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Tarsal Time

It is the last week of October, and the weather has cooled off tremendously. On my recent scouting trips, I have noticed many more rubs and scrapes in the woods. My trail cameras are revealing that bucks are on the move and actively preparing for the rut. I have been patiently waiting for this time to arrive. Now is the time to break out the tarsal gland lure from Smokey's Deer lures.

A whitetail deer has two tarsal glands located inside the deer's hind legs. You can find the tarsal glands where the deer's back legs bend. The large tufted of light-colored hair sticks out and is strategically placed for the deer to create a unique scent specific to that deer.

The tarsal gland allows bucks to leave their unique individual scent in scrapes or anywhere they choose. The gland under the white tuft of hair secretes sebum, an oily substance. Bucks will urinate on their tarsal glands, using a process called rub-urinating. The hair on the tarsal glands will turn black from the lipids and the urine. Bucks will freshen their tarsal glands, often using this process.

Because of the unique odor, hunters can sometimes smell a buck before they see him. The pungent odor is always most potent during the rut when the deer are making scrapes. When a buck is worked up, the hair on the tarsal glands can stand erect as a sign of aggression or dominance. Some deer biologists believe the tarsal gland scent can signal a doe that a buck is ready to breed.

Last week, my friend Eric Kraus shot a nice 8 point buck. When he stopped at my house to show off his trophy, I could smell the buck's strong, pungent odor. Immediately I asked Eric if I could have both of the tarsal glands. After asking Eric my question, it occurred to me that he should keep them and use them for his son Konnor.

While I was scoring Eric's buck, I shared some tarsal gland strategies with him that I had used in the past. I have had a great deal of success using tarsal glands or tarsal gland lure as deer prepare for the rut. Here are some of the strategies I shared with Eric.

Tip #1 The Read Deal

Using tarsal glands from a buck harvested on another property is a great strategy. Be careful when taking the glands from the deer. Be sure to put them in a ziplock bag right away and keep them fresh. Some hunters place the tarsal glands in the refrigerator or freezer. Just keep them clean for when you are ready to take them out hunting with you. I find the easiest way to hang tarsal glands is to use a large safety pin. The safety pin will allow you to hang and position the gland where it will work best. If possible, I like to use tarsal glands from two different bucks. Using two different tarsal glands gives the appearance that there are two new bucks in the area.

Tip #2 Create a Path

Another way to use the tarsal gland is to use them as a drag. When you are near your treestand, put them on the ground and walk a complete circle around your stand. Once you have done that, hang the gland from a tree. Now you have covered your area in another buck's scent.

Tip #3 No Gland, No Problem

A third strategy is using a liquid gland lure on the bottom of your boots. I prefer to use natural gland lure on my boots and scent wicks if I do not have actual tarsal glands. Again, I will put the lure on the bottom of my boots, walk a circle around my stand, and hang scent wicks around my treestand.

Tip #4 Deadly Decoy

The fourth strategy is for those hunters who like to use a decoy during the rut. Using zip ties, I will place fresh tarsal glands on my decoy if I have them. If I do not have any glands, I will use scent wicks and tarsal gland lure. I will then take half of the rack off my decoy to give the appearance of a younger buck. This strategy has worked well for me when the bucks are cruising.

Tip #5 Mock Scrapes and Drippers

Lastly, I use a tarsal gland lure scent in my mock scrapes. I love to give my mock scrapes an extra boost by using the tarsal gland lure, interdigital gland lure, forehead gland lure, and pre-orbital gland lure. Along with my mock scrape, I like to hang a dripper. Inside my dripper, I will use a tarsal gland scent. Tarsal gland scent gives the illusion that there is a traveling buck in the area. Using a mock scrape to introduce a new deer can fire up your hunting area. Making the scrape as realistic as possible is easy when you know what to use.

The time is perfect for adding the tarsal gland illusion to your hunting area. I have harvested many great bucks while using these five tips. If you are lucky enough to have a friend shoot a buck, ask him for the tarsal glands. Using them around your stand could be a complete game-changer.

I harvested this buck in 2018 using Smokey's Tarsal Gland Lure.


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