By Larry Dablemont
I use to bow hunt a lot, when it was an October season. Never did bow hunt in September, nor will I, ever. Warm weather keeps me a fisherman. First frost makes me look for a tree stand and put on my camouflaged cap. I remember a little opening along an oak-hickory ridge where a secluded persimmon grove is nestled. It's in an old field where Ozark settlers once had a homestead, overgrown and small and ringed with big oaks. I once saw wild turkeys while I hunted there in the fall. Not anymore, they are going the way of ruffed grouse that were once found in Ozark forests.
That special place is on the lake and I get there by boat. Occasionally I sit there waiting for deer in October and wonder why I didn't go fishing instead. Bass fishing is often very good while I am bow hunting, or so I perceive it to be. But there have been times when I am fishing in the fall, and can’t catch a thing. That’s when I look past the end of some cove and remember an old tree stand a ways back from the lake and envision the track of a big buck deer that went past it just after a recent rain.
The thing that makes bass fishing and turkey hunting so much easier than deer hunting is scent. A bass doesn't care how a spinner-bait smells and a wild turkey couldn't smell a midsummer outhouse if he roosted on it. A turkey doesn't need to smell, he can see a bee on blossom 100 yards away. Wild turkeys can hear extremely well and see extremely well but I don’t think he can smell worth a darn. Maybe that is why they are now down to numbers that is less than half what there were 20 or 30 years ago.
A deer can hear well and if the wind is right, he can tell you what kind of cheese you have on your sandwich from a half mile away. And that is the problem for me. I have mastered everything that has to do with the outdoors except the art of using scent. Most experts will tell you they know everything. Not me! I know almost everything but there's that one problem I have worked on for years and I still can't it figure it out. I'm afraid every deer in the woods can smell me and they act accordingly. It isn't that I'm not familiar with all the tricks. I have put my hunting clothes in a bag of dirt and moss and leaves like some of my bow hunting friends do and I soak a pair of rubber boots with deer scent before I go into the woods.
Everything the good bow hunters do, I do...but I spend too much time deerless. This scent thing befuddles me, I think, because I can't smell a thing myself. I've got eyes like a hawk, if not like a turkey, and I can hear a squirrel gnawing on a nut way off in the distance. I can hear people talking about how bad I smell during the deer season from 15 or 20 feet away.
Years ago a friend of mine invented and marketed a doe-in-heat scent which is carried by bubbles on air currents. When I first heard of him sitting in a tree stand blowing bubbles from a bottle and a bubble wand, I near about rolled on the floor I laughed so hard. And then he killed a buck a week or so into the bow season that had antlers as wide as the handlebars on a Harley-Davidson.
I've got to do something, but I don't know what. My bubble blowing friend isn't going to give me many more bottles of those bubbles and I don't have any friends that will let me come to their house between now and Christmas because the scent of a “doe-in-heat” stays with you even better than Dial soap. I have one hunting shirt still buried out there in the leaves at the edge of woods because I was trying to give it an earthy smell and now I can't find it.
One veteran old bow hunter says I should switch to a more natural scent, like corn. He says that he puts several piles of corn around his tree stand and the scent of the corn draws deer like nothing else. You have to keep replenishing it because the deer and turkey keep eating it, but it works better than anything else. Of course the local game warden might consider that baiting, but it wouldn't be if you were just depending on the scent of the corn to draw the deer rather than the flavor of it. And besides that, if putting out something good to eat is taking an unfair advantage of a deer, what the heck do you call putting out the scent of a doe in heat? How many men do you know who would rather smell a steak dinner than "Evening in Paris" on some beautiful ladies neck?
Next week’s column is about catching some unusual fish of abnormal size just a couple of days back. And now that I think about it, the smell of fish shouldn’t scare a deer. Maybe I have come up with something.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.