By Josh Boyd
It is no secret that a whitetail’s primary line of defense is its nose. A number of studies have been conducted to determine just how good a deer’s sense of smell really is, with most concluding that a whitetail’s scenting ability is comparable to that of a bloodhound. This is a point that has been made all too clear by attentive does the world over, and early season bucks who seem to possess a gift for picking off awaiting hunters.
Though many odor elimination products are available for purchase on today’s market, there is still only one true way to beat a whitetail’s nose. Playing the wind positions you in a place where your residual human odor is unlikely to come into contact with a whitetail’s nose. While this is not to say that you should forgo the use of scent elimination products, choosing your stand site based upon the prevailing wind is considered the gold standard.
However, there is more to this story than simply checking the daily weather forecast for the predicted wind direction and speed. On the contrary, one must understand how thermal currents factor into the dispersal of their scent, and act accordingly to achieve the highest degree of success when attempting to go undetected.
What Are Thermal Currents?
Thermal currents are a natural stream of air that rises or falls depending upon time of day, weather conditions, and air density. These currents directly dictate how air, on which scent molecules travel, is cast across the surrounding landscape.
As a general rule, warm air is less dense than cool air, which causes it to rise higher in the air column. The opposite is true for cooler air, which naturally falls, pooling at the lowest point in a given area.
As these currents both rise and fall, they follow the natural topography of the surrounding landscape, carrying a hunter’s scent in the process. This is precisely where a keen attentiveness to thermal characteristics can make or break a hunter’s efforts when attempting to suppress their human odor.
How to Use Thermals to Your Advantage
During the early morning hours, when the sun rises above the horizon and heats low-lying air, thermal currents begin rising upward. Likewise, a hunter’s odor tends to be carried in an upward manner during the first few hours of the morning.
In order to take full advantage of this principle, it is of benefit to hunt atop ridges, hills, or other points of higher elevation during morning sits on stand. In the majority of cases, a hunter’s scent will be carried high into the air, where it will disperse before ever reaching the noses of deer traveling the low-lying terrain below.
When hunting in the evening, when the sun begins to drop low over the horizon, cooler air will descend toward ground level. In the process, a hunter’s odor is also swept downward, often collecting at the lowest point in the nearby area.
Whenever possible, it is of significant advantage to base your efforts in low-lying areas, when taking the stand for an afternoon hunt. As the surrounding air begins to cool, your scent is carried downward, and is largely consolidated in low points and gullies, before being allowed to travel upward to the nearest heavily trafficked trail.
It is also of value to consider the presence of falling thermal currents when a cold front is forecasted to pass while in the woods. Much like during the evening cool down, cold fronts that cause drastic drops in temperature will likewise cause thermal currents to fall, redirecting the flow of invasive odors in the process.
Visualizing Thermal Currents
In order to gain a deeper sense of understanding related to how the flow of thermal currents impact a particular stand site, some hunters employ the use of smoke bombs, or other smoke generating devices. This allows you to visualize how air, and the scent that accompanies it, travels during different times of the day.
By watching the travel of smoke through your hunting area during both the morning and evening, and during periods of alternating wind direction, you can gain fresh insight into the strategic placement of stands, as well as how best to hunt such stand sites.
The Thermal Connection
Beating a whitetail’s nose is nothing short of a monumental task. However, when armed with an understanding of how deer use their surroundings and natural wind flow to detect foreign odor, you can remain one step ahead of the deer in a given area. By understanding thermal currents, and the impact that they have on scent dispersal, you will be able to take your scent control regimen to the next level and place yourself in contention to make the most of the months ahead.