In most parts of the whitetail deer’s range, the early season is typically considered the month of September and the first half of October. Almost anyone who has been hunting for many years is likely to tell you that it’s one of the best times to score on a mature buck.
Early-season hunters have increased opportunities for success because deer – including mature bucks – have more patternable feeding habits and travel routes during this timeframe. These patternable habits occur several weeks to a month before a buck begins contemplating fighting to establish dominance. Before they begin taking an interest in does, bucks seem to only have food, water, and bedding on their mind. They tend to repeat their behaviors and, therefore, act much more predictably.
While early-season bucks can be relatively simple to the pattern, hunters still need to seal the deal by beating a buck’s best defense; his nose. And because early-season hunting is largely done with archery equipment, that means hunters need to get close. Scent-control is a must.
Controlling human odor while temperatures are still warm can be a challenge. Follow the five steps below, however, and the reward can be a trophy buck on the ground.
Wear the Proper Clothing
Wearing the proper clothing is a critical factor in staying cool, comfortable, and – most importantly – as scent-free as possible during the warm temperatures of the early season. Hunters need to ensure that they are wearing breathable garments that are moisture-wicking and incorporate effective odor-controlling technology. This year I have been wearing the Shield Series Angatec ¼ Zip Pullover, Performance Shirt, and Pants that feature a moisture-wicking fabric that helps keep me cool and dry. That’s important for comfort, but staying dry also helps prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria. To combat the bacteria that does attempt to grow, Angatec apparel features Blocker Outdoors’ S3 silver antimicrobial technology to help prevent odors before they can form.
I became a fan of using antimicrobial, silver-based products to help control odors several years ago. The Blocker Outdoors S3 Technology uses silver ions that bind to and penetrate the surface of odor-causing bacteria. Silver disrupts the microbe's DNA, preventing the formation of odor. Hospitals use a closely related technology to treat burn victims. Bandages incorporating silver threads are used to cover wounds and work to prevent infection by keeping bacteria from growing. The silver in my hunting clothing works the same way but to a different end, in this case fighting off the bacteria that leads to odor. Whether it’s antimicrobial technology to prevent the formation of odors in the first place, carbon technologies to adsorb and contain odors after they form, or a combination of these technologies, hunters can gain a massive advantage in the constant fight with a whitetail's nose by adding scent-control apparel to their early-season arsenal.
Use Scent-Controlling Products Before The Hunt
After the hunter has selected the proper garments, it’s time to take care of them. The first step is washing all hunting clothes in a scent-free detergent, then drying and storing them in scent-free or scent-controlling container. This can be as simple as placing them inside a sealed bag or plastic tote, but today’s ozone-storage bags like the ScentLok BE:1 8K Ozone Bag take things a step further by bathing apparel and gear in odor-destroying ozone. Storing clothes in a sealed container or ozone storage bag will protect them from picking up unwanted odors from the garage, truck bed, etc., until you are ready to hunt.
Next, it’s time to prepare your body. After all, it’s not the smell of clothing that spooks deer; it’s the smell of a human that will put them on alert. To allow your scent-control clothing to perform its best, it’s critical to eliminate as much human odor as possible before you ever touch them or put them on. Shower immediately before the hunt with scent-free soaps and shampoos. This will remove existing odor-causing bacteria from your body without adding any foreign odors from perfumes or other scents contained in normal hygiene products. Dress only when you get to your hunting location, then complete your scent-control regimen by spraying your boots, gear, pack, bow, gun, and anything else you’ll take into the field with a scent-killing spray. Since temperatures can remain high during the early season, it’s wise to take your spray with you and use it periodically while sitting in the stand.
Mind the Wind
Hunting the wind has been a debate among hunters for years and will continue for years to come. Some say always pay attention to wind direction; others simply don’t worry about it. In my opinion, a hunter pursuing an animal whose primary survival instinct is its sense of smell should always respect that fact and try to use the wind direction in their favor. I have adapted this idea from being an avid predator hunter. I’ve learned that I’ll never fool a coyote’s nose one hundred percent, so I must pay attention to wind direction all the time. I have somewhat of the same opinion with respect to deer. Yes, you can certainly fool them by using a strict scent-control regimen incorporating a complete range of today’s incredible products, but I prefer not to take the chance if I don’t have to. To me, the wind is just one more tool in my scent-control arsenal, and I can use it to increase my advantage – especially during the special challenges presented by the warm temperatures of the early season when human scent can develop faster. How do I use it to my advantage? I carry and use a wind indicator before and throughout the hunt so I always know its direction. Armed with this information, I’ll always refrain from hunting any particular spot if I don’t feel the wind is right.
Pay Attention When Walking to Your Stan
Getting to and from one’s stand “cleanly” is important on any hunt, but especially so during the early season when it’s easy to become overheated. Sweat is enemy number one because it’s one of the leading causes of human odor.
To prevent excessive sweating, be cautious of how you walk to your stand or blind. Taking the quickest or most direct route can help. Use fencerows, old roads, creek beds, or other natural travel routes to make the trek easier. Pay attention to the terrain. Try to avoid going up hills or busting through the difficult cover. Do whatever you can to make your walk as leisurely as possible. Allow plenty of time to get to the stand so you feel comfortable moving more slowly. Stop and cool down with a drink of water. Wear minimal clothing and do anything you can to avoid overheating.
Stay in the Shade
On a recent early-season hunt, I found myself taking all the necessary precautions to control my scent, only to find myself sitting directly in the blazing sunlight for the first hour of my evening sit. I baked myself like a Thanksgiving turkey, causing me to break into a sweat. Fortunately, my pre-hunt scent-control efforts and Angatec clothing still worked. My sweat dried quickly once the shade set in, and the antimicrobial treatment prevented odors from forming. I encountered several deer that evening, which gave me a lot of confidence in my scent-control strategies. Still, I learned something new: always sit in the shade when possible during the early season.
It’s really never a good idea to sit in the sun when deer hunting. While the sunshine might feel good on your face and shoulders during a late-season outing, shade helps conceal you from approaching deer. Pay attention to the path of the sun when hanging stands before the season starts. Visualize where the sun will be and select trees and areas that will allow you to remain in the shadows as much as possible. Not only will it keep you cooler during the early season, but you’ll also gain advantages with respect to concealment.
More-predictable whitetail travel patterns and behaviors give early-season deer hunters a decided advantage. Indeed, it’s a special time of year that’s full of increased opportunity to execute a well-calculated ambush on a trophy buck – as long as you’re prepared to combat the special challenges of warm-weather scent control. Wear scent-control clothing, take care of your body before the hunt, pay increased attention to the wind, and do everything you can to avoid overheating, and you’ll put yourself in a position to earn early-season success.
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