How Far Can Deer Smell? (Deer Scenting Capabilities Explained)


A deer can smell a maximum of about 15 miles away under absolutely perfect conditions. However, if you’re a hunter a deer likely won’t show any signs of concern after 1/4 or 1/2 mile depending on hunting pressure.

There is a difference between how far a deer can smell vs how far it is concerned about a smell. If you’re a hunter and are looking for more information on deer scenting capabilities, this post will give you some clarification.

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How Far Can Deer Smell

It’s hard to get an accurate distance because there’s a high variability of environmental factors to consider that affect a deer’s ability to smell. These factors include:

  • Wind Speed
  • Strength of Smell
  • Humidity
  • Barometric Pressure
  • Landscape Terrain

For this reason, better-studied information found on different animals including dogs, hogs, and bears help us to more accurately ballpark how far a deer can actually smell.

Scent Receptors: Deer vs Other Animals

Dogs generally have fewer scent receptors than white-tailed deer, yet dogs can smell humans up to 12 miles away under perfect conditions. So it is logical to assume that deer can smell even further than 12 miles away in perfect conditions.

There are no studies with solid scientific describing the number of scent receptors of different animals that I could find. I’ve included links to where I got my information below, using the best sources I could find.

  • Bears have about 500 million scent receptors and can smell about 20 miles away.
  • Wild hogs are reported to have a better sense of smell than deer.
  • Deer are reported to have about 297 million scent receptors.
  • The average dog has between 125-250 million scent receptors and can smell up to 12 miles away.
  • Humans have 5 million scent receptors.

How Far Can Deer Smell With Perfect Conditions vs Other Animals

How Far Can Deer Smell A Deer Hunter?

Can Deer Tell How Far Away You Are By Smell?

Yes, deer can tell how far away a threat is by smell. When a scent is very weak or diluted it is less concerning to deer because they can tell how far away the threat is by the potency of the scent. As the potency of the scent increase so does a deer’s concern.

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Hunting pressure would influence the degree to which the scent’s distance becomes threatening.

How Far Do Deer Worry About Human Odor?

In most hunting conditions deer are not going to feel threatened further than 1/2 mile away and probably more like 1/4 mile away. But it depends on how much you stink! If you’re taking scent control precautions you can trick deer into thinking you’re further away than you actually are.

A deer’s nose is its most powerful detection system for getting away from predators and they know how to use it, especially mature deer. Mature deer are more likely to be cautious of human odor at longer distances than younger deer. Although they are likely won’t run away at those 1/4 to 1/2 mile distances, mature deer often will avoid your general direction.

How Long Can Deer Smell Where You Walked?

A bloodhound can track animals up to 300 hours (13 days) old if the environmental conditions remain fair. The scent receptors of a bloodhound are around 300 million which is approximately the same as a white-tailed deer. So a deer can smell where you’ve walked for about two weeks. If you take scent control seriously you will lessen the potency of your scent trail and thus it will take less time for your scent to become undetectable again.

Will Deer Come Back After They’ve Smelled You?

Mature deer are much less likely to come back after they’ve smelled you if they are aware they are being hunted. Mature deer will quickly start avoiding the immediate area. Sometimes all it takes for mature deer to avoid the immediate area is to smell your trail to and from your treestand at night even after you’ve left. This will be influenced by the hunting pressure of a given area.

Younger deer will come back until they associate human odors with danger.

What Do Deer Smell On Humans?

Deer can smell just about anything on a human. Our breath, skin, hair, sweat, gas, saliva, and our own personal bacterial signatures (That unique smell when you walk into someone else’s house). And that’s just natural body processes. That’s not accounting for any scent you picked up in your car, at the gas station, food, clothes…etc. Basically, a deer can smell everything on a human.

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How To Prevent Deer From Smelling You

There’s likely no way to completely camouflage your odor from a deer. However, I’ve found that you can reduce your odor to small enough amounts so deer think you’re farther away and to make deer think your scent is older than it really is. Thus, you are perceived as less threatening which may make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful hunt.

1. Play The Wind

Playing the wind is a great tactic and is the least expensive! However, mature deer know to put the wind in their favor as well so they will often sneak downwind of you. With the products below it is possible to hunt wrong wind directions or swirling winds if done properly.

2. Use Scent-Lok Activated Carbon Clothing

ScentLok uses activated carbon for maximum odor adsorption. Activated carbon naturally adsorbs human odor because it has a huge surface area. When used properly Scent-Lok clothing is very effective at reducing odor and preventing animals from smelling the hunter. The coverall is also the best style of clothing from keeping scent from escaping the body.

best scent control coveralls gift for hunters

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3. Wear Rubber Boots

Rubber is naturally scent-free making them an excellent option for deer hunting. Footwear is very important to keep clean so that deer don’t catch on to your entrance and exit routes when going to and from your treestand.

Lacrosse Grange Deer Hunting Boot GiftHow Far Can Deer Smell? (Deer Scenting Capabilities Explained)Check Amazon’s Price

4. Implement Ozonics Ozone Generators

OZonics OrionX Ozone Scent Eliminator is easily one of the absolute best pieces of gear for deer hunters because when placed next to the hunter in a treestand, it completely removes human order with Ozone. This tool removes one of the biggest challenges deer hunters face – a deer’s nose.

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5. Stay Extra Clean and Unscented During Deer Season

It is important for hunters to be scent-free when hunting animals with strong olfactory senses, like deer. If the wind direction starts swirling a good scent control regime can be the difference between a successful and not successful hunt. Dead Down Wind makes a great scent killer kit.

See also 

best scent control gift for hunters

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How Far Can Deer Smell Corn and Apples?

Vegetation, like humans, also gives off what are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They’ll give off specific scents during their growing cycle. Deer are able to pick up on these scents just like they pick up on humans.

The distance a deer could smell apple trees or corn would depend on how big the plots were. For a small plot of corn and a few apple trees, it would be easy for a deer to smell them 1/4 mile away. For apple orchards and big corn fields, it would stand to reason that deer could smell the corn and apples up to 15 miles away.

More Deer Hunting Resources:

Navigating faster by clicking one of my more specific deer hunting articles below:

Best Deer Hunting Tips and Tactics:

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Deer Hunting Gear:

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Best Places To Shop For Hunting Gear:

Some great places to find hunting gear include:

  • Amazon – Free Two-Day Shipping For Prime Members
  • Cabela’s – Free Shipping on Orders Over 50$
  • L.L. Bean – Free Shipping on Orders Over 50$
  • Walmart – Free Shipping on Orders Over 35$
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods

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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 >>