A deer's sense of smell is undoubtedly its most important survival asset, as its sensitive nose allows it to pick up even the faintest odors. Although they also have excellent hearing, a deer's nose is usually its first line of defense to warn it against possible predators. However, scent is also important in helping them to identify other deer and potentially find does in heat. This makes deer scents a powerful tool every hunter should have in their arsenal, as not only can the best deer scent help cover up and mask your own smell, but these scents can also serve as a powerful attractant to help lure both bucks and does within range of your bow or rifle.
Unfortunately, using these scents properly involves a whole lot more than simply dumping a bottle of deer urine on the ground and hoping for the best. In order to get the most out of these scents, hunters need to know both when and how each different type of deer scent should be used to make it most effective. There's no doubt that using attractants such as scents, calls and decoys can increase your chances of a successful hunt, but you need to know how to use them effectively to give yourself the best possible chance.
For this reason, this guide will explain how to use deer scents, and provide you with everything you need to know to further your chances of success. Within this guide, you can learn about each different type of deer scent and what situations it is best used for. You can also find deer scent reviews for some of the top products currently on the market. This provides you with a range of excellent products suitable for early season, late season and peak rut hunts.
Buck scent lure
Preorbital/Forehead gland scent
Tarsal gland scent
Deer Scents Explained: Examining the Different Types
If you're at all familiar with deer scents, you'll know that deer urine is by far the most common type of scent available. However, there are actually several types of urine that can be used as both a cover scent and an attractant, including buck, doe and doe-in-estrus urine. As well, there are a few other types of scent that also may be effective in certain situations, making it important that you know at least a bit about each type and when/where each is most effective.
The smell of buck urine is a great choice for any time of the year, which serves to reassure any passing deer that there are other deer in the area. Prior to the rut, most bucks won't take much interest in it unless they happen to pass close by, meaning it's not that effective of an attractant at this point. However, it works extremely well at covering up your own scent, either through dragging, spraying or hanging scent wicks in nearby trees.
Although it only attracts other males, buck urine can be quite effective at luring nearby males within range during the peak rut and also pre-rut. Still, it's most effective when simply used to get a passing deer to stop and check out the scent long enough for you to get a good shot.
This urine gives off the odor of an everyday doe that has not yet reached estrus. As such, it's most effective during early season and pre-rut hunts, when the younger bucks are still in groups, and also during late season hunts after deer have resumed their normal patterns.
Although does won't be interested in buck urine, they are interested in the urine of other females. This means that basic doe urine should attract both bucks and does. However, like buck urine, it mostly serves to keep other deer relaxed by tricking them into thinking other deer have been in the area and spiking their curiosity. Like buck urine, it also makes an excellent cover scent.
Once the rut has started (or is within a week or two of starting), the bucks will be out constantly cruising for does in heat. This makes doe estrus one of the most powerful attractants you can use when hunting the rut. Doe estrus is generally quite a bit more expensive than basic doe or buck urine, so you'll want to make sure you save it for around the peak rut. It's mostly useless before that anyways.
Deer aren't stupid and there's simply no way you're going to trick a buck into thinking he's found a doe already in heat if the rut is still a month or more away. His hormones won't be raging enough to have him interested at this point anyways. However, once you start seeing more activity on your trail cams or start to see bucks hot on the trail of tail-wagging does, spraying, hanging or dragging doe estrus around your stand is a sure-fire way to get the attention of any bucks that catch a whiff of it.
Buck Tarsal Gland
When a big buck makes a scrape, he drags his antlers through the dirt just below a tree, creating a layer of soft earth that he then urinates on. However, he doesn't pee straight on the ground, and instead he puts his back legs together and lets the urine run down his legs to trickle on the ground. This is done to let the urine flow over the tarsal glands, located just above the inside of the knee, which infuse the urine with additional hormones and oils that help to indicate the buck's size and status in the herd.
There are numerous tarsal gland scents available, which work well when placed in front of real or mock scrapes and also in conjunction with doe estrus.
Just before making a scrape, a buck first touches his forehead, eyes and tongue to the branch before then scraping the dirt and urinating on the ground just underneath it. When he touches his forehead to the branch, the secretions from the buck's preorbital and forehead glands rub off on it. This type of scent should be applied to the so-called 'licking branch' about four to five feet off of the ground. By applying this scent on the branch and the tarsal land scent on the ground below, you can add an extra touch of realism to both mock and real scrapes.
Ranking the Best Deer Scents
All of the above scents can be effective in certain situations. However, all of them require the use of a high-quality product to be most effective. There's simply no point in spending your money on a cheap, inferior scent that doesn’t smell like the real thing. For this reason, we'll now present you with the top deer scents currently available.
Best Deer Urine Attractant: Wildlife Research Center Special Golden Estrus Xtreme
The champion of doe estrus products, Special Golden Estrus has been helping hunters bag trophy whitetail bucks for more than a quarter of a century. This bottle of concentrated scent is the ideal choice for scent wicks and dragging, and it also makes an irresistible addition to mock scrapes. Although there are many different estrus scents out there, none has been proven to be quite as effective as Special Golden Estrus, except this extra concentrated Special Golden Estrus Xtreme, which carries further and has a longer staying power.
Best Buck Scent Lure: Buck Bomb Ambush
This easy-to-use spray contains 6.5 ounces of pure whitetail buck urine and is far and away one of the most effective products out there. While there are numerous buck attractants, Buck Bomb Ambush has helped more hunters successfully lure in trophy bucks than virtually any other brand. In addition to this buck urine, Buck Bomb also produces a range of other real urine products, including the super-effective Buck Bomb Doe in Estrus spray.
Best for Mock Scrapes: Wildlife Research Center Hot Scrape Scent Reflex
Containing a blend of synthetic fragrances designed to perfectly mimic the smell of freshly scraped earth combined with buck urine, estrus urine and other powerful attractants, Hot Scrape Scent Reflex is the ideal product to use in mock scrape scenarios. Simply pour or spray a small amount of this product onto freshly scrapped dirt and watch as the bucks begin charging in.
Best Preorbital/Forehead Gland Scent: Code Blue Rack Rub Gel
This unique gel is designed to be smeared directly on the licking branch above a real or mock scrape, further increasing its authenticity and enticing bucks to come check out their potential competition. The gel is super easy to use and quite long-lasting. However, if you're looking for something that lasts a bit longer, you might want to consider Buck Bomb Scrape Tape. This highly-visible ultra-violet tape entices deer to the area using a blend of several synthetic hormones. All you need to do is hang it on the licking branch for more than 30 days' worth of powerful attractant.
Best Tarsal Gland Scent: Code Blue Tarsal Gland
Made from pure buck urine mixed with the smell from deer scent glands, Code Blue Tarsal Gland scent is the ideal choice for pouring onto your mock scrape. This scent is created by soaking a tarsal gland in whitetail urine, and when combined with the Rack Rub Gel, it creates an incredibly enticing smell that no buck will be able to resist.
Best Deer Scent Strategies
There are a number of different ways you can use deer scents, all of which can be effective in certain situations. The simplest and most effective way of using deer urine is as a cover scent. While many hunters now use special scent-blocking clothing and scent-erasing laundry detergents to help hide their smell, these on their own aren't quite enough to fully mask your human scent and prevent it from spooking any deer downwind of you. This is where buck or doe urine can come in, by covering up your smell with that of a deer.
When using urine as a cover scent or as an attractant, you've got several different options, including sprays (or so-called 'buck bombs') and scent wicks. The only difference in the two is how the scent is applied. The cans of deer urine are pressurized to allow you to easily spray out the scent, while other products simply contain buck or doe urine in a bottle, allowing you to pour out a small bit on a rag or dip a scent wick directly into it. In addition, there are also scent sticks that resemble deodorant, such as the popular VS1 deer scent.
The spray scents are definitely easier to use, as they can be sprayed anywhere you want, whether on a tree, the ground or a rag that you drag behind you or hang in a tree. However, many hunters still prefer the bottled deer urine, which allows you to fully soak a rag or wick without any waste. Some hunters also believe the bottled urine to be more powerful and thus more effective. Still, no matter which type of urine you choose, there are several different strategies that can be effective.
Cover Scent & Attractant Use
If using the urine mostly as a cover scent, all you need to do is ensure that the urine is placed so that it masks your smell from travelling downwind. Many experts recommend applying the urine to both the right and left side of your stand if hunting a trail, as this will keep you covered in case the wind shifts. You could also use a bit of urine in front of your stand if you're hunting a larger, more open area.
As urine can serve as both a cover scent and an attractant, this strategy works for both purposes. However, it's important to make sure that you hang or spray the urine in an area that’s within range and offers you a clear shot. While this is true when using any deer scent, it's especially important when using buck or basic doe urine for early and late season hunts. Although the urine may not be an especially strong attractant during these times, it will make any deer passing by stop and take a whiff, hopefully allowing you ample time to get a shot off. If placed properly, the urine can also get the deer to turn broadside to allow you to get a clean shot.
In addition to hanging scent wicks in trees, another strategy is to spray or dump a small amount of urine on a rag and then drag it behind you along a trail. This is an effective way to create a trail of scent that leads the deer directly to your scent wick or mock scrape you've set up within range of your stand.
Utilizing real scrapes or creating your own mock scrapes can also be super effective. For these scenarios, you can use any combination of buck urine, doe estrus, tarsal gland and preorbital/forehead gland scents. Just make sure you use the latter two properly, i.e. the tarsal gland scent on the ground with a bit of buck urine and the preorbital gland scent on a tree branch just above.
When making a mock scrape, make sure to choose a good, open spot under a strong licking branch. Then kick away all of the leaves and debris to expose a wide area of fresh soil. The smell of the soil itself already serves as an attractant, which is made more powerful with the addition of urine. As well, there are a number of so-called scrape starters (which mostly contain tarsal gland scent and urine) that can be used to add an extra layer of realism.
Urine With Deer Decoys
Urine can also be used in conjunction with deer decoys to increase their effectiveness. However, it's important that you place the scent where the deer expects it to be. This means if you're using a doe decoy, there's no need to spray or hang the scent from a tree near the decoy. Instead spray a bit of urine on the rear of the decoy and on the ground just below it.
All of these strategies can be quite effective if used properly. However, all of them require that you use the best deer scent available to you in order to give you the best chance for success.