Scents & Lure for Hunting: Difference between Scent and Lure

Scents & Lure

With the first day of the season in the site, a review of the basics on scents & lures seems appropriate for this month’s pro tip article. Throughout the numerous shows and seminars, I attend, I see a real hunger among sportsmen for shedding light on this subject. Most hunters are often confused by the vast array and wild promises that hunting products of this type seem to offer. Mass marketing and fancy advertising have done little in way of educating the hunters on their use. Could it be that these same companies don’t understand the basics themselves? 

One of the keys to your success in using these products is to understand the basics so that you can make a sensible choice. The first key to painting the picture is understanding the difference between a scent and a lure.

  • What are they?
  • How do they work? 
  • How do you use them? Etc

-You see,

Scents and lures are nothing more than odors that you use to convey a message with. 

What is Lure

Anything that will attract the attention of an animal, and then draw it to the source of the attraction can be classified as a lure.

A sound of a dying rabbit will lure coyote, fox, and bobcat to the source of the sound. A small round hole in the bank near the waters edge would attract mink. A bundle of fur moving in the breeze would provide attraction to the bobcat. Or last but not least, a grunt from your grunt call may be all that it takes to attract that buck within range.

How lure work?

All these lures, per say, appeal to the animal’s senses. The above examples appealed to the animal’s senses of sight and hearing. Webster’s dictionary describes a lure as; to entice, tempt with the promise of pleasure or gain.

Webster describes a scent as the smell remaining after an animal has passed (urine). It’s my opinion that a lure, which appeals to an animal’s sense of smell, is the most valuable. No matter what animal, they all use their nose to receive airborne messages.

So it is safe to say that any odor or combination of odors conveys a clear and usually reliable message to the animal.

  • Odors emitted from any substance are made up of small minute gaseous particles, which are lighter than air.
  • These particles have a tendency to rise in the air and carried off by air currents.
  • As odor leaves it source it slowly becomes more diluted with the air itself.
  • The greater the amount of odor released from the source, the greater the concentration of odor will be at a pre!

scribed distance.

When the odor is picked up by an animal it must pass through the animal’s nose and flow over the nerves inside. Depending on how good your lure or scent is, it often determines whether or not that animal will follow its odor. The closer the animal gets to the odor source, the more stimulation he receives due to the increasing concentration of odorous particles. Wow…!

What is the scent?

A scent consists of nothing more or less than a single odor. Any product, such as feces or urine constitutes itself as a scent. Think of this; if you and a friend sat down to have a steak dinner, the first steak was thrown into a pan and cooked till done. The second steak was thrown raw into a pan with garlic, butter, onions, mushrooms, salt, and pepper, etc. and cooked till done. Which is more appealing? The Scent of the first steak or the Lure of the second?

Now that you understand that you need to know that lures can be categorized into three groups;


Most animals communicate through the use of glandular secretions. This type of lure is usually a blend of those substances. It’s made to appeal to the competitive, sexual and territorial instincts that most animals have. Most high-quality gland lures, no matter what the animal, take exceptional skill, knowledge, and much experience to formulate. 


Their primary attraction to an animal is food. Most food lures contain various plants, musk’s, and extracts, etc. animals might find attractive. Without a doubt, this type of lure plays more of a role of importance among trappers than that of hunters- particularly deer hunters. Don’t confuse this with bait and check your state game laws before hunting with such an attractant. Some of the most common food odors among deer hunters are; apple, cherry, pear, sweet corn, etc. 


‘Curiosity Killed The Cat’. Most all animals are curious by nature, especially the Whitetail deer. It’s why this lure maker puts great emphasis on the use of this type of lure. Most often this type of lure contains smells foreign to the animal’s habitat. An example of one such odor might be vanilla. Many animals like its sweet odor yet seldom does an animal come on contact with it along their daily travels. You must remember that a curiosity attraction is a relatively “short-lived” attraction. Once he has satisfied his curiosity – he loses almost total interest. If you’re a deer hunter, you had best be in position when ‘Mister Hat Rack’ decides to respond!

I have to tell you that in my research, food lures where the least consistent in attracting deer. The best results they showed where during the pre-rut at midmorning or early evening periods.


When choosing a scent or lure, remember that you are telling a story. The more convincing you are of that story often will result in “luring in” that animal.

For instance… When trapping coyotes I might put in a set consisting of nothing more than a chunk of bait in a hole with a liberal dose of coyote urine. The urine acts as a suspicion remover and that another coyote has moved into the area and buried some food. The bait odor, however, will hold the attention of the coyote until caught.

When deer hunting, I often strategically place out our Doe Passion (in heat gland lure) around my tree stand. Once in the stand, I will periodically mist my Buck in Rut Urine into the air. This combination more often than not has proven itself deadly. The best time to use this combination is during the rut and near existing dominant scrapes.

What message “story” do you think you’re sending the buck that made those existing scrapes?

Get the picture! 

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