Scents, Game, and Strategy: A Talk with Tony from Hunters Specialties

We're very excited to bring to you our latest interview, with Tony at Hunters Specialties. For those of you who are not familiar with them, Hunters Specialties manufactures an incredibly wide array of hunting products, many of which are made specifically for bowhunting, and they seem to have a product for just about every aspect of a hunt you could ever encounter.

In the post below, Tony provides us with some down-to-earth guidance about choosing gear, how to use scents (and in our experience, a lot of new bowhunters get totally confused by scents), and outdoors/camping practice in general, and gives us with some really fantastic insight on turkey hunting and strategies to harvest them successfully. It's often difficult for professional / life-long hunters to explain the basics, but Tony does a great job of introducing some of the "big ideas" that new bowhunters need to learn.

(Before we begin, there’s something we should mention: we include a few links to Hunters Specialties products below, but there are no affiliate links in the post, this is not a paid post, and there is no business relationship between The Complete Guide to Archery and Hunters Specialties. We just really like their products and wanted to talk with them—and that’s one of the great things about running a website about bowhunting and archery! With that said, let’s get to it).

Q: Thank you for speaking with us, Tony! Can you tell us a little bit about Hunters Specialties, as a company? You guys have quite a catalogue, but it seems like you all started out as a much smaller organization.

A: It all started back in the 70's with camo items like Camo-Compac Makeup and No-Mar Camo Tape. Since then HS has released hundreds if not thousands of new products over the years and now has a wide variety of products in several categories including scent control (Scent-A-Way), deer calls and accessories, turkey calls and accessories (HS Strut), deer and other big game scents (Buck Bomb), elk calls (Wayne Carlton's Calls) and predator calls (Johnny Stewart Wildlife Calls). If you take a “view from above” look at our products, the majority of what we do is all about getting really, really close to critters.

Q: We get a lot of questions from new bow hunters who are going after deer, and one product that seems to be a little elusive to a lot of folks is scents. New bow hunters realize it's important, but they feel a little intimidated by it. Can you tell us a little bit about what it is, and how to use it?

A: Sure. There are a lot of different feelings and preferences regarding the use of scents in hunting situations—some folks swear by it, or by a specific scent in particular, while others may have had a bad experience in the past and will never use scents when they hunt. Scents are just like anything in hunting, fishing, or any outdoor activity—they are a tool to be used under the right circumstances, and are by no means going to bring the biggest buck you've ever seen within 15 yards of you every time.

Buck Bomb offers a wide variety of scents for whitetail deer, bears, elk, hogs, and predators—and for whitetails in particular, we have a plethora of scent options to choose from, including buck scents, non-estrus doe scents, and estrus doe scents. Each scent has different uses and times of the hunting season where they will be most effective, and each can or bottle specifically notes when and how to use that particular scent through an easy icon system on the packaging. For example, Doe P can actually be used throughout the entire hunting season, from early season through pre-rut, peak rut, and post-rut. It works as a great curiosity attractant, as well as a great cover scent. Doe 'N Estrus or XTRUS Certified Doe 'N Estrus, however, contain high levels of estrogen, which mimics a doe in heat. These make the most sense to use during late pre-rut into peak rut. Not only can scents be used during a hunt, but they are also great tools to use in a mock scrape in front of a trail camera to take inventory of deer while you're away.

Q: Using scents as a mock scrap in front of a trail camera, while you’re trying to get a feel for the game in a specific area—that’s a really great bit of advice, and one that new bowhunters often overlook. While we're talking about scents, can you tell us about why our own scent control is so important?

A: While the right scents can be introduced to attract deer during a hunt or to lure them to just the right "posing" spot in front of a trail camera, the wrong scent in the woods can ruin things just as quickly. Human odor in the woods is just about as welcomed as a Green Bay Packers fan in Chicago. As a means of survival, deer and other big game animals have extremely advanced senses of smell—moreso than any human could ever fathom. It's imperative to not only play the wind when hunting, but to also keep every trace of human odor out of the woods as possible (even when not in hunting situations). Oftentimes, once an animal picks up on an unwelcomed or potentially dangerous scent, they'll leave the area for several days. This is especially true for mature animals, as they've figured out over the years how to survive in their world.

The best way to "be invisible" in the woods is to follow a strict scent control system. Scent-A-Way uses a 3-step scent control system which covers 1) clothes, 2) body, and 3) field. Clothes includes Scent-A-Way Laundry Detergent (Odorless or Fresh Earth), Dryer Sheets, and Scent-Safe Storage Bags to keep clothes clean and free of unwanted odors after you’ve put them away. The “body” step includes the care of your body before you hit the field—Scent-A-Way Body Wash or Bar Soap, Antiperspirant, Lip Balm, and Foaming Hand Cleanser. The final (and most popular) step—field—is when you spray down your clothes, boots, and all gear once you hit the field with Scent-A-Way Field Spray to make sure all last traces of scent that may have attached to your gear are completely eliminated. Odorless Wash Towels and Field Wipes are also convenient to use in the field during hot days or when cleaning up. Each step is very important, because you track your scent with you into the woods–and it’s something that we, as humans, can’t really detect about ourselves.

Q: While many of our newer bowhunters seem interested in deer, we also get a lot of questions from readers who are new to turkey hunting. Can you give us some advice for our new turkey hunters, some things they will want to keep in mind, and maybe discuss any products you have that would be helpful to a bowhunter going after turkey?

A: Turkey hunting is fun because you get to interact with them. Being able to hear a gobbler in the distance lets you know there's one nearby, and back and forth vocalizations can make for a very exciting hunt. Warmer springtime weather and greening-up woods oftentimes make for a very pleasant hunting experience as well, especially for new or inexperienced hunters.

As far as locating and patterning turkeys, the biggest thing to keep in mind is this—if you know where they like to roost at, they will come back to that area at some point in the day. Turkeys are very much creatures of habit, and will oftentimes show up in the same areas at the same times of day. Not all game are like that.

That being said, calls are a very important part of turkey hunting. Whether for just locating birds or actually bringing them into your lap, calls are often very necessary for a successful turkey hunt. If you have a bird coming towards you there is absolutely no need to call—if he's on the way, just sit back and let him come—but that doesn’t always happen, and a call can make a big difference.

Calls are also just fun to use. To make it easy for new hunters, we have a new box call and new pot call that are specifically designed to be simple to use but still extremely effective. The HS Strut Cookie Cutt'R features a tracer lid that shows the proper striker strokes to create yelps, cutts, and purrs, and the Slingblade Box Call is one-sided and is as easy to use as opening and closing a door.

Q: You all have a truly helpful suite of videos on your YouTube page [Editor’s Note: here is a link to the page]—they range from intro videos like "Turkey Call Basics" to more advanced topics like "After the Harvest," talking about what do when you finally take your first animal. Can you tell us how you make those videos?

A: We have a great team internally as well as a great team of Field Staff around the country with a huge amount of hunting experience. We utilize our YouTube channel to spread knowledge to everyone out there on just about any hunting topic we can think of.

Circling back around to some of what we've already discussed, many times this means tips on scent control for fall hunting or for turkey hunting in the spring. We receive a huge amount of questions on these topics so we try to provide as many tips as we can to help our fellow hunters have positive and successful experiences in the field.

Q: Your website mentions that you also sell some archery items. Can you tell us about those items?

A: Though we don't offer bows, arrows, or bow accessories such as stabilizers, sights, or rests, the majority of the products we offer lend themselves to archery hunting. Just to name a few, Scent-A-Way scent control, Buck Bomb scents, Hunters Specialties Scent Wafers, and deer calls (just to name a few) are all about getting close to animals. In reality, none of these items are truly needed if you are planning on shooting your animal with a rifle from 300 yards away. To us, bowhunting is in a league of its own and we want to offer everything possible to help hunters get close for that shot that makes the difference.

Q: Lastly, on a personal note, what's it like working for a company dedicated to hunting? For most of us, that would seem like a dream come true!

A: Working for a long-time legacy company in the hunting industry is a dream come true. Like most, growing up I was familiar with Hunters Specialties and used the products myself in the field. Now working for HS, I really feel I can live my passion every day and am playing a part in helping other hunters create lasting memories in the field with their youngsters.

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That’s a good place to wrap up—Tony at Hunters Specialties, thank you for talking with us! If you’d ever like to come back and talk further about hunting strategies or gear, please let us know!