How to Keep Deer in Their Home Ranges Throughout Hunting Seasons – Part II

One deer drive can fill a huge area with lasting human odors in minutes. One aimlessly wandering still-hunter hunter can fill an entire square mile or two with intense human odors in a single day. A number of independently hunting stand hunters can keep a sizable area filled with intense human odors for an entire hunting season. Where it is impossible for whitetails to find areas free of intense human odors within their home ranges, they soon depart. My hunting partners and I keep this from happening four ways.

First, we greatly limit the number and extent of routes we use during a hunting season. To determine where these routes should be located, we scout extensively on and off-trail 2-3 weeks before each hunting season begins, thus ensuring our trail scents will no longer be influencing whitetail travels on opening weekend.

Second, within each square mile we hunt we select a roughly-circular, wide-ranging series of connecting deer trails we refer to as a “cruise trail.” Branching off from this trail are our stand site approach trails. All our trails are existing deer trails. These are the only routes we use during a hunting season.  Portions or an entire length of a cruise trail may be used daily. Each of our stand site approach trails are only used once, sometimes twice, per hunting season. Thus we greatly limit where whitetails will discover our fresh trail scents during a hunting season. By limiting our travels on foot to these trails only, large portions of our hunting area remain untainted by human odors throughout a hunting season, enabling our deer to live normal lives everywhere except within 100 yards or more of trails and stand sites recently used and scented by hunters.

Third, though products claimed to eliminate human odors are not 100% effective and long-lasting, we use them routinely regardless because as human noses are able to discern, they do minimize human odors. Whitetails passing downwind of silent and motionless stand hunters that do not emit strong and unusual odors are very unlikely to react with enough alarm, if any, to prompt them to abandon their ranges, greatly improving the odds of seeing those deer during following days. Hunters emitting strong and unusual odors are likely to trigger immediate and lasting range abandonment by mature whitetails.

Fourth, to avoid being smelled and thus avoided by whitetails, we always approach and always stand hunt downwind or crosswind of trails or sites where we expect to see our intended quarries, made evident by very fresh tracks, droppings and/or ground scrapes made by mature bucks.

All of the above tactics have played prominent roles in helping my three sons and me to take 97 mature bucks plus a few yearling bucks on any day, even the last day, of our past 25 hunting seasons on public land inhabited by grey wolves.


How to keep Deer in Their Home Ranges Throughout Hunting Seasons – Part I

Not many days into a typical whitetail hunting season, most hunters begin wondering, where all the deer went. The answer depends on how you’ve been hunting. If you’ve been making drives or still-hunting (wandering aimlessly), most deer are then almost certain to be located where hunters aren’t making drives or still-hunting: in posted lands, for example, refuges or swamps and bogs, some of which may be as far away as 6–30 miles. If you’ve been stand hunting at one stand site where most hunters are stand hunting (during an archery season, for example), chances are most deer there are living quite normal lives out of sight 100 yards or more away.

Imagine hunting in an area where deer are merely living out of sight during an entire hunting season – like where my three sons, two grandsons, me and a number of weekend-only others hunt during a firearm season. We are stand hunters, of course, but not typical stand hunters. We rarely use a stand site longer than one-half to one day. The reason is, we hunt mature bucks only. Today, such deer are so skilled at finding, identifying and avoiding stand hunters in trees or on the ground that it is generally a waste of time to remain at one stand site longer than that.

Stand sites we use during the first 2–3 days of a hunting season are selected and prepared (if necessary) 2–3 weeks before the opener. During the rest of the hunting season, most are spur-of-the-moment, never-used-before selections near very fresh-deer signs. How, you might wonder, can so many hunters find and use so many stand sites, during the course of a hunting season without spooking and chasing all deer out of your hunting area?

The answer lies in another question: aside from “jumping” deer and alarming them enough to make them raise their tails and bound away, what makes whitetails abandon their ranges during a hunting season? The answer is, “overwhelming, much-feared trail and airborne scents emitted by hunters. Wherever a hunter travels on foot, a carpet of intense human odors that lasts four or more days is laid down and the hunter’s airborne odors sweep across the landscape throughout a triangular-shaped area 200 yards wide and 200 yards downwind. Airborne odors soon disappear after a hunter passes but continue unabated wherever a hunter halts to stand hunt.

Recent research by law enforcement officers in Minnesota have proven nothing a deer hunter can buy that is claimed to eliminate human odors can keep a K-9 dog from finding a human as quickly as a human not using these products. This means, of course, equally or more sensitive noses of whitetails cannot be fooled either (as I have been insisting since the 1970s). Sorry guys, this means today’s whitetail hunters must do something more than use certain soaps or soda, wear certain clothing or boots or spray themselves with certain potions to avoid being smelled and thus avoided by whitetails.