The Science of Scent


Every hunter knows that deer have a remarkable sense of smell, but just how well can they smell? While there is no research offering specific measurements of a deer’s olfactory abilities, Steve Ditchkoff, professor in wildlife ecology and management at Auburn University, says it’s estimated that a deer can smell at least 1,000 times better than a human.

“Essentially, what you find in the animal kingdom, is the length of the animal’s rostrum (nose) indicates how well it can smell,” Ditchkoff said. “For example, cats don’t have a good sense of smell compared to other animals, due to a short rostrum. But, some breeds of dogs, such as Labradors, have a great sense of smell, thanks to their long rostrums.”

Ditchkoff says a deer’s strong sense of smell plays a vital part in three important areas of a deer’s life – avoiding predators, locating food and selecting a mate.

Avoiding Predators

Of course, the whitetail’s sensitive nose can make it a challenge to hunt, that’s why it’s important for hunters pursuing deer to be as scent-free as possible.

“While you want to be as scent-free as possible throughout the entire hunt, I believe it is most important while you are walking to and from your hunting setup, because that’s when you leave a trail of scent particles behind,” Ditchkoff said. “A deer may have no idea you’re in the area while you’re hunting from a stand or blind, but when the deer walks through the area after you’ve walked through, it knows you’ve been there. If you frequently hunt that area, the deer will begin to pattern you, much like you may pattern a particular deer or herd of deer.”

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For this reason it’s a good idea to utilize scent-elimination products, such as the Code Blue EliminX line of products. Designed for use on your clothing, hair and body, the ElminX products boast the hybrid scent-elimination technology of Silver-Zyme™, which combines nano-silver and enzyme technology to kill scent. In fact, this dual-action technology eliminates 99.9% of odor-causing bacteria. Spraying down, wiping down and bathing with ElminX sprays, wipes, body wash and shampoos help conceal your scent so you can remain undetected regardless of wind direction.

Washing clothes with EliminX Laundry Detergent not only cleans and deodorizes clothing, but clothing treated with this detergent absorbs game-spooking odors in camp and during the hunt as well. The EliminX Dryer Sheets take garment scent control to the next level with even more odor-killing properties.

Of course, cover scents also offer a great option for concealing your scent. Designed to mask human odor, Code Blue’s Coon Urine Cover Scent and Fox Urine Cover Scent put deer at ease with natural scents they are used to smelling in the wild.

Locating Food

Deer spend the majority of their time eating. In fact, it’s estimated that a deer eats approximately 1 ½ tons of food a year and they rely heavily on their noses to locate it.

“Because white-tailed deer have the ability to detect odors on par with dogs and other species that have incredible olfactory abilities, deer have the potential to detect novel food sources from considerable distances,” Ditchkoff said. “Food attractants, which typically have a fairly strong odor to them, can undoubtedly be detectable from hundreds of yards in some cases.”

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Code Blue’s Apple Swig Whitetail Attractant and Corn Craze Whitetail Attractant take advantage of a deer’s remarkable ability to smell food sources from great distances. Both attractants are specifically blended to draw in whitetails and establish a pattern of repeat visits to your feeding site.

Selecting a Mate

Finally, deer rely heavily on their noses to find a mate. In fact, reproducing is the no. 1 activity focus throughout a deer’s life.

“The main objective of every animal is to pass along its genes to the next generation,” Ditchkoff said. “Everything an animal does, from eating, to avoiding predators, to mating, to protecting its young is done to ensure the future of its species, and the ability to detect certain scents plays a vital role in this process.”

Code Blue’s whitetail urine, estrous and tarsal gland scents are designed to take advantage of a buck’s strong desire to mate. These scents, which are taken from a single animal for “true-to-life” effectiveness are designed to lure a trophy buck into range. Most scent companies blend buck and doe urine in their bottles, resulting in the bottles all smelling the same. A problem arises when several hunters use the same urine blend in an area. If a hunter spooks a buck that has smelled that scent, the buck will get spooked again if it smells that same blend somewhere else. He’ll associate it with the noise that scared him and will not enter the area. Single-source urines, such as Code Blue, do not create this problem.

While a deer’s remarkable sense of smell can create a challenge for hunters, the wise hunter can also use it to his or her advantage by utilizing scent-conscious hunting techniques and high-quality scent-elimination products and attractants to outsmart a deer’s sensitive nose.

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By: Stephanie Mallory

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>