How Far Can a Deer Smell?


If you’ve ever spent any time in the woods scouting or hunting deer, you’ve no doubt heard that dreaded snort sound. You’ve been busted. The deer smelled you and sent up the alert to all of the others in the area.

You look around, focusing on the direction from where the sound came from, but you can’t see anything. Maybe – just maybe – you’ll see the flick of a white tail bounding away from you.

Being busted by a deer in the woods is a big bummer, but they don’t remain elusive by having poor senses. University studies have shown that deer have a sense of smell that is between 500 and 1,000 times more acute than a human’s sense of smell.

To put it simply, deer can smell from a long, long way away – far beyond what they can see.

How Far Can a Deer Smell?

We established that a deer’s sense of smell is exponentially greater than a human’s, but what does that mean in terms of actual distance? Well, it means that a deer can, in theory, smell you from miles and miles away.

While that’s great for them, the likelihood that you’re on the prowl for a deer that’s hanging out in the next county is slim to none. Instead, you have to be aware of how far away a deer can smell you and have the potential to be concerned by the smell. In many cases, this distance is around a half a mile away. For our metric friends, that’s more than three-quarters of a kilometer.

Of course, if you are more odorous, they can smell you from a greater distance and are likely to be concerned at a greater distance.

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Can Deer Tell Where You Are From Your Smell?

Deer have incredible noses, due in part to them having 300 million olfactory receptors. That’s approximately 25% more than bloodhounds.

Deer have broad lateral nostrils that allow them to smell directional. The technical term is “stereo olfaction” and it’s the smelling equivalent of being able to tell what direction a sound is coming from.

Because of this, when you see a deer raise its head and start flaring its nostrils, you know that it is picking up all kinds of scents, in all sorts of directions, and from great distances.

Tips for Decreasing Your Scent

The key to tricking (I won’t go so far as to say defeating) a deer’s exceptional sense of smell is to decrease your scent. There are a lot of ways you can do this.

Play the Wind

Scents travel better if they get picked up by the wind. If you’re going to be hunting in a certain area, it’s a good idea to know the direction in the wind is blowing when you’re hunting. Even better is to scout the area in advance and see if there are any wind patterns that you can plan around for better concealment.

Reduce – Not Mask – Your Scent

Since deer can smell so well and pick apart scents, masking rarely works. To you, it may smell as though a scent mask has eliminated your human scent. To a deer, they smell the masking scent and the human scent. Therefore, the better idea is to reduce your scent with special soaps, detergents, carbon, etc.

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Wear Rubber Boots

Rubber does a good job of containing the smells within them. As an added bonus, rubber is naturally odorless. If you wear rubber boots, you’ll be less likely to leave behind a scent trail from where you entered the woods to where you set up for the hunt.

Do Deer Have Other Heightened Senses?

It’s been established that deer can smell way better than humans, but that’s just one of the senses. How do their other pivotal senses stack up to humans?

Deer Sight

Bad news for hunters: deer are far-sighted and their vision is about five times better than that of a human. This means that it’s imperative for you to remain still, even if you can’t see a deer. They can see you, and they will bust you by your movement long before you see them.

Deer Hearing

Good news for hunters: deer don’t hear much better than the average human. Assuming, that is, that you have good hearing to begin with. If you’ve damaged your hearing through a lifetime of hunting without hearing protection, then a deer has better hearing than you do. However, if you’ve got good ears, then you’re on par with a deer. At least it’s one aspect where they don’t have the upper hand!

Always Be One Buck Ahead…Order Your Suppressor Today

Many hunters forgo hearing protection, making hearing loss a major issue. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to keep the buck of a lifetime from having one more sense that’s better than you. Silencers bring the sound of your shot down to a hearing-safe level for you and your hunting companions.

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Another benefit to using a suppressor is that you can avoid scaring unseen game, and allow yourself and others in your group to keep hunting even after hitting your mark. Or, on the rare chance you miss a tough shot, you may even get a second chance.

We’re the nation’s largest silencer dealer, licensed to sell in all 42 states where silencers are legal. That means we can sell you a silencer in all 41 states where suppressors are legal for hunting purposes. Our staff have helped thousands of new customers pick out the right suppressor for an upcoming hunt, and we’d love the opportunity to do the same for you.

The buying process couldn’t be more simple when you buy from Silencer Central. We’ll walk you through the entire process and then mail your suppressor right to your front door upon approval. It doesn’t get any better or easier than that!

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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 >>