The tarsal glands on a whitetail deer secrete a powerful identifying odor used by deer all year. Deer unfamiliar with each other will sniff each others tarsal glands to get to know one another. Their powerful 300 million nasal scent receptors store this information in their brain which can recall it in the future for identifying purposes.
Tarsal glands tell important factors like sex, age, health and dominance. The hairs on the tarsal gland are very dense and limit the amount of scent they release. The very strong pheromone containing scent is released when a deer urinates on their glands (rub-urinates) or when a deer enters a fight or flight mood swing. The most dominant whitetail bucks will have darker tarsal glands.
Using tarsal glands as an attractant
Tarsal glands can be used all year as an attractant because they peak a deer’s curiosity. Tarsals will bring in deer of any shape and size but if used properly, they could entice that trophy of a lifetime to walk within range of your stand.
Doe tarsals will attract other does and bucks all season. Remember, its the real thing and when someone new is in their house, their curiosity will lure them in. During the rut phases, the tarsal glands of bucks, mixed with or without tarsal glands of does, can do wonders.
While pursuing bucks who are establishing dominancy, use a smaller less dominant bucks tarsal glands to lure in the king of the block. If you obtain a local dominant buck’s tarsal glands and use them in his home area, this may backfire and scare off other challenging buck who knew who he was. I mean, who would go out of their way to go a round or two with Mike Tyson!
If you can acquire a dominant buck’s tarsal glands from another area though then you are in business. The local dominant buck will pick up the strong odor, instantly know there’s a challenger, and come to the scent to settle the score. Success!!
Removing a deer’s tarsal glands
The quicker you can take a harvested deer’s tarsal glands and get them to the refrigerator or freezer the better off you will be. There are bacteria in a deer’s tarsal gland which is proven to cause illnesses in humans so use rubber gloves while handling tarsal glands. With a sharp knife, skin around the gland and remove the entire gland before field dressing. Take the tarsal glands, put them in a zip lock bag, mark it with the deer’s information (sex, estimated age, dominance level) and store it in the freezer or refrigerator.
It is normally good practice to use the tarsal glands when the weather is cooler. The glands will spoil, so after use, they should be put back in their bag and back into the freezer or refrigerator as soon as possible. To prevent spoiling, when thawing out frozen tarsal glands, thaw them out in a refrigerator.
The tarsal glands will typically last for a couple weeks with the right care. Use your nose to determine if they are past due or not. If the tarsal glands dry up, dip them quickly in water to bring their moisture level back up.
How to use the tarsal glands in the field
There are two methods that we will describe for using the tarsal glands in the field. They can be used individually or together to create the environment the hunter requires. One method is hanging the actual tarsal gland in a tree and the other method is using the “tarsal juice.”
Hanging the tarsal gland in a tree
The tarsal gland on a deer is normally only 12-18 inches off the ground so that is the most logical place to put it. Wedge the tarsal gland in the crotch of a sapling or branch. If one isn’t present at that level you can put it higher. Just as long as the wind can hit it. Try to install it so the scent will carried by a cross wind to the deer’s anticipated location. This can get tricky; you want the deer to smell the tarsal glands, not you, so choose a location wisely.
*Just a reminder – Never leave your tarsal glands or any scents in the field while you are not hunting. This is a bad practice and only educates deer.
Using “tarsal juice”
To make and use tarsal juice, you will need the following:
– scissors – 6-8 ounces of bottled water – a small spray bottle – a fine strainer or coffee filter
1. Take the scissors and cut and keep the tarsal glands fine dense hair. If you have a really sharp knife, you can “shave” the hair off as well.
2. Warm up (not too hot, slightly above luke warm) the 6-8 ounces of bottled water.
3. Put the tarsal hair into the warm water for 30 minutes. The water will draw the oils from the tarsal hair.
4. Pour the mixture through a strainer or coffee filter and bottle the fresh “tarsal juice.”
5. Pour the tarsal gland juice into a spray bottle. You should be able to fill up two 2 ounce spray bottles and still have 3-4 ounces left over. With the left over juice we advise freezing it in a breast milk freezer bag. Mark the date you made the juice and what kind of deer it was on the containers.
The tarsal juice and be used a variety ways in the field. It can be used on a drag rag, on a scent wick, sprayed onto licking branches, sprayed onto scrapes, or just misted into the air when the time is right. Our favorite dispenser is a 2 ounce spray bottle found at many local convenience stores like Walgreens.
Whether you use tarsal glands, tarsal juice, or a combination of both, we wish you the best of luck in the field! Thanks to Jerrod Andrae for his knowledge on the subject! For more information visit click here.