A deer’s sense of smell, like a dog’s, can be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 times more acute than a human’s. How does this affect your hunt?
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting on stand at the perfect spot. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the wind is in your favor. You’ve put in the scouting hours to prepare for this moment. You’ve also practiced every possible shot, at every angle and range. You’re confident that all your equipment is sighted in and in good order. Now all we need is for Ole Buckzilla to come walking into range.
A little time goes by and what’s that?! It’s him!!! He’s really coming towards you… Yup that monster buck you’ve been watching on the trail cam during the off season has decided to grace you with his presence. Well, you think, I’ve got a little something for you, your majesty…as a slight, cocky smirk curls on the side of your mouth.
You slowly grip your bow and go through the shot set up you’ve done countless times. As the big boy comes closer you notice a little shift in the breeze, but you’re so caught up in the moment that it doesn’t cause you any concern. Then…. he stops dead in his tracks! The calm look in Ole Buckzilla’s eyes transitions to one of alert. You see him raise his head slightly, seemingly lifted by the perfect 12 point rack gracing his head. His nose curls a bit. Something’s got his attention. Yup he’s winded something or someone! Guess what buddy? It’s you.
Your cocky smirk droops and is replaced with one thought screaming in your head… Please NOOOO! But that’s enough for this trophy buck, he’s smelled enough, and he’s gone quicker than a cupcake at fat camp.
Does this sound like a scenario you’ve experienced at least once in your years of hunting? If so, try not to feel bad. It happens to the best of us. When this happened to me I began to think about a whitetail deer’s sense of smell and how this affects my hunt. Just how well can a deer smell?
According to Bowhunting 360 “a deer’s olfactory senses are its greatest superpower. Deer use their nose as a primary defense against predators. … But that’s not all: The roof of a deer’s mouth contains the Jacobson’s organ, which sorts out smells. When a deer breathes, it automatically detects various smells in the air, including human scent.”* To add to this, note what researchers at Mississippi State University found. They reported that “a deer’s sense of smell, like a dog’s, can be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 times more acute than a human’s. Furthermore, scientists say that whitetails have thousands of sensitive receptors in their nostrils, which they use to sort out up to six smells at one time.”**
As we can see, a deer’s sense of smell is something that we should never underestimate. So the question we’re left with is how can we hunt without triggering a deer’s sense of smell? Thankfully there are some basic things we can do to minimize and camouflage any odor we have.
One of the first things we can do is keep in mind that walking in and out from your stand is a time to set yourself up for success or failure. In other words try to avoid rubbing up against the brush/branches during the hike in and out. Also, when you’re on stand avoid introducing new scents that will trigger a whitetails internal alarm to beat feet and get outta there. So avoid foods and drinks that put off strong smells. Also, avoid smoking as that is definitely a habit that puts out scent. According to ShootBigBucks.com, some “say you can harvest deer while smoking (especially with a firearm) BUT…how many deer are being affected by your cigarette smoke that you never see? Often a hunter will not see the deer they spook because the deer know the hunter is there long before they’re ever within sight.”*** This means if we want to minimize or camouflage our odor we need to keep our scent under control on the way in and out of our hunting spot, and especially while we sit on stand.
Another thing to keep in mind is the wind. During your scouting try to ascertain the wind’s direction during different times of the day. By knowing which way the wind blows you can more effectively minimize your scent footprint in the area. So play the wind and practice good scent control while in the field.
Practicing good scent control is our next point. While there are numerous sprays, and contraptions that are designed to minimize or eliminate your scent, there is one that I’ve found works best. Dead Scent makes a system that eliminates human scent on your hunting clothing while at the same time leaving the scent of refined salt. This means you will not smell like something dangerous, but instead like something delicious – that is to a whitetail. Another benefit to this system is the fact that it will not break down your clothing like some other systems that are currently on the market. If you use the Dead Scent system you will become a believer, and Ole Buckzilla will never know you’re there.
So the next time you’re on stand, and the conditions are right, remember that your scent plays a huge part in the success of your hunt. Yes, put in the hours of practice and prep, but all the time in the world will not replace your investment in eliminating your scent.