Scent control companies market all different types of products they claim will help better block your scent while in the woods, and some may help—a little. Here’s the thing: A deer’s nose has more than 300 million scent receptors whereas a human nose only has five million. So just imagine how powerful a deer’s nose really is when it comes to scent control. There’s only so much you can do to help your odds of beating a whitetail’s nose. But one surefire trick is learning to play the wind.
I have almost two decades of hunting under my belt. I use to only hunt with a rifle for about 14 of those years. During that time I never use to think of wind direction when I was in my stand, or how to access my deer stand according to which way the wind was blowing. When you’re a rifle hunter you are able to shoot a deer at 200 yards, so playing the wind isn’t nearly as significant a consideration.
Since I began bowhunting, my perception on deer has completely changed. Trying to get a deer within bow range (20-50 yards) involves many factors that have to come together to make it a successful hunt. But one of the most significant is wind advantage. Here are a few tips for using wind direction to your advantage when hunting these elusive whitetails.
Access routes to and from you deer stand
Most of us cut trails from a single access point off a field or road straight to our stands. I know this is what we did on our first piece of hunting property. We always thought the faster we could get to our stand, the faster we could get set up and ready for the hunt. This isn’t always the best practice when entering a property depending on wind direction. I’ve learned over the years that watching the forecast and paying close attention to wind direction is huge. Winds will normally switch directions throughout the day, so pay close attention to that as you plan your way in and out of the woods.
Always walk in downwind of any deer bedding areas, even if this means taking the long way around or not hunting a certain stand at all that day. Keeping the human presence low in areas where you know a big buck lives will help you get close to the one you are trying to find. They always say your first sit will always be the best sit. This is true if you play your cards right. Pull up a picture of your land or the area you are hunting. Look for the areas where you think the deer will most likely bed down and draw routes for each wind direction around that area. Walking in from the downwind side of their bedding area means you will not alert them before they get up and come out to feed.
We all have that one reliably productive stand we want to sit in. If you have a stand you absolutely love to hunt and big deer have been shot out of it, wait until the time is right and wind is in your favor. Playing the wind will give you a better overall percentage of success than just jumping in and hoping you don’t get busted. Some of my best hunts have occurred when the wind is in my face or when I’m downwind of a food plot or travel corridor. Even the lightest breeze can help keep your scent from reaching deer.
Note: I have used an Ozonics system to aid with scent control, but I’m not 100 percent sold on it yet. I’ve watched deer walk right through the area at which I had it pointed and the deer still spooked.
Ultimately, there is only so much you can buy to keep your scent low, so the best tactic is just paying attention to wind direction and making the best of each situation.