There was an op-ed in the Rutland Herald not too long ago that spoke of, among other things, the serious decline in the number of hunters here in Vermont and across the nation.

There are many reasons for this trend, noted in the editorial. One of the points made really stood out to me: It was the argument that today’s hunters may not be as skilled as their fathers or grandfathers were.

I can’t say for a fact whether that point of view is true or not. But I can say this much: I believe far too many hunters, old and young alike, seem to embrace the notion they can buy their way into success in the deer woods. There are so many gadgets and new-fangled devices available out there that it would have an old-time, Vermont deer hunter shaking his head in disbelief.

Take a gander at any big-time outdoor chain and you will see what I mean. I bought a new surf rod and reel for one of my sons and, weeks later, I was mailed the latest catalog of the products they offer. The list seems almost endless and much of the stuff for sale, in my old-fashioned opinion, does nothing to make you a better hunter. In fact, it is very possible that relying on high-end gadgets, rather than studying the habits of the deer you pursue, is nothing but folly.

Yes, we need certain gear to carry along if we want to find success as deer hunters. But most of the stuff out there — trail cameras, walkie-talkies and four-wheelers (except for the disabled and the older guys who need them) — is about making you “think” they will give you an edge in the woods. And don’t even get me started about those products that tell hunters they can cover their scent — soaps, detergents, what have you — and fool the phenomenal nose of a whitetail deer.

It just doesn’t happen. You cannot cover the stench of a human when it comes to deer. My guess is the smell given off by a human is akin to this: You have, no doubt, been driving down the road and, at once, you are hit in the nose with the awful stink of a skunk, struck down on the roadway. That, I believe, is what a deer experiences when it picks up the scent of a human being.

Anyone who has hunted deer long enough knows this. I have had does and bucks coming into view of my tree stand or ground blind and, with a dramatic shift in wind direction, it happens. And when a deer gets that whiff of a human, it is gone, out of there like a fire cracker went off near its face.

I have read of hunters who will carry a “scent-free” bag of clothing out into the woods, climb up to their tree stand and then change into that fresh outfit. While I can appreciate the efforts of such a hunter, you have to understand that, even after he goes through the uncomfortable process of changing in what will most likely be very cold weather and dons his fresh outfit, he will emit the human odor.

What can be done to eliminate human body odor? Nothing, actually. But you can put the odds in your favor if you pay close attention to the prevailing wind. I make it a point to check the prevailing wind at least several times before erecting a tree stand or a ground blind.

But even the best of plans can go awry. One of my favorite tree stands is situated right on the edge of a long swamp. Probably 80% of the deer I have observed over the past five years come out of that swamp or move along it. Deer love cover, especially bucks that have survived two or three buck seasons.

One buck-season morning, maybe three or four years ago, I caught brown movement some 40 yards out into the swamp. I saw a deer and then, for only a second, good antlers on that deer’s head. I knew, because of the thick cover, there would be no shot until that buck stepped into a little opening right in front of me. Seconds went by, more seconds went by, and still no deer. Then, off at about 60 yards, I saw a flash of brown, a deer running off in a hurry.

What the heck? Then, I looked over at the 12-inch long strip of dental floss (I tie this floss anywhere I set up a ground blind or a tree stand) and you guessed it: The wind had changed direction and was blowing right into the thick cover where that buck was headed.

But that is deer hunting.

Those who think spending lots of money for the “things” out there, products that are supposed to improve your odds for success, should first consider the fine senses of a whitetail deer. Most of the gadgets on the market today only serve to muddle the truth.

Scouting, fitness, proper stand placement, target practice, the right mental attitude and perseverance cannot be bought. Success in the deer woods depends far more on effort than how much money you can spend.

Contact Dennis Jensen at d.jensen62@yahoocom.

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