What Does Deer Urine Smell Like


Hunters know that preventing deer from smelling you is essential, which is why we use tree stands. However, there’s been a lot of debate about how much human urine bothers or scares deer when we pee outdoors.

Intriguingly, there’s a lot of evidence to indicate that it’s not a big problem and can even make them curious. What does deer urine smell like?

Fresh deer urine smells lightly musky but not strong, however once the urine is exposed to the air, it starts to break down and it gains a strong ammonia scent that will get stronger as it ages. The overpowering odor is unpleasant to humans, but animals use it to determine how recent the deer was in the area.

What Does Deer Pee Smell Like

A deer’s tarsal gland, which is found on their hind legs, produces an oily substance that mixes with its urine to create a lightly musky scent that works like deer perfume or cologne in many cases.

Some describe it as vaguely similar to medical facilities. However, once the urine has sat exposed to air, the odor changes become much more robust and acidic.

Does Deer Urine Smell Like Cat Urine

Animals have tens of thousands and sometimes even millions more scent receptors in their noses than humans.

Doubtless, a deer can tell what animal peed in an area, but you may not be able to distinguish it. This is especially true of cats. Feline urine smells a bit like deer urine but less musky.

According to SarahPetSittingOnline, “Cat pee consists of urea, urobilin/urobilinogen, uric acid, sodium, other electrolytes, creatinine, pheromones, and bacteria. The first step in the decomposition of the pee is bacteria breaks down the urea (which is actually odorless) releasing ammonia, hence the strong ammonia scent associated with your litter box.”

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Does Deer Pee Smell Like Skunk

Deer pee does not smell like skunk. When skunks spray, it’s awful, but the odor is a thiol, an organic compound with sulfur as the main component. There is no thiol or sulfur in deer pee, and as a result, the smell is very different.

While both can be incredibly strong and unpleasant, skunks are distinct, and their spray is not pee.

Moreover, skunk pee does not smell like either deer pee or skunk spray. We would be able to tell the difference even with our limited human noses.

Does Deer Pee Smell Like Ammonia

Deer pee does smell like ammonia. As soon as the urine leaves the deer’s body, it comes in contact with the air. At this point, the smell is musky but not extreme.

However, as it begins the process of bacterial breakdown, also known as spoiling, the ammonia scent becomes increasingly pronounced because it’s a byproduct of the natural process.

The more pungent the odor from deer pee, the longer it has been there. If you encounter a buck’s scrapes, you will almost certainly discover this rank smell since the adult males make these marks between their preferred feeding and sleeping areas.

How Bad Does Deer Pee Smell

Deer pee smells terrible enough that it will deter most humans from an area. Even though we don’t have particularly powerful noses, some smells are enough to put us off, and most urine, deer or not, is on that list.

As the urine naturally decomposes, it becomes more potent. The rapid increase in odor is thanks to the millions of bacteria that live within the urine naturally.

If you’ve bought deer pee for hunting purposes, then it shouldn’t have a potent smell when you open it, though it will still be musky.

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Unfortunately, if it does seem especially ripe, then it was overexposed to the air. Some companies recommend leaving the bottle uncapped to ‘bleed off’ some of the scent.

Do Deer Mark Their Territory With Urine

Territory marks called scrapes are one use deer have for urine, but it’s more complicated than that.

During the breeding season, you will see deer with dark stains on their hind legs and notice the urine smell about them if you are close enough.

Notably, female deer and fawns as young as two days old have been seen doing these rub-urination behaviors as well. Presumably, it serves the same function, but there is little to no research on the issue.

How Deer Use The Smell Of Their Pee

During rutting season, male deer will intentionally urinate on their hind legs. Once damp, they rub the legs together to stimulate the tarsal gland, which produces an oily, but mostly odorless substance.

When these two liquids meet, the resulting scent advertises their presence and status or potency to the female deer in the herd.

Fawns may use urination differently from adults. When baby deer ‘pee their pants,’ it creates a strong odor, and their mothers often come running.

It may be a way to ask for help or alleviate a stressful situation for these little deer.

Helpful Tips To Know About What Deer Urine Smells Like

Animal urine, like deer pee, is often part of territory marking, similar to putting up a fence around your property to warn others away.

A deer’s urine has a distinct ammonia-like smell as it ages due to oxidation and the chemical reaction within the liquid.

Here are a few more helpful tips to know about what deer urine smells like.

  • Deer will lick and even eat the urine of other deer. While this may seem disturbing to humans, it probably helps them smell other animals better and identify ‘who’ has been in the area, which can be beneficial for breeding or territory disputes among males.
  • A deer at rest will often stand up and pee, then lay back down in their own urine. This behavior may help warn off predators who dislike the smell, or it may aid other members of their herd to know who they are at a distance.
  • Deer, or rather bucks, rub on trees to mark their territory. They usually rub near the base of the tree and it leaves a distinct mark where the bark is worn away. However, they also frequently add urine to their marks or below them.
  • Some deer pee is blue, but it’s not a good sign. The condition is called Porphyra. According to Northeast Wildlife, “Porphyrins are pigments and among them is heme, the red pigment that colors red blood cells. When these pigments are excreted in the urine and exposed to UV light, they turn “glass cleaner blue.” These conditions can be brought on by reducing total caloric intake to starvation levels or following an unbalanced diet.”
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Final Thoughts

The smell of deer urine can help attract other deer to the area, but it’s got a strong smell that people don’t like. The ammonia odor develops over time, becoming stronger as the urine is exposed to the air.

Male deer or bucks use the pee to find females and other males inside their territory, and hunters often use deer pee to help attract more deer to an area.

The smell of deer urine can linger for days and permeate any porous surfaces nearby.

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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 >>