Following conventional wisdom about deer hunting and wind direction, Brandon Nettles never would have hunted the buck he did where he did on the opening day of the 2015 Mississippi archery season.
Neither would have Barrett Van Cleave, a day later, when he climbed in his stand with the wind totally out of the wrong direction.
But both hunters were confident they could succeed despite the conditions.
Both did, scoring big bucks that were featured in previous editions of Mississippi Sportsman and MS-Sportsman.com.
So how did they do it?
Both men credit a Natchez-based company that produces a unique cover/lure scent called 33 Point Buck and the Vapor Maker delivery system for beating the wind — and the noses of their respective bucks.
“That stuff blows what we’ve always heard about wind and deer hunting completely out of the water,” said Nettles, who so badly wanted that 150-inch class 13-point non-typical buck that was mostly in velvet. “I have always wanted to take a big buck in velvet, and to have a chance at a non-typical, I couldn’t pass it up on opening day.”
Trail cam studies had helped him pattern the buck, catching it walking the same fence line adjacent to a cow pasture almost every day. The most-recent photos had the buck beginning to shed velvet.
“I knew I didn’t have a lot of time,” Nettles said. “If I wanted him in velvet, it would have to happen quickly.”
As luck would have it, Oct. 1 came and the wind couldn’t have been any worse for targeting the buck.
But Nettles applied the 33 Point Buck using the Vapor Maker and climbed in his stand.
“The way he was travelling each day — on the edge of a cow pasture up a fence line — the wind was completely wrong,” the Woodville hunter said. “I had a bunch of photos of him walking that line and hitting that fence every day.
“On opening day he came right up it with my wind blowing straight to him.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, nine other deer on the Wilkinson County property had already taken the same trail, walking toward the hunter from dead downwind.
“If any of those deer had spooked, the hunt would have ended right then,” Nettles said. “They never had a clue I was there.
“The big buck came out of a corner about 100 yards down wind, started walking up the tree line and I shot him at 18 yards.”
Nettles’ story, which would include him taking a second 150-class buck and his wife Ashley taking a 130-class deer — both with the wrong wind — wasn’t the first this season about a Mississippi archer killing a trophy buck in adverse wind.
On Oct. 2, Van Cleave, also of Woodville, killed another Wilkinson County monster 15-pointer — a main-frame 12 with three brow tine kickers.
“He walked nearly 100 yards through a green patch to reach me, and he came directly from dead downwind,” Van Cleave said. “I shot him at 20 yards, and he never had a clue.
“When he was about halfway to me, he stopped and put his nose in the air like he smelled something. Then he put his head down and came to me on a line like he was looking for the source.”
In hearing Nettles and Van Cleave tell their stories, there was an obvious common thread that tied the two together, a connection so strong that it had to be investigated.
It led to Vapor Trail Scents, a 5-year-old company located in Natchez, and a unique partnership between Rex Holmes and retired conservation officer Sammy Corley.
Holmes said the beginning of the story goes back to 2008 and a deer hunt at an Alabama lodge.
“I was hunting over there and, like most of us bowhunters, I had used all the soaps, detergents and everything to be as scent free as possible before I went to the stand,” he said. “I didn’t have to walk very far. They drove me right to the stand. I climbed up, and that afternoon 23 deer came into that field and all 23 busted me.
“It was like they drew a line out there or put a rope out there; when the deer reached a specific line, they’d pick up my scent and take off.”
In disgust, Holmes started thinking there had to be a way to put a wall of scent between the hunter and the deer. Scents littered the market, but what was missing was a way to apply or distribute it that would be effective.
In all of Corley’s years with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and as an avid hunter himself, he had studied plants and scents. He also studied the hunting techniques of Native Americans, who killed deer with primitive weapons including spears, which required them to get extremely close to deer.
He discovered a plant native to Mississippi that he keeps secret — and that is the basis of his 33 Point Buck scent.
“I did lots of research over the years and gathered a lot of information and came up with the formula,” Corley said. “Most of the scents on the market do one of two things: They are either a cover scent to mask the human scent or they are a lure scent to bring the deer to the source.
“The 33 Point Buck does both.”
Holmes knew about Corley and his products, which also included doe urine and other lures, but he still had no idea what was ahead.
That ended when he had a “God moment” in a Walmart in Alexandria, La.
“I saw this product that was called a personal mister, which was a bottle with a nozzle that could be used to spray water on the skin to keep one cool,” Holmes said. “It was from an Arizona company and, with a little research, I learned that these were big out west where it’s so arid.
“By applying a mist, it gave better coverage of the skin and lasted longer.”
“Yep, that’s when it hit me, and why I call it my God moment,” Holmes said. “I called the company, told them what I was trying to do, and that Arizona group agreed to build one for me.”
Thus was born the Vapor Maker, which Holmes said reduces liquid to a molecular level that can float in the air like steam.
“You think about deer and how bucks and does use scents to attract each other during the rut,” he said. “Deer have a much hotter body temperature than humans, and a doe in estrus is even hotter, which is where the term in heat comes from.
“When she drops her urine, the aroma floats through the air because it is hotter and therefore lighter.”
A buck’s nose, which is 1,000 times better at picking out scents than a human, picks up the smell. When a buck is seen licking its nose, which it often does during the rut, it’s to wet its nose and increase scent detection.
“When I got the (prototype bottle), I went by to see Sammy (Coreley) and show him,” Holmes said. “He liked it, a lot, and saw the potential in combining it and his scents, especially the 33 Point Buck.”
The atomizer allows the user to apply an even cover all over the body and clothes, plus Nettles said you can “spray some in the air from the stand or on bushes or the ground on the way to the stand.”
Because it’s broken down, Holmes said, the scent will then carry downwind a lot easier.
“When you spray it in a wind blowing 3 mph, it will travel an eighth of mile into the woods,” he said. “Because it’s a liquid, it will stick to any bushes or leaves or grass as it passes.”
Holmes immediately knew which scent he wanted to pair with the Vapor Maker, which took a few years to perfect.
“Sammy’s 33 Point Buck was it, without a doubt, because I knew how effective it was,” Holmes said. “I knew how good it was. Heck, on one trip to the Midwest, on the way to camp, I spilled gas on my arm and it soaked my sleeves. I didn’t have time to change and knew I needed to, but I grabbed a bottle of 33 Point Buck and applied some on my arm: I couldn’t smell the gas. I showed it to my cousin, and he smelled it and he couldn’t detect gas.”
That led to more testing, including one where Holmes gathered a panel of women and bought a lot of cover and lure scent products. He applied strong-smelling products including gasoline and even Listerine to test strips, and then he used the different hunting products to cover the smell.
Only 33 Point Buck scored a favorable rating, he said.
Field tests followed, and the successes continued.
“We did it here in Mississippi — sprayed it on a 93-degree day and had deer come and eat corn between our legs,” Holmes said. “We were struggling to keep from laughing and moving. A nice 8-point buck came in from downwind and walked by Sammy three times. He picked him up with his eyes three times, and he’d walk away, and then stop and come back. He couldn’t pick out a human scent, so he didn’t spook off.
“We had hogs come out on a 100-degree day and walk right to us, and you know they have better noses than deer. Everything we tested worked successfully.”
Corley is proud that the 33 Point Buck is an all-natural product that has yet to produce an allergic reaction in any user.
“You can eat it; it’s all organic and natural, and we make it one batch at a time in the same bottles so that there is no chance for any unwanted scent to get in the mix,” he said.
Holmes said there are no chemicals added to the mix.
“Everything in 33 comes right out of the woods, and the primary plant is one that every animal eats,” he explained. “The plant has many scent-killing enzymes.”
The partnership doesn’t stop at 33 Point Buck and the Vapor Maker.
“No, we have many products, ranging from doe urine to laundry and personal soaps,” Holmes said. “All the personal stuff is based on the 33 Point Buck formula.
“When you use the soap, the laundry detergent and the 33 Point Buck in the Vapor Maker, you are putting a lot of scent out there that works as both a cover and a lure.”
Nettles has been hooked for the last couple of years.
“You can’t beat that 33 Point Buck, especially when you’re using the Vapor Maker,” he said. “Three days after I killed that buck on opening day, my wife went hunting and we put her in a stand over this small food plot. She was wearing all her makeup, always does. Well, she took the Vapor Maker and really lathered up with it, spraying it all over.
“That little food plot filled up with deer — does and yearlings first, and then a 130-inch palmated 12-point. Every deer approached directly from downwind, and all of them put their noses up like they picked up the scent. Then they all walked into the open in front of her.
“She shot the big one at 20 steps, which should tell you just how good a cover scent 33 Point Buck is.”
Nettles can also testify to the 33’s success at luring bucks. When he killed his second 150-inch buck in mid October, he had chosen a small, unplanted food plot to hunt.
“Before I climbed up, I walked out in the field and sprayed the 33 Point Buck all around and on the ground,” he said. “Right on the bare ground, and it wasn’t 30 minutes before nine does and yearlings walked out; then a small 8-point.
“Ten minutes later, the big one came out and I didn’t have time to range him. I shot him at 20 yards.”
Editor’s note: visit vaportrailscents.com for more information about Vapor Maker, 33 Point Buck and other products.