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The Path to Success

5 Early Season Tips for Bow Hunters

 

The Path to Success

If you leave a traditional scent trail from point A to point B, a buck will follow your scent trail in the wrong direction half of the time. By creating a figure 8 regardless of where the buck cuts the trail and regardless of which way he travels eventually he passes by you.

Todd

By Todd Amenrud

With his nose to the ground the buck followed my scent trail heading away from my stand. My binoculars told me that this was one of the bucks on my “hit list,” a very respectable 4x4 with massive antler bases. I didn’t like to see him head off the wrong way, but I wasn’t too worried because I had planned accordingly. About a half hour later the buck reappeared following the same scent trail but now in my direction. When he reached 22 yards out I drove a projectile through both lungs and the buck toppled over after a short dash.
Some bowhunters complain of not having a lot of shot opportunities at bucks. Many see plenty of deer but just can’t get them close for the shot. One of my favorite tactics to lure in bucks close is by leading them with a scent trail. If you can fool their unbelievable sense of smell, you’ve got it made.
To begin, when using lures and scent in any way for whitetails you must keep foreign odors out of the picture. Scent Killer, rubber boots and rubber gloves will help you to reduce scent transfer. You want to leave the “good smell” not a “danger smell.” To a nose as powerful as a whitetail’s I don’t think there is such a thing as “totally scent free,” but I am positive that by using the Scent Killer system and paying attention to some details that I can reduce odors to only trace levels that even a mature buck will tolerate in close proximity.
We have many different tools we can use to create scent trails; hunters might use boot-pads, drag-rags or atomizers. However, my preferred way of leaving a trail is with a device called a Pro-Drag. It is a super absorbent piece of felt tied to a string. The string you can then tie to a stick found in the area. This way you’re able to drag the scent trail off of the exact path your feet are leaving. Obviously, in thick brush or heavy timber you can’t drag the trail off to one side, but where ever possible this method will leave the cleanest, most pristine scent trail possible.
This type of drag also leaves the scent in contact with the ground almost continuously. It leaves a much easier trail for the buck to follow than boot pads. Boot pads are still a good way to leave a trail, but with each step you take the scent away from ground contact. With the Pro-Drag the scent is in contact with the ground most of the time so the buck can put his nose to the ground and “go to town.” It’s also easy to control over fences or through wet areas.
The type of scent you leave should have an influence over the type of trail, the distance you leave it and the tools you use. When using “deer smells” like an estrus lure or buck urine, I will often leave long trails. In fact, I’ve been known to drag trails right off of my ATV down a logging road. Whitetails travel these roads all the time so it would be a natural route and bucks will often put on ten miles or more during a day in search for a hot doe. I’ve had long estrus trails work well during the rut. It can also work well for curiosity type lures and even food smells, but those scent trails I tend to make shorter. When making long trails, stop to reapply the scent from time to time to create an easy to follow trail for your buck.
When leaving a scent trail in a single line, you’ve only got a fifty-fifty chance the buck will follow your trail in your direction. Half of the time they follow it in the wrong direction. Since they’re looking for the “goodies” at the end of the trail, even if they do follow it in the wrong direction when they get to where you started the trail and they don’t find what they’re looking for, sometimes they’ll follow it back in your direction. It might not be that they immediately turn around and go back in the other direction. I’ve seen a buck come back several hours later and follow the trail the opposite way. In fact, I’ve watched bucks go back and forth several times on a scent trail. If a buck crosses your trail and heads the wrong way, don’t give up hope.
A cure-all for this problem can be a “figure 8” scent trail. Create your scent trail in a figure 8 and place yourself downwind of the intersection of the 8. This way regardless of where the buck cuts the trail or which way he follows it, eventually he’ll wind up in front of you.
This may or may not be the best way for you to leave a trail; you have to use your judgment. Maybe you would be making too much commotion or contaminating the area too much with human scent to make this tactic work like it should, but I’ve seen this method fool even mature Pope & Young candidates time and time again.
During early season my favorite scent to use is Trail’s End #307 or Hot Musk. Closer to the rut I like to use Special Golden Estrus. Just think about what that specific buck wants at that specific time of the season. You need to give them a reason to follow your trail. If you smell hot apple pie you’re apt to find the origin of that smell, but if you smell rotten garbage you’re likely going to avoid the source.
Regardless of how you make the trail, when you get to your ambush site take the boot pad, rag or Pro-Drag off and place it crosswind or upwind of your position. I prefer crosswind at about my maximum shooting range for a single line trail and I prefer upwind at my maximum range if I’m making a figure 8 trail. The main reason, you want to draw the buck in, but you don’t want him to smell you. If you keep the smell with you, in essence you’re calling out to the buck, “here I am, smell me over here!” You do not want the attention focused on you.
Sometimes a scent trail can be the perfect opportunity for a decoy. Again, it’s about focusing the attention on something other than your position. If a buck is searching for the source of the smell, he’s looking for any sign of movement and anything out of the ordinary. So you want to do whatever you can to keep the attention off of you. Once he follows the smell into the area, often the decoy will keep them mesmerized so you can draw and make the shot.
Obviously, every situation is different. As I said, sometimes this tactic may require more commotion or scent transfer than is wise to perform. However, scent trails can also be a great way to bring bucks in close enough for an easy archery shot.

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The Path to Success

By Kurt Amundson
Wow that time of year again. It is September and for bow hunters in Minnesota that means opening day. If the weather persists like it has, the opener should be cooler and pleasant. Here are five not so “generic” tips for you to score a buck or a doe in the first week or two of the season.
Soybeans: Food sources are often the key to filling an early season tag. This is one of the best times of the year to pattern a mature buck or shoot a management tag doe, and the food source is often soybeans. .
The predictable routine is for the deer to bed in security cover and then enter the soybean field an hour or so before dark. If you—the hunter can be set up somewhere in between and downwind you will have a chance at that deer.
Pre-season scouting is necessary, whether it be from long distance scouting or with game cameras.
Once the soybeans start to mature and turn brown, deer tend to move to a different food source such as acorns, alfalfa or even corn if it is maturing.
Acorns: Speaking of acorns, I have a large number of bur oak trees on my properties. This year the acorns from the trees are minimal.
If you are fortunate to find an oak tree with a good number of acorns dropping from the tree right around the bow opener, then you should make sure you have a stand near that tree. Deer love acorns, everyone knows that, but they especially like to feed on acorns in the morning hours. That is why I often sit near beans/alfalfa in the evening and near oak trees in the morning hours. A “hot” oak tree in the middle of the timber or even near the edge of a wood lot will draw bucks and does in to feed. The prime time seems to be 7:00 am to 10:30 am, this according to my observations and from my game camera video clips.
Water Holes: In the past two years, I’ve spent a few dollars making small waterholes for deer in the timber. Although I can’t say that I have shot a deer over the newly created mini-ponds, I will say that it seems to help keep the deer in the area and I have several pictures of bucks and does drinking from the waterholes.
Natural ponds, creeks and even lakes are good early season spots for a stand, especially if it is hot and dry. In 2003 I saw a pope & young 8 point buck go for a swim (literally) in a deeper pond just to cool down. Water is very important to deer in September. It should be considered a high priority spot if you have access to land that has natural or man-made water sources.
Eqyptian Wheat/Screen: This tip if primarily for next year. If you have never tried planting Eqyptian Wheat as a screen to cover your entrance to and from a stand, you may have been missing out. I planted Eqyptian Wheat/Sorghum mix (Plot Screen by Frigid Forage) and I am extremely impressed. This mix grows 10-12 feet tall and creates a screen for entrance, or provides a screen for your early season food plot (clover, beans, peas, etc..) This will be a must have plot for me in the future, and it is easy to grow and does well even in dry conditions.
This is an absolute game changer in my opinion. An early season plot can be screened from view and will make the deer much more comfortable entering the field during shooting time. There you will sit in a nearby tree stand or ground blind to reap the harvest!
Corn Fields make Natural Ground Blinds: If you can locate a corn field with an alfalfa field, pasture, wheat stubble or soybean field next to it, you may have a great location for a natural ground blind. A corn field ground blind is really simple. Bring a 5 gallon bucket or small folding chair and sit a few feet into the corn. You can scan the entire adjacent field from this location.
Make sure you have an idea of where the deer will be coming from, so that you can play the wind. I have tried this over the years and you can stay surprisingly concealed in the corn.
You will be shooting from a natural sitting position, so you may want to practice this ahead of time. Many of the deer that I have seen while sitting in the corn actually come out of the corn. These corn fields have become preferred bedding areas for deer, and big bucks really like the security of corn.
Do not bend or rip stalks down, unless you have permission from the farmer. It works, you will be surprised how easy and effective it is, and you may be able to hunt an area in which no one else would even think about sitting!
Good luck to everyone, let’s hope we have cool weather , and I hope you can use one or all of these 5 early season tips to tag an September whitetail this fall.

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