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.”

See also  .308 Winchester for Grizzly Or Brown Bear Hunting? Best Ammo (Round, Load, Cartridge) for a Successful Grizzly Or Brown Bear Hunt Hunting Calibers 04 Apr, 2020 Posted By: Foundry Outdoors Is the .308 Winchester a viable caliber/load/round/cartridge for grizzly or brown bear hunting? The accurate answer is “it depends”. However, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether the .308 Winchester is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest grizzly or brown bear. As with anything, the devil is in the details. To answer the question completely, we would need to evaluate the downrange distance to the grizzly or brown bear, the bullet type, the grain weight of the bullet, the physical condition of the firearm, the size of the grizzly or brown bear in question, the shot placement, the local wind conditions, the expected accuracy of the shooter, the ethics of the ideal maximum number of shots – the list goes on. [Click Here to Shop .308 Winchester Ammo]What we can do is provide a framework to understand what average conditions might look like, and whether those are reasonably viable for a shot from the average shooter to harvest a grizzly or brown bear in the fewest number of shots possible, i.e., ethically. Let’s dive right in. In the question of “Is the .308 Winchester within the ideal range of suitable calibers for grizzly or brown bear hunting?” our answer is: No, the .308 Winchester is UNDERKILL for grizzly or brown bear hunting, under average conditions, from a mid-range distance, with a medium grain expanding bullet, and with correct shot placement.Let’s look at those assumptions a bit closer in the following table. Assumption Value Caliber .308 Winchester Animal Species Grizzly Or Brown Bear Muzzle Energy 2620 foot-pounds Animal Weight 595 lbs Shot Distance 200 yardsWhat is the average muzzle energy for a .308 Winchester? In this case, we have assumed the average muzzle energy for a .308 Winchester round is approximately 2620 foot-pounds. What is the average weight of an adult male grizzly or brown bear? Here we have leaned conservative by taking the average weight of a male individual of the species, since females generally weigh less and require less stopping power. In this case, the average weight of an adult male grizzly or brown bear is approximately 595 lbs. [Click Here to Shop .308 Winchester Ammo]What is the distance this species is typically hunted from? Distance, of course, plays an important role in the viability of a given caliber in grizzly or brown bear hunting. The kinetic energy of the projectile drops dramatically the further downrange it travels primarily due to energy lost in the form of heat generated by friction against the air itself. This phenonemon is known as drag or air resistance. Thus, a caliber that is effective from 50 yards may not have enough stopping power from 200 yards. With that said, we have assumed the average hunting distance for grizzly or brown bear to be approximately 200 yards. What about the other assumptions? We have three other primary assumptions being made here. First, the average bullet weight is encapsulated in the average muzzle energy for the .308 Winchester. The second important assumption is ‘slightly-suboptimal’ to ‘optimal’ shot placement. That is to say, we assume the grizzly or brown bear being harvested is shot directly or nearly directly in the vitals (heart and/or lungs). The third assumption is that a projectile with appropriate terminal ballistics is being used, which for hunting usually means an expanding bullet.Various calibersA common thread you may encounter in online forums is anecdote after anecdote of large animals being brought down by small caliber bullets, or small animals surviving large caliber bullets. Of course those stories exist, and they are not disputed here. A 22LR cartridge can fell a bull elephant under the right conditions, and a newborn squirrel can survive a 50 BMG round under other specific conditions. Again, the goal of this article is simply to address the question of whether .308 Winchester is within the ideal range of suitable calibers to harvest grizzly or brown bear - and to this question, the response again is no, the .308 Winchester is UNDERKILL for grizzly or brown bear hunting. [Click Here to Shop .308 Winchester Ammo]This article does not serve as the final say, but simply as a starting point for beginner hunters, as well as a venue for further discussion. Please feel free to agree, disagree, and share stories from your own experience in the comments section below. Disclaimer: the information above is purely for illustrative purposes and should not be taken as permission to use a particular caliber, a statement of the legality or safety of using certain calibers, or legal advice in any way. You must read and understand your own local laws before hunting grizzly or brown bear to know whether your caliber of choice is a legal option.Foundry Outdoors is your trusted home for buying archery, camping, fishing, hunting, shooting sports, and outdoor gear online.We offer cheap ammo and bulk ammo deals on the most popular ammo calibers. We have a variety of deals on Rifle Ammo, Handgun Ammo, Shotgun Ammo & Rimfire Ammo, as well as ammo for target practice, plinking, hunting, or shooting competitions. Our website lists special deals on 9mm Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 45-70 Ammo, 6.5 Creedmoor ammo, 300 Blackout Ammo, 10mm Ammo, 5.56 Ammo, Underwood Ammo, Buffalo Bore Ammo and more special deals on bulk ammo.We offer a 100% Authenticity Guarantee on all products sold on our website. Please email us if you have questions about any of our product listings. 6 Comments Brian Mumford - May 19, 2021I respectfully disagree, and to back up my opinion, I merely have to point to the agency that probably deals with more polar bears—the largest and most dangerous bears—than any other in the world: the Canadian Arctic Rangers.In 2015, they chose as standard issue in dealing with polar bears the Sako T3 CTR (Compact Tactical Rifle) bolt-action rifle with a 10-round detachable magazine chambered in .308 Winchester. Operating in -50 C weather (-58 F), they cannot afford for a semi-auto to jam when facing a polar bear, yet they are perfectly confident using a .308 rather than a more powerful magnum rifle or even a .30-06. If the branch of the Canadian military dealing with polar bears chose a .308 rifle, then what you are saying about a .30-06 does not appear to be true. Just because the North American military arm dealing such threats chose a .308 does not necessarily make them right, but how many polar bears have you taken?A .30-06 was Teddy Roosevelt’s choice for elephants, and today’s loads are much improved over the ones used by the man who carried a big stick in the early 20th Century. I am not claiming a .30-06 is a good idea on elephants and other dangerous game in Africa these days given our modern options (or even permissible by African outfitters), but to say a 30-06 is underpowered for brown bear is at the very least overstating the point. But when we look further, it appears flat out wrong.The Alaskan Department of Fish and Game states the following on their website (“If you presently own a rifle chambered for the .270 Winchester, 7mm-08, .308 Winchester or .30-06 and can place all of your shots in an 8-inch circle out to 200 yards from a sitting or kneeling position you can be a successful Alaska hunter. To be as effective as possible, these cartridges should be loaded with premium quality bullets that are designed to pass completely through a large game animal, if hit in the heart-lung area.“Big Magnums Not Needed…”“The rifle you bring hunting should be one with which you are comfortable. Because of the presence of brown and grizzly bears, many hunters have been convinced that a .300, .338, .375, or .416 magnum is needed for personal protection and to take large Alaska game. This is simply not true. The recoil and noise of these large cartridges is unpleasant at best and plainly painful to many shooters. It is very difficult to concentrate on shot placement when your brain and body remembers the unpleasant recoil and noise which occurs when you pull the trigger on one of the big magnums.“The two most common complaints of professional Alaska guides are hunters who are not in good physical condition and hunters who cannot accurately shoot their rifles. Because these hunters do not practice enough they cannot shoot accurately enough. They miss their best chance at taking their dream animal or worse yet, they wound and lose an animal. Most experienced guides prefer that a hunter come to camp with a .270 or .30-06 rifle they can shoot well rather than a shiny new magnum that has been fired just enough to get sighted-in. If you are going to hunt brown bear on the Alaska Peninsula or Kodiak Island, a .30-06 loaded with 200- or 220-grain Nosler® or similar premium bullet will do the job with good shot placement.”Obviously professionals hunting in Alaska do NOT require—or even recommend—magnum calibers, even for Kodiak Bears (arguably the largest bears on average next to polar bears). Moreover, they agree with the Canadian Arctic Rangers that shot placement, whether it be from a .30-06 Springfield, .270 Winchester, or even a .308 Winchester, is obviously more important than magnum power, and the Canadians clearly favor a .308 for the task.Conclusion? A .30-06 or a .308 will get the job done on any bear. Period. Brian Mumford - May 19, 2021In addition to the comment I submitted yesterday, it is important to realize something else. In this article you said, “we have assumed the average muzzle energy for a .308 Winchester round is approximately 2620 foot-pounds.”The Canadian Arctic Rangers dealing with polar bears in recent years adopted the Tikka T3x ARCTIC chambered in 308 (designated the model C19) , and they are issued commercially available 308 rounds possessing the 180 grain Nosler AccuBond bullet like Black Hills Gold 308 Winchester ammunition which has a muzzle energy rating of 2598 ft. lbs. (which is just south of the average you cited above).Again, these rangers are likely running into more polar bears than just about anyone and in the harshest conditions. Coupled with what the Alaskan Department of Fish & Game has to say about using the 308 for grizzly & brown bear hunting and self defense, the 308 is NOT underkill. These organizations—making their living and taking responsibility for others in bear territory—are not just considering the 308 acceptable under the right conditions, they are issuing and recommending this caliber over magnum calibers respectively. Again, the Canadian Arctic Rangers are operating in the WORST conditions (not just average), and they chose a bolt-action rifle chambered in 308 are are issued commercially available 180 grain ammunition.That isn’t to say people who would rather put their faith in magnum calibers are wrong if they are already a great shot with magnum calibers and—along with others around them—don’t mind the noise, but to make the bold/all-caps statement that the 308 is UNDERKILL is not credible in my opinion given what the experts dealing with the repercussions of choosing the wrong caliber are doing in practice (recommending and using a 308 for deadly bears in lieu of more powerful calibers). Foundry Outdoors Admin - May 19, 2021Brian – thanks so much for the thoughtful reply. When writing these articles, we leaned toward the conservative side, but your references and information are certainly compelling arguments for usage of 308 or 30-06 calibers in this regard. For all readers – please refer to the information that Brian kindly provided to fully inform your decision about which caliber of rifle to use in your bear hunt. Brian J Gustafson - Oct 21, 2021You also need to harken back to Mr Jack Oconor. He was a big 270 advocate. Except for dangerous game. Then he used a 30-06. Now look at the velocity energy and weight retention of the ammunition he had at that time. No where near the performance that is available today. My final thought on the subject is this. In 2017 i took a trip to Montana. While there i shot a 600# + elk. After seeing the way my 308 with a 150 grain Hornady GMX ravaged that Elk. I would have no fear of hunting any Big Game in North America with that gun. Lung tissue is Lung tissue and it is fragile. Georgiaboy61 - Jun 02, 2022@ Bryan MumfordRe: “I respectfully disagree, and to back up my opinion, I merely have to point to the agency that probably deals with more polar bears—the largest and most dangerous bears—than any other in the world: the Canadian Arctic Rangers.”To add to your argument, until very recently the Canadian Rangers were equipped with Lee-Enfield Mk. IV bolt-actions in .303 British, a venerable cartridge which has been around for a very long time. If contemporary sources are accurate, the .303 British clocks in around 90% of the power of the short-action .308 – yet the Rangers used them for years apparently with great success. They finally moved on from the rifles not because they didn’t do the job, but because of their age and unavailability of spare parts for them.There is one other group similar to the Canadian Rangers whose experiences are relevant: The Danish Sirius Sledge Patrol, which patrols much of the Greenland wilderness.Greenland is considered a protectorate of the Kingdom of Denmark, hence the Sirius Unit (a part of the Danish Navy), whose personnel are not only wilderness survival experts and outdoorsmen, but paramedics and highly-trained special ops soldiers. The Danish military wants them to be able to handle anything.Patrols go out for 2-3 months at a time, and consist of two man teams, plus their dogs, sledges and equipment and gear. The men are each armed with a semi-automatic Glock pistol in 10mm, and a Model 1917 Enfield rifle in 30-06. These rifles, though older than the men who use them, have worked well, and the Danes continue to sent them out. Their preferred polar bear medicine if it comes to that – is black-tip armor-piercing 30-06.It seems to me that the whole point of bringing enough gun with the right load is to tilt the odds in your favor if your shot isn’t perfectly placed, and thereby provide a humane, prompt and ethical kill – but also if things go sideways, hitting harder is better than not hit harder. A hit with grandpa’s old 30-06, 308 or 270 beats a miss with that big magnum or the like. Mark Millspaugh - Jul 04, 2023Re: polar bear relative to brown, the polar bear trots confidently towards his meal, seldom having faced his match. The brown circled around behind you in tall grass and brush and charged near silently from a few yards. I have not been charged by any bear but have been stalked by both. Our native “body guard” once used a .303 for polar bear but I doubt he would feel the same about that round and platform in a tangle of tall grass and alder. All said, I have more confidence in the ability of a semi-auto to work than I do of my scared ability to operate a bolt for a second shot from feet away. My ideal gun for browns would be a Browning BAR in .35 Whelen but I don’t have that. FN FAL Para in .308 for potentially getting off quick follow-ups. Leave a commentComments have to be approved before showing up Your Name * Your Email * Your Comment * Post Comment

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 >>