How to overcome a whitetail deer’s keen sense of smell

A whitetail deer’s sense of smell is anything but beyond our comprehension.

Dogs too.

My bird dog locks on point while retrieving a downed bird.

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

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

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

Older, more experienced deer are quite able to tell when a stand of trees is in use. And they will turn away often, especially during the day.

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

And it was evident that the white-tailed deer had been standing for a little while, moving its feet back and forth. Each split hoof print 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 a deer’s nose.

Some young deer have also learned to beware of a place in the woods oversaturated with a hunter’s scent.

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

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

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

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

The most recent scent would be yellow smoke, maybe say, 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, across the visible spectrum of blue.

Now take a tree that has a hunter in it every day for a week. Throw smoke bombs 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 the smell of a deer.


Now if you were an older deer and even walked around a tree with different colors of smoke swirling in the wind currents and thermals, that would be enough to at least make you stop and stomp your foot.

Most hunters believe that the only way to successfully hunt white-tailed deer is from a stand, whether it’s a stand of trees or a ground blind.

Hunting from a booth seems easy, logical, and straightforward. And it has to be the best way, because most TV hunting experts hunt this way.

But it was about a time we could walk ridge to ridge, past portable tree stands and videos, playing the wind, still hunting.

Many of us know that the hunt is more productive the first time or two in a stand. We often keep prime stalls until the rut peaks.

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

And forget about it on the fourth, fifth, 10th and 15th consecutive days.

Visualize the smoke metaphor. Our scent accumulates and lasts for days near a booth. If we use it, day in and day out, whitetail will mold us better than we mold it.

And it follows that when we take the same position day after day, we see less and less deer.

The more stands of trees and blinds on the ground a hunter has in different places, the better his chances of seeing deer, as we allow our scent to dissipate, let alone play the wind in the game of chess. deer hunter.

And deer hunters who make different moves around the stand site have a better chance of cheating on the white-tailed deer nose and getting checkmate.

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

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