photo of mourning doves

SOME COMMERCiAL SCENTS CLAIM to contain or approximate the real thing. A whitetail’s tarsal or “hock” gland is the real thing, and it can be especially effective for that reason. But you won’t find any hanging from display racks alongside the hottest bottled scents. Getting your (gloved) hands on tarsals and keeping them potent requires a little extra work. Here are the basics:

Cut Them Out
Collect tarsal glands from fresh deer kills whenever you can. Tell your buddies you want the hocks of the deer they harvest (assuming they don’t); stop by deer check stations; sign up at your police station to help recover roadkills. Wear rubber gloves and use a sharp knife to carve out the dark tufts located at the elbow of the deer’s back legs, leaving the skin on. Gather mostly doe glands but also a few from bucks.

Bag and Freeze
Store tarsal glands in a freezer until you need them. Vacuum-packing is the best way to avoid freezer burn and extend their serviceability. Otherwise, put the glands in a double layer of sealable plastic bags and squeeze out as much air as possible. During the season, thaw and store them in a refrigerator between daily hunts or back in the freezer for longer periods. Kept correctly, each gland will give you about two weeks of good use.

Hang Them Up
With a knife tip, punch a hole in the skin around the gland. Run a string through, and hang it about 3 feet above the ground within shooting range of your position. A common setup is to put two of them upwind (one to your left and another to your right). Tree-stand hunters sometimes add a third just above their heads.

Glands extracted from does seem to work better in most circumstances. But a good setup for rattling in a trophy buck during the pre- and post-rut periods can be a buck tarsal placed in between two doe tarsals.