When deer hunting, I worry a lot about scent. Not to the point of wearing specialized clothes, pouring doe urine or some other flavor on my boots, or making sure my clothes stay in a pine-cone filled travel tub when I’m not hunting, but I do worry.
Instead, my preparation comes with simply playing the wind. I have a few stand locations – a couple that are better with a south wind and a couple with a north wind. Yet I’m always wondering if I’m been smelled.
Last year, I stepped into the woods late one afternoon in early November at the tail end of a cold and drizzle-filled day. It was the type of day I was convinced I would be alone in the woods and when I could care less if I saw anything or not. I just wanted to sit in a tree.
About an hour before dark, a large deer, what I think was a nice buck, topped a hill in front of me about 150 yards away. His head repeatedly bobbed up and down until he turned to walk in the opposite direction of me. So I quickly grunted at him.
He stopped, turned in my direction, and stood motionless. Then he turned back to his original path. Another grunt. Another turn. We did this at least a half-dozen more times until he disappeared over the hill and out of sight.
A couple minutes later, the deer was walking down the hill in my general direction, but still maintaining its 150-yard distance. I grunted again. The deer stopped, again looking toward me, and started walking again toward the draw from where I was sitting.
I readied for the deer to take a right at the draw and head straight to me, but instead he crossed the draw and its creek, continuing to maintain its distance, and stopped, right behind me, 150 yards away. At which point the deer raised his head in the air, blew harshly, and white-tailed over the hill. The wind, that particular day, was blowing through my left cheek, toward the exact direction I last saw the deer.
With that day in mind, I covered my body in mosquito spray before walking into the woods this morning against all of my better judgment. And when I climbed up my tree, I grimaced. The wind was blowing directly into the woods to my left, at one of the key spots I usually see deer.
So I spent the first 45 minutes of the day watching in front of me, hoping that I could get a shot at one walking down the hill in my direction before making me. That was until I saw the doe 30 yards to my left, right in the path of my deet. I stood when she moved behind a row of trees, and waited for her to re-emerge.
But she didn’t, so I sat back down. Nearly 2 minutes later, she was now 15 yards away, crossing from right to left through the smallest gap in the woodline, head and nose repeatedly raising and lowering. Then she disappeared behind a different set of trees.
I stood and again and waited right until the point of sitting back down before she stepped through the opening to the corner of my field, her neck again extending to the sometimes overcast, sometimes sunny sky. She took two more steps forward and was now less than 12 yards away, directly downwind from me. I drew, aimed, and shot. The deer never took another step.
As I was field-dressing the deer and readying it for my deer cart, already soaked in sweat, I began to smell the intensity of the insect repellant on my clothes. All I could do was shake my head, much like I’ll do the next time I pump gas, eat onions, leave my clothes in the garage, or cover my face with sunscreen before going into the woods. Knowing that there’s no possible way, if my wind isn’t quite right, of killing a deer. Until it happens. Sometimes.
Hopefully the next time I’m in the field, preferably at about 7:20 AM this Saturday morning.
Note: While I did shoot video of the hunt, I still have some issues to work out before revealing footage.