Okay, I have to confess I have this little habit I routinely do when I walk out in the woods. It started way back when I was trapping and it continues to this day. The secret is I like to squirt red fox urine on the soles of my boots before hiking in the woods. Not only do I believe it aids in masking my scent, but to some extent I also feel it is a confidence builder for all the critters that call the woodlands where I walk home.
So much of our success or failure in the woods depends on our attention to the little things. Problem is, fooling most mammals that possess an acute sense of smell is not generally a little thing. In fact, I firmly believe far more hunters are detected by smell than by either sight or sound. Sometimes it’s hard for us to fully understand just how dependent wildlife is on their olfactory senses, because to us smell is usually a secondary sense…but not to wildlife. A foreign odor raises suspicion to a level that can take days, sometimes even weeks to overcome by the suddenly wary animal.
No doubt about it trappers are the masters of scent. Let’s face it, their success generally relies totally, for most sets anyway, on enticing a critter to walk into a trap. It’s common for a land trapper to liberally use fox urine both at the set…but also while walking from the car out to the trap location. Remember, fox are canines and if you’ve ever taken a walk with a male dog you know exactly what canines like to do. And most canines like to do it often for a very specific reason.
Hunters can make use of this marking trait by mimicking it to help cover our own scent. You can buy those little felt pads that strap to the bottom of your boots…I know a guy who even used to tie a urine soaked rag on his leg and drag it behind him. Truth is, you can just spray the darned stuff on the bottom of your rubber soled boot and it seems to work just fine that way, too.
To us urine might be a body’s by-product, but in the wildlife world it is also a communication tool that if used effectively can get you closer to most game. In fact, over the years I have been amazed at how many fox and coyotes have actually walked right up to the tree stand where I was perched. On those days when the deer sightings have been slow…I’ve even been known to take a few cracks at the inquisitive, and very unsuspecting furballs.
Each fall I purchase and use about a pint of fox urine for the masking and confidence building qualities I have described. If you hunt in an area that predominantly has coyotes and few fox…then substitute coyote urine for that of fox. It really doesn’t matter…except I tend to favor fox urine because I think deer are less shy around red fox than they are around coyotes. Still, either one of them should work just fine.
Over the years I have always favored using Hawbaker’s Reddy Red Fox Urine because it was specially formulated for serious trapline use. Keep in mind this is just a personal preference, I’m sure that many other scent manufacturers also have suitable urine products. I just like a urine that has been fortified and condensed through evaporation with quality anti-freeze and preservative agents added. Even if I have to pay a bit more I know that the few extra pennies I am squirting on the bottom of my boots are likely worth it in the long run. I’m told that some suspect urine collectors will include rain water in their product which obviously only dilutes the quality and the effectiveness of urine. If you stick with a urine product that is sold by a trapping supply company odds are good that you will be buying a product that meets or exceeds your needs for hunting.
Each fall I purchase the urine in bulk (16 oz.) but place it into clean, smaller squirt bottles that I carry in my pack. As I’m walking if I cross a river or find myself walking in lots of marshy terrain…I will occasionally freshen up my soles. On the days when I forget my squirt bottle or fail to refill it…taking a walk in the woods is like walking across my mother’s kitchen floor with muddy feet when I was a kid. That’s the best way I can equate it. Mom always seemed to know when I didn’t take my shoes off and walked in her kitchen…and you can bet the animals all know out in the woods, too, when we don’t take necessary steps to avoid being detected.
To some, it might seem rather odd to spray animal urine on your hunting gear. Other hunters I know who hunt in pastured land will even purposefully step in a fresh cow pie to use this animal’s scent masking properties. Truth is, you need to be doing something when you walk out in the woods to help mitigate your human scent. Sure, you can always try to hunt downwind from the animal’s nose…but fall winds can be fickle and can change rather quickly. By no means is using fox urine the fix-all to the problem of disguising human odor, but it’s certainly worth your effort in most cases.
Oh, and one last bit of advice. If you’ve recently freshened your hunting boots you might want to leave them in an airy place when you get back home. It’s funny how your nose will quickly acclimate to the pungent smell of the fox urine, but chances are your spouse won’t find the odor even the slightest bit tolerable once inside the house.
© 2006 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.