When Hunting Whitetails, Never, Ever Forget to Play the Wind

Tom McMillan's best advice to any whitetail hunter is to learn to play the wind. (Photo courtesy of
Tom McMillan's best advice to any whitetail hunter is to learn to play the wind. (Photo courtesy of

It might be the most timeless piece of deer hunting advice ever, but even in this modern age of technology, Tom McMillan says deer hunters should never try to beat the nose of a cagey old whitetail

In an era of advancing technology that keeps producing another piece of gear and the next set of gadgets, every year there’s something new on the market promising to help a deer hunter tag the buck of their dreams.

As in use this product and get ready to kill a new mega-size buck as you become deer hunting's next rock star.

Excuse Tom McMillan, co-host of #DeerWeek and a successful whitetail hunting show on Sportsman Channel, if he politely begs to disagree and stay more than a little bit old school.

"My best tip is probably first and foremost on my list," said the highly successful deer hunter and Kansas whitetail hunting outfitter. "If I had to rank one above the other, it's play the wind."

Play the wind today, tomorrow, forever, and always, that is. In fact, there isn't a time that McMillan isn't paying attention to the wind when he's around the whitetail real estate he calls home.

"It doesn't matter if it's every morning when I'm taking out clients or if it's every hunt outing that I'm going on myself, I always pay attention to what the wind is doing," said McMillan. "And that's both (right) now and what it's going to be doing in the next two or three hours."

If that seems painfully old school compared to all of the new technologies available, McMillan remains adamant that there's no way to completely ignore whitetail hunting Rule #1.

"No matter if people tell you that there are products out there on the market today that will 100 percent eliminate human scent and fool the oldest and smartest whitetail buck's nose, I'm going to disagree with them," he said.

"I'm going to say that (such a thing) can't be done by humans yet," he added. "There is no product that can completely, 100 percent eliminate all the scent that is on your body and that your body is going to be creating while you're in a hunting situation."

Note that McMillan isn't saying that there aren't some products and technology out there that can help reduce a hunter's scent footprint, to help control it or to even manage it to some degree.

But what he is saying is that a whitetail buck's nose is an olfactory supercomputer capable of detecting even the tiniest molecule of human stink from a long distance.

"Now they (products and technology) may do their job (in some ways) by making products that (deal with scent so that) we as humans can't smell (it) anymore," said McMillan. "But humans aren't whitetail deer.

"So first and foremost, you've got to use the wind to your advantage," he added. "You've got to play the wind, you've got to know where your wind is coming from, and where it is going to next.

"That's got to be my number one tip."

And coming from a man who makes his living hunting, filming and putting clients on the biggest of big whitetails, it pays to take Tom McMillan's advice about playing the wind in the whitetail woods all the way to the bank, if not the taxidermist's shop.

Because a big buck cruising downwind of your stand sure will, bolting at the faintest whiff of human stink, all the while breaking your hunter's heart in the process.