photo of mourning doves

Attractor scents such as dominant-buck or doe-in-estrus urine do indeed lure deer. But they have their limitations. Putting out a few scent bombs hardly guarantees that a buck will show up next to your tree stand. So it’s important to understand what these scents will not do in order to use them properly:

[1] Attractor scents will not pull deer far from the areas they typically frequent. You still need to scout carefully and position yourself where deer are likely to show.

[2] They will not make up for liabilities in your hunt plan, such as an inconsistent wind or bad stand placement. Hunt as carefully with the scents as you would without them.

[3] These products will not be as effective in areas that receive heavy hunting pressure. This is simply because bucks in such areas are less inclined to be on the move, and therefore to cross your scent trail, during daylight. Lures also fare poorly in places where does far outnumber bucks, since the bucks don’t have to travel much to find mates.

If your hunting area is conducive to the use of scents, however, they can be deadly effective, as long as you’re using the right one at the right time. The four basic types are doe, dominant-buck (with or without tarsal gland), and doe-in-estrus urine; and curiosity scents, which often combine doe urine with food smells.

Here’s when and how to use each kind:

Doe Urine This works best before and after the rut. It can entice deer, but its main purpose is to put them at ease. For instance, the smell of doe urine may reassure an approaching buck, encouraging him to pass by your stand instead of taking a detour, even if he is sensing something amiss. Hang two or three scent bombs with doe urine from saplings and shrubs around your stand.

Dominant-Buck Urine Early in the season and through the pre-rut phase, bucks are not yet interested in does because the latter are not ready to breed. This is the best time to use dominant-buck urine. The scent of a stranger draws others to investigate the competition, to figure out where he fits in the pecking order. Though buck urine may scare off smaller males, this is rare.

Pull a drag rag with buck urine across travel lanes. Also use the stuff in scent bombs around your stand, as well as in scrapes if they’re present.

Doe-in-Estrus Urine You can’t beat this elixir when the rut is in full swing. Bucks are on the move with one objective, to find a mate. When they smell urine from a hot doe, they can hardly ignore it.

This is the time when a trophy buck is most likely to make a fatal error, and you can prompt him to do so by pulling a drag rag on a line perpendicular to your stand and by putting scent bombs near it.

Curiosity Scent The post-rut is the most difficult period to use attractants successfully because deer have now grown wary from being hunted and have probably been exposed to other scent lures. Still, curiosity scents can work at this time. Doe urine that’s mixed with a food smell, such as apple, can help put bucks at ease and appeal to their stomachs just when they need to feed heavily before winter.

Check first for evidence of a second rut. If you see freshly reopened scrapes or spy a buck chasing a doe, use doe-in-estrus urine as you would during the primary rut. If not, place bombs with a curiosity scent around your stand and hope a hungry buck will casually walk into your setup.

Attractor Scent Breakdown

These are the best times to use the four major types of deer scent:

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

Scent Type Pre-Rut Rut Post-Rut
Doe Urine
Dominant-Buck Urine
Doe-in-Estrus Urine
Curiosity Scent


If your buddy kills a buck, ask him if you can cut off the deer’s tarsal glands, which are located on the inside of the hind leg at the knee. Since bucks frequently urinate on these glands–especially as the rut approaches–they make an excellent attractant scent to either drag behind you on your way to a stand or to hang over a mock scrape. Be sure to wear rubber gloves when you’re cutting, and don’t contaminate any other part of the deer with scent, or it may get on the meat during the butchering process. –SCOTT BESTUL

BOTTLED BUCK: During the early season, saturate a rag with dominant-buck urine and drag it across travel lanes.