How to Overcome a Whitetail Deer’s Acute Sense of Smell

A white-tailed deer’s sense of smell is anything but beyond our comprehension.

Dogs too.

My bird dog was locking on point while retrieving a downed bird.

Somehow, this dog was able to smell a woodcock through all that heady grouse scent swirling around his muzzle. His nose was buried in burning feathers!

How could this dog smell a hidden bird with another bird in its mouth?

A seven-spotted buck runs the overhanging branch of Buck Trix set up in early November.

And how are bomb detection dogs able to identify the human scent on a tiny fragment of an exploded bomb?

Older, experienced deer are quite capable of telling when a tree stand is being used. And they often hesitate, especially during the day.

A few inches of snow on the leaves of the woods showed that a deer had walked right to the base of the tree holding my tree stand. Deer prints on top of boot tracks at base of old white pine tree.

And it was obvious that the white-tailed deer had been standing for a little while, moving his legs back and forth. Every cloven hoof print seen there next to the tree was actually a snapshot of a fleeting emotion from this wary animal.

Our scent hangs like mist, not dissipating for days to the nose of a white-tailed deer.

Some young white-tailed deer have also learned to be wary of a place in the woods, oversaturated with the scent of a hunter.

The scent acts a bit like a cloud of colored smoke.

The smoke metaphor helps us imagine what it must be like to smell like a white-tailed deer.

So let’s say the perfume could be colored like a rainbow, the oldest perfume with the freshest scent reflects the colors of the spectrum.

Therefore, on the one hand, the old scent could be represented by blue smoke, perhaps up to a week. Older it would turn gray and dissipate, being almost undetectable.

A newer scent would be yellow smoke, say maybe only three days old, and orange smoke would only be two days old. And the red smoke was a fresh scent, deposited within 24 hours, on the other side of the visible spectrum from blue.

Now take a tree stand that has a hunter in it every day for a week. Throw a smoke bomb of each color, red, orange, yellow and blue around the base of the tree to represent those days of old scent. This gives us a visual representation of what a whitetail deer smells like.



Now if you were an older whitetail deer and even wandered by a tree with different colors of smoke swirled by wind currents and thermals, that would be enough to make you at least stop and stomp .

Most hunters believe that the only way to successfully hunt whitetail deer is from a support, whether it’s a tree support or a ground blind.

Hunting on foot seems easy, logical and simple. And it must be the best way because most TV hunting experts hunt this way.

But the time was when we could roam from ridge to ridge, before portable tree stands and videos, playing the wind, always hunting.

Many of us know that hunting is most productive the first time or two in a stand. We often reserve prime stands until the rut peaks.

When we hunt for several days from the same stand, we often notice a drop in activity.

And forget about it on the fourth, fifth, 10th and 15th day in a row.

Visualize the smoke metaphor. Our scent builds up and lasts for days near a stall. If we use it, day after day, the white-tailed deer will shape us better than we shape it.

And it then follows that as we take the same position day after day, we see fewer and fewer deer.

The more stands of trees and blinds on the ground a hunter has in different places, the better the chance of seeing deer because we allow our scent to dissipate, not to mention play wind in the chess game of the deer hunter.

And deer hunters who perform different stand site moves have a better chance of tricking the deer’s nose and getting a checkmate.

Oak Duke writes a weekly column for the Hornell (NY) Evening Tribune.

This article originally appeared on The Evening Tribune: Woodland chess: how to beat the white-tailed deer’s keen sense of smell

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