In today’s technically advanced society there are some claims that very successful companies preach that don’t pass my “smell test”. A lifetime of hunting and the experiences of a network of hunting friends has convinced me that there is presently no scent eliminating or masking product that will prevent a deer from scenting your presence. My friends and I collectively, have tried everything on the market to mask or eliminate our scent under hunting conditions, and none have delivered as promised. What we have concluded is that if a deer is downwind of you or walks across your trail, most of the time, your busted. Even when you’ve cleansed yourself with the bacteria killing soaps, donned the latest activated carbon layered suit, sprayed on odor eliminating compounds, and used the ozone emanating contraptions.
A deers’ sense of smell is such that it can detect a humans’ scent trail up to four days after we have been there and gone. Therefore, its’ sense of smell is much more dependable and efficient for detecting humans than any other of its’ senses. We’ve been able to reduce the amount of scent we omit, but not disguise it enough to escape detection by a deer. Weather conditions effect how long our scent remains detectable by deer but as a rule of thumb, expect a deer to be able to detect your scent trail for up to four days. I liken it to a road-killed skunk, when its’ freshly squashed the smell is overpowering but eventually it fades away.
Deer smell our scent trails for days after we’ve left the woods. Not unlike what we experience with a road-killed pole cat that takes a while for nature to nuetralize
Once a deer has detected human scent in areas they are not used to encountering it, they become super alert, and in effect they then hunt us. By traveling downwind of the scent trail at a safe distance they do their best to locate the source, us, so they can then skirt our position without getting too close. It’s no wonder why the first time we hunt a spot that is devoid of human scent, the resident deer having not yet detected our presence, go about their normal activities. The deer are on their feet in daylight and are readily spotted by hunters who have properly placed stands. Once these same deer spot us or get a whiff of human scent the game changes. It may take them a few hours or a few days to discover humans have invaded their previously secure hideout but they will detect our scent we leave behind and know we were there. Then they move less in daylight sticking to heavy cover, and use the wind religiously to scent check everything from a safe distance before proceeding to go there. If the path ahead doesn’t pass the “smell test”, they detour.
It seems funny that a farmer going about his daily activities sees deer out in the open, casually feeding or traveling, and seemingly ignoring him. He drives his tractor within a stones throw of them as they occasionally give him a glance. They accept him as a part of the natural order of things, a scene that has innocently repeated itself a hundred times that is no threat to them. Once that same farmer alters his normal routine, for example, by chasing a cow on the loose into their woods, those deer become alert and take notice. Deer learn the routines of humans that inhabit their turf and develop a tolerance for these same people going about their normal business. They learn to read us, sensing when we are or are not, a threat to them. Farmers working their fields and tending to their livestock, the mailman delivering mail, kids playing in the yard, all these activities they have learned, are not threatening and are tolerated. Once those routines are altered, like the farmer chasing his wayward cattle through the woods, the deer notice and go on high alert. They may take flight or go into hiding. Likewise, occasionally when humans enter the woods to hunt, the deer take notice. Seeing or smelling a human where they normally do not, alarms them. The deer will change their habits to avoid coming into contact with them. Using their nose and knowledge of the landscape they seek out a new refuge and if it is free of human odor, in effect passing the “smell test”, they settle in.
Fooling a deers’ nose is the hardest obstacle a hunter has to overcome, and I have not found anything better to do so than staying downwind of them.