Another year, another deer – or so hunter’s hope with each coming season. While there are no guarantees in hunting, it is possible to tip the scales in your favor with practice, preparedness, and also quality gear. That applies not only to firearms, optics, and ammunition but to less spendy accessories and items that don’t garner as much acclaim. Here are some of our current gear crushes.
Pro-Shot American Whitetail Deer Targets
Success in the hunting woods begins months before the season. In this case, it starts on the shooting range. Realistic training leads to success. This year, we’re using Pro-Shot’s American Whitetail paper targets. These 25x25-inch sight-in targets are anatomically correct, life-size deer profiles. While most targets are either scaled-down animals or simple grid pattern bullseyes, this one offers both.
There’s a 1-inch sight-in grid overlay atop the buck image for quick and accurate scope adjustments on the range. Four red diamonds allow you to zero the scope before shooting for the high-contrast animal vital zones. The targets sell in a five-pack and allow for low-cost, realistic whitetail hunting training. Best of all, Pro-Shot targets are designed and printed in the USA.
Primos Wind Checker
This is a simple product with a love-hate relationship among hunters. Checking the direction of the wind can easily be done by dropping a bit of dust or grass, moistening the cheeks, or any other number of “free” methods. Yet, when you’re in a treestand or trying to minimize movements, a quick puff from the unscented Primos Wind Checker confirms even the slightest breeze.
Using the wind – and scent – in your favor can make all the difference in hunting success. Some folks opt to make their own wind checker using powder, but unless you’re 100 percent sure it's unscented, make the simple Primos Wind Checker purchase that will last for years.
Hunters Specialties Scent Wafers
This is a product we’ve been using for years, even before many of the more modernized sprays, dispersers, and bombs. Hunters Specialties’ simple scented discs work well in ground blinds and treestands for masking any remaining human scent. Deer have over 500x greater smellers than humans, so winning against big deer often means not only playing the wind but masking odors as well.
These scent wafers are available in multiple options, allowing hunters to match their terrain and surroundings – including Pine, Acorn, Doe Estrus, and Fresh Earth. They can be attached to clothing for mobile hunters or hung near your stand. The wafers can be used over and over, returning to full strength by resealing the container. Though the packaging claims it can be used for an entire season, we’ve actually kept some of these going for multiple seasons.
Wildlife Research Scent Killer Dryer Sheets
Even when hunters use the wind to their advantage to keep human scent away from those sensitive sniffers on deer, there are likely still some foreign odors on the clothing and gear. Before venturing out to check trail cams, set stands, and, ultimately, to hunt, we like to use Scent Killer’s dryer sheets. They’re available either unscented or in Autumn Formula, which reminds of dirt and fallen leaves. They come in 12-packs of 6.4x9-inch sheets. A similar, matching product is the Scent Killer field wipes for a quick wipe down of exposed skin.
Hunters Specialties Ruttin’ Buck Rattling Bag
There are dozens of types of deer calls on the market – grunters, bleaters, and rattling antlers. One we’ve found most effective on bucks looking to defend their territory is the rattle of fighting antlers. While it’s easy enough to use actual shed antlers, or to buy a set of specially made synthetic tines, actual antlers are large and incidentally noisy.
Products like the Primos Rattling System and Hunters Specialties’ Ruttin’ Buck are compact enough to fit in a pocket, easily silenced, and actuated with minimal movement. Our test rattling bag is small enough to fit in a cargo or coat pocket, has a soft and silent exterior, and is filled with hardwood rods. A sewed-on elastic silencer keeps things quiet until you want to lure in the big bucks.
HME Scent Web
After so much talk about scent masking, we now turn to using scent as a lure. There are so many scent-spreading products in the deer hunting world that choosing one can be a daunting task. While there are some great fresh “specimen” options, one of our recent favorites is HME’s foam string Scent Web in a variety of smells. Think of it as silly string for hunters.
The best part is the ability to spray on scrapes or trees from up to ten feet away, meaning human contamination can be kept to a minimum. The company advertises that their foam web is 300 percent more potent than liquid scents, lasts up to five days, and, as an added benefit, reactivates with moisture. Each can contains roughly 300 feet of foam string, or 20 uses based on 1-second bursts. There are cover, food, and attractant varieties, with names like Apple, Vanilla Acorn, Sweet Corn, Scrape Venom, She-Heat, and She-Duction.