Scent: Quick Facts for Beginner Hunters

Bowhunting

We talked about how human scents – particularly flatulence – can impact the area you hunt, but what about natural scents? Many animals rely on scents to navigate their territory. Knowing how animals react to scents – human or natural – can guide your bowhunting success. Take note of these scent facts before you hit the woods.

Scent as a Motivator

The smell of a rabbit motivates a coyote to hunt. The smell of a female deer in estrus (ready to mate) drives a buck to find her. The scent of people or predators signals “danger” and stimulates an animal’s fight-or-flight response.

Scent as Communication

Animals – in particular mammals – use odors and scents to communicate with each other, find food and water, locate a mate, and even protect their young from predators.

Scent as a Homing Device              

Many animals use scents and odors to define and identify the boundary of their homes, which includes nests or dens, as well as their overall territory — the area where they find food, water, shelter and space needed to survive.

Hunters use cover scents to disguise their scent so they can remain hidden. Photo: John Hafner

Hunters use cover scents to disguise their scent so they can remain hidden. Photo: John Hafner

The Wind and Rain Factor

Wind and rain can affect how long scents linger. Scents can disappear quickly on hot, dry days because air currents carry scents away. On the other hand, scents linger longer on cool, wet days — especially on or near the ground. Heavy rains wash away odors and winds carry odors over a broader area.

Scent as a Repellent

Cover scents are used to disguise human scent so you can remain hidden. This scent often has a natural odor, such as earth or woods. Cover scents can be used any time of year to hide your odor from animals when scouting or hunting. Hiding your scent can help you get closer and stay close to wildlife.

Scent as Lures

Scents used to attract animals are called lures. Hunters, trappers and wildlife researchers make scent-post stations to attract animals to specific spots. A scent-post station is a 3-foot wide area with raked dirt and a stick or post in the middle with lure on it.

Hunters, trappers and wildlife researchers make scent-post stations to attract animals to specific spots.

Hunters, trappers and wildlife researchers make scent-post stations to attract animals to specific spots.

The post helps the scent get carried by the wind to draw animals into the area. By using lures and checking the site over time for tracks left behind, people can see which animals live in an area. Use trail cameras to catch animals visiting your scent-post station.

Basic lures:

  1. Food Lures. These should match the animal’s diet as it changes through the year. Some foods will not appeal to an animal at specific times, especially if the animal has access to better foods. For this reason, autumn can be a good time to use food lures because animals usually eat more to prepare for winter.
  2. Food-Scented Lures. These imitate an animal’s favorite food. When an animal gets a whiff of a food-scented lure, it’s hoping to find food. These lures work best if the animal you’re trying to attract is hungry.
  3. Curiosity Lures. Animals are naturally curious. A curiosity lure would be any scent that is new or different to an area. For example, if a fox smells fish in a corn field, the fox will try to identify the smell and its location. When an animal smells a new or unusual scent, its natural reaction is to explore and sniff around. Curiosity lures often work any time of year.
  4. Glandular Lures. These mimic an animal’s natural odors such as urine or musk. Glandular lures can be male or female scents. For example, a female white-tailed deer (doe) glandular scent attracts male white-tailed deer (buck) during mating season. A male attractant lure can attract another male, tricking it into thinking a competing male is intruding on his turf. Animals are always interested in smells from their own kind.
 Glandular lures mimic an animal’s natural odors, such as urine or musk. Photo: John Hafner

Glandular lures mimic an animal’s natural odors, such as urine or musk. Photo: John Hafner

Wanna Give Bowhunting a Try?

If you’re looking to source your own meat and would love to give bowhunting a try, here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Check out Archery 360’s “Intro to Archery.” You’ll get a quick introduction to different types of bows and how to shoot.
  2. Read the basic on where to hunt.
  1. Now that you’re armed with enough knowledge to ask serious questions, find a bowhunting shop in your community and talk to an expert, get some instruction and meet likeminded people.

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