“Cover scents,” also called “masking scents,” are designed to disguise “fear smells” on a hunter (primarily human scent) to help them go undetected to whitetails and other big game. One might ask, “Can these aromas really disguise the smells of a sweaty, onion-eating, smoking hunter, to a sense of smell that is so far superior to ours it’s difficult to comprehend?” The short answer is “yes,” it can help, however, there are some things we can do to ensure their success.
Cover scents are most often odors from common things already found in a whitetails’ domain. They can be smells from other animals such as fox or raccoon urine, odors from things they eat like apples or acorns, or they may replicate other common smells from the forest like cedar, pine or earth.
The following scenario everyone should be able to understand and it may help explain a bit about cover scents. When you wake up in the morning, someone is making breakfast and things smell great! You can smell the bacon frying … BUT you can also smell the coffee brewing, the toast browning, and the can of cat food you just opened up (don’t forget to feed fluffy). One strong smell doesn’t cancel out all others. So reduction of the most offensive odors should be a top priority, with special attention paid to human scent. THEN, a cover scent can be used to try and disguise any persisting odor.
Begin with a sound system of scent elimination and reduction. Then if you choose, use the cover scent to mask any remaining odors. I have used the Scent Killer System for over 30 years and strongly believe in the results. Foreign odors must be reduced as much as possible on your clothing, your hair, body and breath, and on your equipment.
Field & Stream did a test on cover scents a few years ago using German Shepherds as stand-ins for whitetails. Some smells did a bit better than others, but NONE were effective at completely hiding the target human. A German Shepherd has approximately 225 million nasal receptors. Get this … a whitetail has 300 million nasal receptors! So cover scent usage all begins with odor reduction.
A little common sense goes a long way, too. You can’t hunt an oak woods reeking of cedar cover scent and expect to fool an animal with a sense of smell as strong as a bloodhound. The smell should most often be from something they would encounter in their travels anyhow. Should you use earth cover after the ground is frozen and there is a blanket of snow covering the ground? Think! They have a superior sense of smell, but our brain is one area where we’re advanced over whitetails.
How should you use or apply cover scents? I know hunters who douse themselves (boots and/or clothing) with their favorite cover scents. It isn’t too bad when it’s a smell that I consider pleasing like apple or cedar, but when your huntin’ buddy pongs with the odor of fox urine (or I know others who use estrus urine), I don’t want to be anywhere close to them, whether we’re hunting or not.
For another reason I feel you should NOT put these smells on your person or equipment. After some have been applied, the smells can change, and in fact, chemically transform. Urine odors are notorious for changing when applied to certain surfaces – always use a genuine felt wick or pad when using them. If you put it on your boots or clothing, you may end up stinking like two week-old pee.
The smells can also change if they are sealed in a container. Here’s one for the hunter who takes pine-boughs or a bunch of leaves and throws them in a container with their hunting clothing. If there is ANY moisture in ANYTHING you place in with your clothing a chemical reaction begins. Even with a human’s limited sense of smell, you can smell the difference. After a week of sitting in with your hunting clothing, take that pine-bough and compare it to a fresh one you just cut – there is a huge difference.
Instead, reply upon your system of scent elimination. Keep your boots and clothing free from ANY odor if possible. Rather than using pine or cedar boughs, earth or leaves in your clothing’s container; after your clothes have been washed in Scent Killer and TOTALLY dried, place a Scent Killer No-Zone Tote Tamer in with your clothes. They fight and absorb odor and moisture and offer a safe, Ozone-free alternative to keep your clothing as scent-free as possible.
None of the smells I’ve mentioned are “danger smells” to a whitetail, but they are still smells. A whitetail wants to know where everything is within their territory and because they know how to play the air and thermal currents, they will pinpoint the source of the smell. Don’t put these smells on your person! In essence what you’re saying to a buck is, “Here I am, smell me over here!” Rather, put them on a wick, pad or drag (a Key Wick is my choice) and place it a short distance downwind of your spot.
I must be honest; I don’t use cover scent to mask the odors from my person very often – I do; however; literally use gallons of Scent Killer Gold during the hunting season. I would just as soon “smell invisible” if there is such a thing to an olfactory sense that sophisticated. But one cover scent that I do find invaluable is Wildlife Research Center’s Premium Fox Urine. This is very helpful to cover the possible smells I may be leaving behind on my trail when I must approach a site down a path that I believe whitetails will also use or cross. Coon urine can also work. Both of these animals are common everywhere whitetails roam. The cover scent is laid down on my trail with a Pro-Drag, and when I get to my location, I take the Pro-Drag and place it away from me a short distance downwind or crosswind.
Some cover scents can also be used as attractants. Whether it’s a curiosity odor like vanilla, cherry extract or anise, or smells from things they eat like apples or acorns, whitetails will often close the distance to come to these scents to experience the source at its peak.
You may have seen how bucks are drawn to fresh scrapes. In fact, in a couple tests I have seen bucks show up to numerous sites where the earth has been disturbed, whether there’s a scrape there or not. I believe the reason is “geosmin,” an organic compound created by soil microorganisms called “actinomycetes.” It’s what causes that “fresh dirt smell” and exists in the top couple inches of soil and decomposing forest litter where most of microorganism activity occurs. So believe it or not, earth cover scent can also work as an attractor. X-tra Concentrated Earth Masking Scent should be your choice for this, or for simply using as a cover.
There is no substitute for playing the wind and keeping deer upwind or crosswind of you whenever possible. But whitetails and other big game often do things we aren’t expecting. Cover scents work, but you must begin with a sound system of scent elimination, use common sense when choosing which to use and how to use it, and learn how to play the wind and thermal – results will follow.
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