Hunting The Wrong Wind

The author shares tricks that have had mature bucks approach from directly downwind.

Matt Adcock | September 25, 2013

I was getting close, at least that is what my GPS was telling me. My flashlight scanned back and forth looking for the lone bright eye I had placed on the tree earlier in the week. I finally saw the reflection in the distance, and I knew I was there. Even though I had found my spot, I had a lost feeling in my stomach. The massive 10-pointer I had been hunting had been shot by a club member exactly one week before. I had gone all in on that buck and had four lock-on stands strategically placed along his circuit. With him gone, I didn’t have a good buck to hunt. I had scouted two days before and found some good sign, but that didn’t change the fact that I had devoted a lot of time and effort going after the biggest buck on our club, and he was now gone.

As I slowly took my Lone Wolf climbing stand higher, I thought about my current setup. I was in a small opening in a thicket under two swamp chestnut oaks that were raining acorns. The deer had the leaves scattered, and I had found a nice rub on my previous scouting trip. And when the gray darkness turned to light, I could see four more fresh rubs. I kept my eyes and ears on full alert until I felt my phone vibrate. I just knew one of my hunting buddies had tagged a good buck, so I checked the message. It was a funny picture. Who would send a joke message during prime hunting hours?

My focus immediately returned when I heard the muffled sound of hooves hitting wet leaves. I didn’t know where the sound came from, but I quickly put down the phone and stood up. As I turned my head to the right, a huge buck raised his head not 5 yards from my tree. He was smelling my entry trail. I quickly hooked up my release and drew my Obsession Lethal Force. Before I could settle my sight pin, the buck was on the move. I grunted twice with my mouth to stop him, but he just kept on moving. He went behind several brushy trees, and since I didn’t want him to stop there, I didn’t grunt. As fate would have it, he stopped directly behind a large bush. Straining to find a clear shot, I leaned forward and found a small opening. I would either thread the needle and make a good shot or hit the limbs, and the buck would be gone.

Confident with my shooting, I took the 12-yard shot. I touched the release, and my adrenaline starting pumping. I made a good shot. I waited two hours before I started to look for the buck, and the Bi-Polar broadhead left a massive blood trail.

After just more than 100 yards and no buck, I started to second guess my shot. I knew from the amount of blood loss that the buck should be very close, because they can’t lose that much blood and continue. Did I just graze him and it was just a low flesh wound? I made a call to my friend Mike Lopez in Perry. His 3-year-old Texas blue lacy is an up-and-coming star in the world of tracking dogs. Mike said he was coming, because he wanted to put Lucy on another good blood trail.

It didn’t take Lucy long to find my buck. It was my largest Georgia buck to date and the seventh-best bow-kill ever in Laurens County with an official score of 132 2/8 inches.

This buck not only tagged me out on Georgia bucks but also got me thinking about my setup. I had the wind in my face, and this buck was directly downwind when he came by me. And this wasn’t the only time last year I had deer approach me from directly downwind. If using the correct setup and tactics, your downwind side doesn’t have to be a liability.

Turn The Wrong Wind Into The Right Wind

I don’t usually go out and hunt an area on the wrong wind, but sometimes a variable wind will diminish your chances by spreading your scent in multiple directions. To understand scent dispersion, you need to understand the effects that wind has on your scent. While on stand, your scent is spread downwind in the shape of a cone. That simply means the farther your scent travels, the wider the area it covers. A 90-degree change in the wind direction can mean your scent stream could then cover 180 degrees of area behind you. Simply put, half the deer in your area might be able to smell you. Take extreme care to be as clean as possible.

Being clean simply means how many skin cells you shed. Gram positive bacteria on the skin produce a gas that deer can detect. These bacteria are constantly falling (sloughing) off the body with skin cells. Have you ever seen a video of a doctor washing his fingers and hands prior to surgery? This is how you should wash your exposed skin prior to hunting. The areas of the body where cells slough the most are the hands, the oily crease on each side of the nose, just behind your ears and on your neck. These areas should be scrubbed thoroughly before hunting to exfoliate the skin wherever possible. This will decrease your scent signature tremendously. If a deer smells a human, you will almost certainly lose. So the first step in turning the wrong wind into the right wind is to reduce your human odor.

You should cover all your exposed skin and hair with a neck gaiter or headnet. I prefer the Scent-Lok head cover because it is long and fits nicely, but any solid headnet will help. Try to avoid cotton clothing or head covers; they don’t prevent scent dispersion. I have a pair of bowhunting gloves that are lightweight and thin, and they work great for covering the hands and wrists.

For additional scent reduction, use a scent eliminator on your clothing and gear. I use Scent Assassin, but any quality scent eliminator will work.

Now that you know how to reduce human odor, there are three ways that I hunt the “wrong wind” and turn the wrong wind into the right wind: Scent Trails, Scent Blasts and Scent Streams.

Scent Trails

I make my scent trails a little different than most people, and it utilizes a little more scent. When I’m 50 to 75 yards from my stand location, I spray one spray of Bowhunter’s Fatal Obsession (BFO) every three or four steps. I spray it low and in front of me as I’m walking, and my forward movement disperses the scent. The scent particles get on my boots and lower pants as I’m walking. I have had multiple deer follow this trail all the way to the tree, so I usually make a semi-circle around the tree I’m climbing, so I’ll have a broadside shot if this happens. When I first saw the buck in the opening paragraph, he was standing in and smelling my scent trail. Without that trail to stop him, I might not have gotten a shot.

Rodney Mays, of Whitesburg, made his scent trails a little differently last hunting season. He was hunting a 30-acre tract in the suburbs of Atlanta and got to his stand a lot earlier than anticipated. He decided to put out a double scent line. He walked back to the scrapes he had seen while walking in and sprayed the scrapes with BFO. He then sprayed a drag rag he had tied to his boot and walked back toward his stand. He stopped a couple of times to respray the drag rag. Once he got close to his stand, he unsnapped the rag and carried it past the tree about 75 yards. He then attached it back to his boot, sprayed it again with BFO, and dragged it back toward his stand. He then hung the drag rag about 15 yards from his stand as high in a tree as he could reach.

Shortly after daylight, he had several small bucks and a couple of does follow the scent line to his stand. It was almost 45 minutes after those deer mingled off that he heard a deer walking in a thicket 50 yards behind him. He got glimpses of the nice buck as it walked parallel to his stand. The buck was heading directly toward where he had put down his scent line. He lost the buck momentarily in the brush, but when he saw him again, the buck was on his scent line with his nose to the ground. He followed the scent line to within 20 yards of Rodney’s stand. That 12-pointer was Rodney’s third Georgia P&Y.

Scent Blasts

Tim Knight, of Dublin, showed me a trick he uses while sitting on the stand. He throws a capful of BFO in all four directions around his stand. I use this technique just about every time I get in any stand. I call it a “Scent Blast.” It saturates the area with deer scent and it will stop an approaching deer in its tracks. This is vital when rattling or grunting because it keeps the deer from being directly under you and gives you a better shot angle.

Depending on how high I climb, I can throw a capful 6 to 8 yards from the tree. That is a little closer than I like for deer to get, but it’s much better than straight down. If I have an opening or a shooting lane where I want a deer to stop, I’ll spray or put a capful of BFO directly in that spot. This worked perfectly on the 2011 10-pointer that I wrote about in last year’s GON article titled “Jungle Bucks.”

Scent Streams

Last season, I tried an experiment with BFO. I was sitting in the corner of a small field and was hunting some dropping sawtooth oaks. The wind was out of the west and was blowing directly into a thicket behind me. I knew the thicket might hold some deer, and I didn’t want to spook them with the wind blowing directly in their direction. After making a scent blast, I sprayed BFO every time I felt the wind blow. I sprayed dozens of times, and the wind carried the scent particles directly into the thicket.

It wasn’t long before I heard a deer approaching. The doe didn’t come down the large trail leading to the sawtooths. She was coming straight to me from directly downwind. She had her nose high in the air and was smelling with every step. She cautiously passed by me and gave me a perfect quartering-away shot at 12 yards.

Later in the season, I decided to go deep into the swamp to hunt big-buck sign I had found on an earlier scouting trip. I was perched high in an oak well before daylight, but the wind I had was terrible. It would blow one way one minute and the opposite direction the next. I knew the buck was walking from the west to the east, and every time the wind blew from the east, I sprayed BFO. I wanted the scent stream to saturate that direction.

Just after 8 a.m., and almost a half bottle of BFO later, I heard foot steps behind me. Looking over my left shoulder, I saw a large-bodied buck coming across the hardwood flat with his nose in the air. I knew immediately he was a shooter. I stood up quickly and starting running through my options on how I was going to shoot him since he was coming up behind me. As he approached, I noticed he was only a 7-pointer. Being in the GON Bow Hunter Challenge last year, I wanted an 8-pointer or better. I decided I wouldn’t shoot this big buck, even though I guessed his age at 4 1/2 years. The buck advanced to 10 yards and just stood there smelling the millions of scent molecules I had sprayed.

It was then that an interesting thing happened—the buck smelled me. His eyes opened wide, and I could see he had smelled human scent. I expected him to come unglued and bolt. This buck was directly downwind at 10 yards, but instead of bolting, he jumped twice and stopped. He just flicked his tail giving the “It’s alright” signal and just looked around. He was then 15 yards quartering away giving me a perfect shot. This was the largest buck I had ever let walk in Georgia. So what happened?

In my opinion, the BFO blocked so much of my human scent that the buck didn’t know I was there. He smelled human scent, but because there were so many other molecules with a greater affinity to his olfactory receptors, he only smelled a few human scent molecules. He thought he was smelling human scent that was days old.

I told this encounter to Dennis Lewis, the maker of BFO, and he wasn’t surprised. He told me it was an encounter like this that caused him to buy a scent company back in the early 90s. Before owning Obsession Bows and Whitetail Obsession, Dennis used to manage for Revco Drugs. One day after work, he didn’t have time to shower and went hunting straight from work. He saturated his clothes down with scent and sprayed a nearby scrape as well. Once on stand, the wind was blowing directly toward the area where he thought a big buck was bedded, so he misted the scent into the air every few minutes trying to mask his odor.

It wasn’t long before he saw a good buck come out of the thicket, lip curl, and walk directly up to the scrape he had sprayed. This buck was Dennis’ third Georgia P&Y in two years, and the encounter impressed him so much that he quit his job and bought the scent company. That company was called Scrape Juice. After many years of scent making, Dennis said he has perfected his scent in what we now know as BFO.

These are just a few examples of how a deer scent can be utilized to turn the wrong wind direction into a good spot to hunt.

The next time you head to the woods and the wind is variable, take out your favorite deer lure and try to make something happen. One thing is certain, if you do nothing, your scent will be alerting all of the deer that are downwind of you.

And if they smell you, you lose!

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