When it comes to scent control for whitetail bucks, many rifle hunters love to debate back and forth about whether it matters. Those with a bow in their hands have to take the matter more seriously, though. They know better than anyone about a whitetail’s unrivaled sense of smell.
It comes as no surprise that businesses are quick to help hunters address such a concern with scent masking options galore. Each bottle or spray provides varying usage suggestions for maximizing your scent protection potential. Scent-locking clothing is another recent scent-related craze.
So what did hunters who stalked whitetails at close range do before there were shelves full of convenient remedies to solve the scent problem? Most didn’t ignore the scent factor. They improvised. Centuries ago, hunters went into the woods, farmyards and beyond for some help. This proves that today’s scent control products stem from more than a money-making gimmick. Here are five scent blockers from nature that our ancestors came up with and put to good use.
Turpentine, which is the result of distilled pine resin, was used many years ago and some still take advantage of it. Oils from aromatherapy retailers can be used as well. Just remember that a few drops will be plenty. Too much of a good thing will cause the opposite of what you want.
We know that Rabbit Tobacco, an aromatic plant found in the wilds of North America, was used by settlers and Native Americans as early as the 1800s. The plant was likely used many centuries before that though there’s no concrete way to prove it. Rabbit tobacco was readily available over a large swath of North America. It’s found as far west as Manitoba to Texas and as far east as Nova Scotia to Florida.
The plant was smoked, used for medicinal purposes and served the purpose of masking scent. Flowers and leaves of the plant were crushed, balled up and placed in belts or under hats for scent control. Rabbit tobacco is also known as cudweed, sweet balsam, poverty weed, sweet everlasting and featherweed. The plant is found in fields, grows up to three feet tall and has green leaves that appear silver underneath. Deer in its range are quite familiar with rabbit tobacco’s pleasant aroma.
Even children can’t help but notice the attention-grabbing aroma of pine needles. A potent smell along with easy access made scent masking with pine needles a no brainer many years ago. The needles were crushed and the juices rubbed onto clothing. This method is one of the more common natural scent masks still used today. The most effective means is to use pines found in the area that you will be hunting. Natural scents that are used in the wrong area can tip off a whitetail buck that something is wrong.
To this day, no “natural” scent masker is probably more debated than the use of smoke to eliminate human odor. Although this was used centuries ago, some still worry that it could spook deer since it’s not considered as natural as plant material. The reality likely falls somewhere in the middle. Usage in areas where campfires are common would likely make this method more effective.
For those who hunted near livestock, manure was used on boots to help mask scent. Since whitetails aren’t intimidated by domesticated animals such as cattle, that makes sense. Even today, this tactic is used by farmland hunters for an extra edge.
Every dedicated bow hunter for whitetail bucks eventually develops a scent program that works for them. If part of that system involves store-bought products, that’s great. It’s also intriguing to consider what worked for many a hunter hundreds of years ago. These natural scent options are a worthy consideration today as well.
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