It was a no-brainer—my game camera told the tale—at least a half-dozen shooters were cycling past my treestand every day. I was thrilled, as I had hung this stand specifically for the chase phase of the rut, but I simply couldn’t get the wind I needed to make an all-day sit. Yes, there were a few days when the wind was borderline, but I opted to wait. Then, just like that, it was over.
Lockdown hit my home woods hard, and my once smoking-hot stand turned ice cold. I had waited too long and missed my window of opportunity. I told myself it was just bad luck, and that there was nothing I could have done differently, but I knew I was only kidding myself. Honestly, what good is a perfect stand if you never sit it? So during the off-season, I vowed to never let this happen again. And since making that decision, it has paid off in spades. So, here’s how I find the perfect chase-phase stand, stay scent free, and get aggressive when the time is right.
The Great Game Camera
I realize game camera use is nothing new—bowhunters use them every year—but I have discovered a proven tactic that continually puts me in the right place when big bruisers start cruising hard for estrous does.
For starters, sit down and rack your brain about whitetail seasons past. Think about areas where you know big bucks have sought out does. Then, pull up Google Earth or an aerial map and analyze the terrain features. These features will give you further insight into why the areas you’re looking over are hot zones for big bucks. Now wait for the “October lull,” and then go hang a few game cameras in your predicted hotspots. I recommend waiting for the lull to hang cameras to cut down on foot traffic.
The goal is to keep your kill stands as fresh as possible. You will also want to hang a few observation stands where you can see lots of ground. Now it’s time to be passive—checking trail cameras only during non-peak movement hours—and taking extreme scent-elimination measures when doing so. This includes not touching any vegetation or your cameras with exposed skin. You will also want to spend time in your observation stands keeping tabs on deer movement. Use the combination of your scouting cameras and hands-on recon to tell you just when to strike.
The window of opportunity to arrow a buck from your chase-phase stand will be short, and I recommend going against the whitetail norm and sitting the same stand every day. What I’ve learned is that during the rut, antlers can appear from any direction, and while the wind may not be from a favorable direction for a specific location, it will most certainly be favorable for another. The key to not blowing the stand and alerting deer in the area is to take extreme scent-elimination precautions.
For starters, decide on a brand of scent-elimination products. Personal testing has shown me that your results will be better if you don’t mix and match. For example: If you’re going to use Wildlife Research Center products, then use these products to cleanse your body, wash and dry your clothes, and spray them down. The same holds true with other popular scent-elimination brands. You will develop a routine that works for you, but mine looks like this: Start each day by washing thoroughly with scent-eliminating soap and shampoo.
Dry with a towel that hasn’t been “poisoned” by regular laundry detergent and dried with a fragrant anti-static dryer sheet. Upon drying the body, brush teeth using a scent-eliminating toothpaste or regular baking soda. Dress in a regular long-sleeve shirt and sweats that have been washed, dried, and sprayed with scent-eliminating agents. Drive to the hunting area, remove hunting clothing from a scent-free tote, and walk into the woods.
The Best Gear
Alright, you know how to care for your clothes and to get dressed in the field, but there’s more. Scent-eliminating clothing has never been better, and you need to take full advantage of the technologies that are being offered. Again, I recommend picking a single garment manufacturer and sticking with them for your base layer, mid-layer, and outer-layer needs. Robinson Outdoor Products has some exciting new offerings that incorporate Trinity Smart Scent Control and S3 antimicrobial technology.
Under Armour offers its new Scent Control, which fuses an odor-trapping compound called Zeolite with pure antimicrobial silver to create a non-carbon based scent-management system. Masterminds at Scent-Lok have given bowhunters the Alpha Tech Jacket and Pants, which feature Scent-Lok’s Carbon Alloy Technology. Is one better than the other? That’s for you to decide. But don’t take to the woods without covering yourself in some form of scent-eliminating clothing.
Now for your boots, which will be in direct contact with the ground, your tree steps, and your platform for days on end. Again, try and find the most scent-containing boots possible. Under Armour’s new Spinex Thermal sports an infrared ceramic print coating that reflects heat back to the body and an antimicrobial molded Ortholite sock liner. Still popular from Robinson Outdoor Products is the Boa Knee Pro Boot. Other manufacturers have fine boot models as well that will help you fly under the radar of a crafty buck’s olfactory system.
Last on your gear agenda, and one item you shouldn’t leave home without, is the Ozonics HR-200 Treestand/Blind. This item, perhaps more than anything else, will keep you undetected when returning to the same stand day after day. The HR-200 mounts above you in the tree, and when turned on it transforms oxygen molecules into ozone molecules, which make your scent unrecognizable to deer.
While this gear may put a little dent in your wallet, it is essential to your success. If you’re going to maximize your opportunity and return to the same stand each day for a period of time, you better take every precaution possible.
Effective Entrance And Exit
The next part of my aggressive chase-phase system includes developing a low-impact, stealthy entrance and exit strategy. I do this through the use of Google Earth and while hanging my treestands. I always choose a route that will get me to my stand and out again without spooking deer in the area, and I always have more than one entrance/exit route. This allows me to play different winds. Before I walk to my killing tree for the first time, I take a rake and a weed trimmer to remove noisy debris and standing vegetation that will hinder my approach.
Oftentimes I don’t enter and exit on the same path, and these paths may take several minutes to negotiate. The trick is going slow and steady. When walking in, arrive early. Nothing is worse than having to rush to your stand. Do the same when walking out. Don’t get in a rush to get back to your truck—slow and steady wins the race. And, of course, get out of your hunting clothes and put them back in your scent-tote before getting in your vehicle.
I’d be lying if I said I enjoy all-day sits in a treestand, but I’ve found it to be a necessary ingredient in my aggressive whitetail recipe. Sitting all day ups your odds of an encounter with the buck of your dreams, and eliminates any daytime movement to and from the stand. Take a good book, your cell phone (just be sure it’s on vibrate) and some snacks, and dedicate yourself to staying on the stand from dawn till dark.
When you walk in that first morning, stop and pull your scouting camera and don’t put it up again until you’ve killed or have vacated the spot. Why? Studies show that even though scouting camera technology is at its peak, deer will still spook from them. You will be in the stand every day for multiple days. The idea behind a game camera is to show you what’s moving by your stand when you’re not there. When using this aggressive tactic, you will be there, so there is no need to take the chance.
No, you won’t know what’s happening throughout the night, but then again, you can’t shoot a buck then anyway. The idea is to do everything possible to stack the odds of success in your favor and eliminate every possible game-spooking scenario. While on stand, stay focused. The buck you’re waiting for can appear at any moment. Scan the terrain often with your binoculars and try to keep from getting fidgety. Constant up-and-down movement will tip your hand to a wary buck.
Don’t Get Lazy
I know it can get monotonous, but you must dedicate yourself to repeating your routine day in and day out. Honestly, you need to be obsessive about it. Don’t get lazy and start making the following mistakes:
- Showering at night and then slipping into bed. Your scent-free shower will be pointless the minute you slip under your covers
- Using a towel that hasn’t been washed in a scent-eliminating detergent
- Forgetting to brush your teeth
- Dressing at home and not in the field
- Wearing the same garments day after day
- Not spraying down thoroughly every morning before walking in
- Arriving at your hunt area late and hurrying into the woods
You will find that if you commit to staying scent-free and stealthy, your hard work and dedication will pay off. I know some of you may be shaking your head, thinking that I’ve broken some of the most established norms in whitetail hunting lore, but it’s often those who step out of the norm who reap the biggest rewards. I recommend you try this system and find out what rewards are waiting for you in the whitetail woods.
The author is a full-time outdoor writer. He lives in La Junta, Colorado, with his wife and three kids