By: Jim Atkinson
The mood candle had been burning for about 30 minutes and to be honest with you I was getting a little edgy. I had done all I could do to set the tone for the anticipated encounter that all true males look forward to as often as we can. I had prepared the area where the encounter would take place as carefully as I ever had for a sexual experience of this importance. I had assumed a coy, withdrawn demeanor in hopes that my partner would relax as much as possible and allow me the pleasure of enjoying this encounter to the fullest. At my age, you are never sure just how many more of them you can take without having a heart attack.
The surroundings were as quiet as a church during prayer on Sunday morning. The lights had faded and the anticipation of my partner appearing caused small beads of sweat to appear on my upper lip. The fragrance that drifted away from the candle occasionally filled my nostrils with its pungent, mind boggling aroma. Hopefully it was doing its intended job of arousing the sexual curiosity of my intended partner and the planned encounter would come off the way most true males dream about.
Just when I thought my intended partner was experiencing cold feet I heard slight rustling noises from just out of view indicating that my partner was bout to make the grand appearance for a union that had been anticipated for weeks. The noises grew louder and louder and then suddenly, there he was.
He!!!!! I know, I know, those of you who have read this far are probably thinking that old Jim was about to score, big time. The truth is, that is exactly what was about to happen, but not in the way it might have sounded.
The paragraphs you have just read describe perfectly one of the most exciting deer hunts I have experienced in a few years. It all happened because I have an insatiable curiosity with all the things associated with deer hunting. In the 42 years I have been pursuing the wily whitetail I have come full circle with regards to using different scents whether they are game attractors or cover scents. I have tried most of them and only had scant success with any of them. I can count on just a couple of fingers the numbers of times that I can tell you for sure that a deer was attracted to a scent I was using. The other scores of deer I have taken gave no indication that they were attracted to what I was using. I am very careful abut stand placement, wind direction and keeping as clean as possible and I feel that these things have resulted in most of my successes in killing deer. This story, however, is about one of the kills I made in 1995 when I was positive the attractant I was using worked.
About mid season during 1995 I was looking through one of the numerous outdoor magazines I read and I came across an advertisement for a product call Hot Trails Scented Hunting Candles. The idea behind them is the same as the fragrance candles that are made for uses in your home. I have been around a few of these scented candles and they seem to produce a smell that permeates whatever structure they are used in and you can seemingly smell them for a long while even after they have been put out. The idea that this staying power could be used in a deer lure really peaked my curiosity. I am firmly convinced that most of the liquid attractant scents, whether they are food scents or are sexual in nature, have a very short shelf life and even when they are fresh the key ingredient smell in them does not last very long or cover a very large area. I know, there are a lot of people who have killed deer when using practically every scent on the market. Even I have in a couple of instances. However, the number of times I have used scent over the years when compared to the number of times I haven’t has not resulted in a greater number of animals harvested. In fact, I know I have killed more deer while not using any scents, but just practicing good stand site location, and hunting the wind. The idea of these scent candles, however, had me hooked.
There is one thing every hunter must understand. You can use any scent you want and use it where there are not any deer or when the wind is blowing the scent away from where the deer are likely to be and they will not work a miracle for you. You can even use it in areas where you can actually see deer walk through the odor downwind from you and they don’t pay any attention to it. The point is, none of the scent or calls on the market are going to work 100% of the time. However, if they work just one percent of the times you use them it may result in your killing the biggest deer of your life. Most of them are fairly expensive if you use them over an entire hunting season. It is a decision you will have to make for yourself.
I called the number listed in The Journal of the Texas Trophy Hunters Magazine ad for the product and talked with Mr. Bill Moore, the innovator. I talked with him at length about his product and told him I had tried another burning type of attractant extensively during the 1994 season and did not get a nibble from it. Trust me, I hunt in an area that has a sizable deer herd, and I knew the odor had crossed paths with several of them without results.
After our conversation, I ordered enough of them for the remainder of the season and I got all of them in his Doe-In-Heat scent since our rut was not far off. He also makes them in a several food scents, and cover scents as well, but he assured me that he has had by far better luck with the estrous scent. The candles arrived within a week and I was really enthused about trying them out.
The first time I used it the wind was not just perfect but I tried it anyway. The results were what I should have expected, and I did not see any deer appear from the direction the wind was blowing. The next morning the wind was totally wrong for the candle, but perfect for the stand I hunted relative to where the deer usually came from when using this location. The wind was blowing right in my face from a wooded ridge and taking my scent out of the woods across a freshly wind-rowed clear cut. I did not even light one up.
The stand I had selected for the afternoon hunt was going to be perfect using the candle. It was located about 100 yards off of a seven year old clear-cut on a hardwood ridge. The wind would be coming off my left shoulder blowing into the old clear-cut and taking the scent straight into the bedding area. I made sure that I was as clean as possible before I went to the stand to eliminate as much human odor as possible. I wanted the candle to have a good chance to do its thing.
I arrived on stand at two o’clock, as I usually do, and decided to place the candle on the ground rather that suspend it from my stand. The slight breeze that was blowing was at ground level and headed in the perfect direction. I cleared a two foot square of leave down to dirt level, lit the candle and placed it in the burning container in the middle of the cleared area. It is very important to remember that when you are using this product you are dealing with an open flame, and you must make sure that it is in a fire proof location.
I climbed the ladder to my stand and settled in for the afternoon. Under light wind conditions the candle will last about four to four and a half hours so I knew it would make it until dark. I am on the P.S.E. Archery Advisory Staff, and had my XLD 900 tuned to perfection and the new Jim Crumly Trail Cover camo I use had already doe its job on three deer this year. It is excellent camouflage so I knew I was as prepared as I could be.
The afternoon went without incident until the sun started down behind the trees. I had been watching intently in the direction I knew the scent was going for the past couple of hours without seeing anything. However, the minute I turned my attention in another direction I heard something walking. The sound was faint but unmistakable. I knew it was a deer. I turned my attention back towards the old clear-cut and saw a nice rack buck headed my way. Honestly, my first though was, welcome to my boudoir.
There was no mistaking what was drawing him to me for he had his head held high moving it from side to side as I have seen them do a thousand times when they are trying to pinpoint the source of an odor. The interesting thing was that he never stopped walking the entire time. He stuck his nose in the scent and walked right to it.
I had placed the candle about 10 to 15 yards out in front of me and slightly to the right. I shoot left handed and wanted the deer to pass in front of me offering a broadside shot if possible. I knew I did not want a straight on shot if I could help it. The plan could not have worked more perfectly. As the deer passed behind a tree at 20 yards, I came to full draw and as he passed at 15 steps I executed a double lung shot that would have made Fred Bear proud. The deer wheeled and barely made it 30 yards towards the clear-cut thicket sanctuary before piling up.
I still get nervous after every shot, even after all of these years. The experience of knowing the scent candle had worked, just as advertised, had me doubly excited and I hurriedly climbed down to go check out my kill. The experience had me doubly excited and I hurriedly climbed down to go check out my kill. I usually wait at least 30 minutes to look for a deer that has run out of sight after a shot, but I knew this one was down for the count.
It was a nice 7 point buck. In fact, a little better deer than I realized when I shot it and ended up being the best on I killed during the 1995 season. Using the scented candle and watching it work like it is supposed to just made it more exciting.
I tried the candle a few more times as the season progressed and had a small buck and several does come to it. The big bruiser that I had hoped would not be able to resist the estrous smell just never detected it or, as in many other instances, was just not interested. The fact that I did not see deer every time I used it did not discourage me at all. Even in the wild the estrous smell does not attract every buck that smells it.
Next year cannot get here soon enough. I am planning a bear hunt in Canada so I am into preparing for that. However, you can bet your hat I plan to use Hot Trails Scented Candles for Bears on my hunt, and next deer season I will be using the candles again and this time it might attract the buck of a lifetime for me.
I can recommend them highly and if you are interested in trying some next season contact Bill Moore Toll Free at 1-800-927-7404, or write Bill Moore, Hot Trails, Inc., 630 Home Crossing Adkins, Tx 78101. Phone 210-649-1333 or 800-927-7404. Visit the Hot Trails web site at www.hottrails.com.