.
Take for example, spraying the scent of acorns to the bottom of your boots and walking through an area with no oak trees. This out-of-the-norm stench will alert deer to the fact that something’s not right. And rather than be in a relaxed state, they will be on high alert. And this makes it difficult to get them close enough for a shot.
And then there’s the fact many animals can decipher all the different arrays of scents wafting through the air, fully able to distinguish them all blowing within the wind. It’s for these very reasons why I do my best to become as totally scent-free as I can, rather than add scent as a cover.
One thing’s a must, and that’s taking a shower right before my day’s hunt. However, I won’t lather up with soap or shampoo. Those smells are pungent and are an unnatural smell in the woods. Hot water. Rinse. Repeat. Human scent reduced.
Once at my destination, I always suit up with Scent-Lok clothing.
Scent-Lok’s been making scent-reducing clothing for hunters since 1992. They were first to introduce the most advanced, effective odor-control system in the world—clothing with activated carbon technology for achieving maximum scent control. Now here it is more than two decades later, and Scent-Lok’s still the leader. And there’s a reason.
Take Scent-Lok’s Bone Collector line of outerwear, which has all the scent reduction qualities the companies always been famous for, while adding super-quiet material printed with camo—including large, strategically-placed highly-contrasting shapes in the positive and negative regions of the garment.
In other words, when wearing Scent-Lok’s Bone Collector clothing, it means my human form disappears and blends into the field of view. I’m able to stay as quiet as possible, and my scent is reduced to nearly zero.
Scent-Lok has helped me be more successful harvesting trophy deer. I kid you not.
In short, when it comes to hunting, I would rather be scent-free rather than bring additional scents into the woods along with me. It really makes a difference.
During the fall, the water’s cooling and the metabolism of fish is starting to dawdle. This is when I slow my presentations down, which means the fish have more time to contemplate my offerings—it’s also the perfect time to add scent.
As I mentioned earlier, there are scents that can actually prevent a fish from striking, so why not always add a scent that will have a positive effect on the bite? I feel additional scent to whatever it is I am using—live bait or fake—will increase my catch by at least 40 percent.
Take casting or trolling Rapala crankbait, for example, or even trolling with Northland ‘crawler harnesses, drifting with their live-bait rigs or casting jigs. Yes, I do add some kind of scent to them this time of year.
Berkley has been a leader when it comes to creating scents that make fish bite, whether it’s in the form of a spray, or one that’s been infused into softbait. Their line of Gulp products has been taking the fishing world by storm, and for good reason—Gulp scents work wonders for all species.
Berkley’s Gulp Alive spray attractant comes in 14 different scents, including for freshwater Crawfish, Nightcrawler, Minnow, Egg Roe and many more. And there are many saltwater versions for every occasion. Just one light spray onto any bait—even live bait—and you’ll always know any offering you give will have a “positive” scent that fish will love.
Berkley’s Gulp scents have been infused into Berkley’s Gulp and Gulp Alive softbaits too. The most economical way to purchase these baits is in the buckets, where a plethora of softbaits is totally saturated in the liquid.
In fact, these bulk jars of softbaits are so important to the life of Gulp, continuously absorbing the liquid, that Plano even makes several special totes just for storing them. These Liqua Lockers keep them spill-proof and allows the softbaits to stay moist and pliable until predator fish render them useless.
For the most frugal of you—after you’ve used up all those softbaits and are left with several ounces of the Gulp Alive liquid—you can pour the remainder into an empty spray bottle and spritz it onto any lure.
To smell or not to smell
So, what’s the best way for me to sum up the subject of scent? Well, let’s just say it’s more important to hunters and anglers than most of us may realize.
When hunting, be as scent-free as possible. When fishing, add sent that puts the fish in a positive mood. Pay attention to your scent, and add or subtract accordingly. The results will always be in your favor.
Mark Martin (markmartins.net) is a touring walleye tournament pro who lives in southwest Lower Michigan. He’s also an instructor with the Fishing Vacation/School, (fishingvacationschool.com). Check out either website for more information.