The dreaded “snort” echoing through the trees is most definitely one of the most frustrating sounds. If you’ve ever hunted white-tailed deer, then you have heard this very noise resonate through what were once silent woods at least once.
By the time you’ve taken notice of it, however, it’s too late. You’ve been had.
What am I talking about? The sound whitetails make when they’ve winded you. The noise is produced with an instant intake of air though the deer’s “uber-scent-sensitive” snout. It’s made to alert the others around them that danger is lurking nearby in a camouflaged suit. It’s one of the most disheartening sounds a hunter can hear.
And here you thought you were totally hidden—but you weren’t. Your scent was far from concealed and the abundance of your odor wafting through the air gave you away.
Firsthand from day one
So much effort goes into becoming a successful deer hunter I could write an entire book on it. And it would be thick with small print and very few photos. But just reading about how to become a more successful hunter isn’t going to tell you all you need to know when it comes to harvesting this big game animal.
I’ve been hunting whitetail since I was a child, early on with my father and grandfather, then on my own (once I could drive). Nowadays, I take my own family and friends into the woods for whitetails to pass on the tradition. The one thing I found that goes the furthest when it comes to harvesting a deer rather than just hunting a deer, is the actual time put into lessons learned while afield in pursuit of game.
But here you are reading about it—and that’s okay. If there’s any one thing I want you to take away from this it is the understanding that when you’re outdoors—even in areas you know better than the back of your hand—is that you are not in as familiar of a territory as you may think.
You’re in the deer’s realm; where they spend every day of their life. The tiniest thing out of their “ordinary” day will be cause for alarm. And not just to the deer, but all critters that live there.
Ponder the times you have been in your home and something out of the ordinary catches your attention. It might be something as simple as an item that has been slowly slipping, and then falls off a shelf. Maybe it’s the wind gusting from a direction it rarely blows and the seldom-heard whistle from the air racing through the crack of a window pane that make you take note.
But it’s not just noises that have you questioning what’s going on. Think about the slice of bread you left too long in the toaster oven and burned.
These are very subtle incidents, yet they startle you ever so slightly. Your senses go on high alert; you get up and look for the source of what is troubling you.
Deer get these odd feelings of curiosity as they wander through their home too. One sound, one anomalous movement—even more, the out of-the-norm scent—are all causes for alarm.
Slow down, you move too fast
The scuffling of your feet on dried leaves, or twigs breaking as you tiptoe heel-to-foot, can obviously be controlled. Slow down and make every step count. And once you’re where you’re going to be hunting, clear away any rubbish from underfoot moments before settling in.
Another noise not often thought about? Eating.
Before venturing out, wrap any munchies you have with you for the day’s hunt with a product that doesn’t make much noise when unwrapped. Tin foil, for example, makes less noise when you manipulate it then does wax paper or foiled plastic. Food is important when it comes to staying comfortable and focused throughout the day. Just make sure not to give yourself away when refueling your body.
Although white-tailed deer don’t have 20/20 eyesight, they can easily pick up any movement you make. Any motions you make should be slow and deliberate. Quality camouflage clothing is also a must. Even when hunting during gun season in my home state of Michigan—at the time when donning blaze orange is the law—the bright colors I wear are in camouflage patterns to help break up my silhouette.
It’s all about the setup
By far, human odor is hard to completely control when hunting. It’s one of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of successfully bagging a deer. But with proper preparation, such as wearing scent-reducing clothing, you can lower the amount of human odor drifting through the air.
While it’s a given, you should always hunt downwind of where you think a whitetail will wander. Wind currents can alter throughout the day. Even a change in air temperature on a breezeless day can shift air in areas where the scents “hang.”
This is why I wear Scent-Lok clothing.
Scent-Lok reduces the amount of odor leaving my body due to its outer layer of activated carbon. As the bacteria on my skin create a scent, the molecules lift up and off my hide. And, instead of traveling through the material, the molecules get caught up in the pores of the carbon within the clothing.
Reducing my scent not only keeps deer off their guard, it gets them closer, allowing me a good, clean shot with either a gun or a bow. Nothing is more important to me than downing an animal quickly; there is less suffering to my quarry and less tracking.
Another book that I could write about is all the different styles of Scent-Lok clothing available—the diverse, camouflaged patterns the clothing comes in, as well as the science behind it all. Check out their website at scentlok.com. They’ve done a great job getting into all the details why scent reduction is a must when hunting any game.
It’s a challenge
My challenge for you this year is this: Get in the woods and hunt; it’s as simple as that. Every time out you’ll learn a thing or two that will make you a better hunter in the future. Keep quiet; move little. Reduce your scent. And, most importantly, take someone with you and teach him or her what you’ve learned.
Mark Martin is professional walleye tournament angler who has a passion for hunting white-tailed deer. He is also an instructor with the Ice Fishing Vacation/Schools taught throughout the Midwest. Check out fishingvacationschool.com and markmartins.net for information.