You smell good! But a Stag smells better!
Hearing that whistle of a Sika hind is an all too common occurrence for anyone that's spent time in New Zealands Central North Island bush. Busted!.... Maybe?? It usually means they can tell something ain't right. They may have seen your UV reflection through the forest (see Can deer see Blaze Orange blog) If they haven't smelt you they will usually creep around you to try and "cut your wind" or get downwind of you to work out if you have 2 legs or 4. If they think 2, you'll likely hear each squeal a little more distant as they move slowly, creeping out of your life, forever!
To fully understand exactly what and how a deer smells is impossible for humans. Those who have done extensive studies and research have described it as if a human walks in through the front door and smells tonights curry on the table, they smell the delicious curry. A deer would be able to tell you each spice to the gram, when it was picked and what region of Asia it came from and the same for the meat and Naan bread and all this from a kilometre away, if it could talk of course! They can't obviously so they use their nearly 300 Million Olfactory Receptors V's our 5-30 Million (depending on what study you read) this allows them to smell 500-1000 times more acutely than us.
"Acutely" it doesn't just mean stronger. It means they can unpack the scent, decompartmentalise it. They use this incredible sense of smell to communicate within their community. To work out who's where and how long ago. The Tarsal glands on the inner back legs paint this information on the forest floor with detail laden pheromone where ever they may wonder. More glands, the preorbital and forehead leave more information high on the leaves and trees they nibble or scrape.
Great...but how does this all help me? I hear you say....
Realising how important scent is can be a revelation for some. Most of us judge hunting gear on what it looks like because that's how we hunt, right? Our primary hunting sense is sight and the camo patterns look great to us with our human eyes. A deers primary sense is smell. We need to start to judge gear on what it smells like or will smell like after a day or 2 or 7 or more?
Those 300 Million Olfactory Receptors work hard to search out scent compounds usually Organic from bacteria or Artificial scent compounds from the likes of washing powders, deodorants etc. So.
Don't wear your normal deodorant hunting, they can smell that waay more than they can smell your dirty pits. There is some specialist "no scent" hunting deodorants out there that seem to work ok.
Those scent kill type sprays work by either masking your smell with deer pee etc or some bind to the scent compound and deactivate it with pretty good success. I always spray my boots before heading in.
Don't wash your gear with standard ol washing powder use a No UV and No Fragrance clothes wash like "SportWash".
Use clothing made of natural fibre like Merino wool as its naturally antimicrobial and is way better on the BO front after several days in the bush than anything synthetic. Remember that moisture creates a home for bacteria and bacteria produce the organic scent compounds, synthetics trap it against your skin and thin Merino wool wicks it away over time.
As you walk through the bush, refrain from touching the trees and rocks with your hands, as now you're leaving your scent trail for them and remember they might be able to tell where you live 😳. Your breath is something that can be smelt from a distance. Ive heard of people chewing a Horopito leaf or other edible plants to disguise the scent and wear a neck gaiter over your mouth to reduce the breaths travel.
If you use the ol baby wipe shower technique use the unscented ones!
It's important to remember that, like their eyesight, what they smell and how they smell is totally different to us. So as bad as the car ride home may smell (to us) remember to steer clear of the artificial perfumes, and fabrics that we may use in everyday life. You might even come up smelling of roses.
Check out our Deer vision article "Can deer see Blaze Orange" on our blog for more.
Take care out there...Wade