Do you smell that? Probably not. But the deer probably can. Smell is one of the most important senses for deer, so getting the right scent out in the woods while you’re hunting has to be a priority.
It can be a little overwhelming at first how many different kinds of scents there are and how many different ways there are to use them. The first step is to learn a little about what these smells mean to deer and how the hunter can use them to his advantage.
We’ve picked out our seven favorite scent options. After diving into the science of how deer communicate by smell, we’ll lay out the advantages and disadvantages of each and who might benefit most from them.
Our Top Scent Picks
- Conquest Scents EverCalm Deer Herd Scent Stick– “A winner for easy application design”
- Tink's #69 Doe-in-Rut Buck Lure – “The power of this scent make it an easy top choice”
- Buck Bomb – “Great for its versatility and ease of use”
- Code Blue Whietail Doe Estrous – “We love that this scent is taken from a single doe”
- Wildlife Research 385 Magnum Dripper Active-Scrape Combo – “Hard to beat the convenience”
- Nationwide Scents Deer Attractant Scent Lure – “Great for its volume and value”
- Whitetail Obsession Bowhunter Fatal Obsession – “Makes our list for tailoring to bowhunters”
How well do deer smell?
Deer can smell very, very well. They have nearly 300 million olfactory sensors in their nose. Dogs? 220 million. People? 5 million.
They can smell a lot better than you.
Since smell is such an important sense for deer, they also use it to communicate. They have four different major glands on their bodies that all produce a variety of chemicals that send messages to other deer. These messages can include reproductive status, gender, even the social rank of the animal.
What are the different types of scent?
It sounds gross to us, but urine is one of the best ways deer have of identifying each other. Their noses can pick out specific chemicals in the urine itself, and their glands can extract chemicals to produce other important scents.
When a doe goes into heat, she produces specific scents that let the bucks know she’s ready to mate. These scents are released in her urine and other scent glands. Bucks are especially attracted to these smells in the rut.
Bucks use urine to mark their territory and signal their social status. Bucks make scrapes where they dig a little into the ground and urinate on it to tell other bucks they’ve claimed the area. If a buck comes to a scrape and smells the urine of another buck, he’ll want to know who’s invaded his territory.
Buck Tarsal Gland
The tarsal glands are located on the insides of the deer’s thighs. Bucks squat and urinate so that the urine runs down the insides of their legs, some of it getting trapped in the hair around their tarsal glands. Chemicals from the glands and bacteria that live on the deer mix with the urine to create a strong smell that distinguishes the buck.
When are the best times to use deer scents?
Deer produce different scents based on the time of year, so it’s important for the hunter to use the right scents at the right times.
Before the rut bucks begin marking out their territory, getting ready for when the does go into estrus. They do this by making scrapes and investigating the scrapes of other bucks. You can make mock scrapes with buck scent to attract curious bucks who want to know the newcomer to their area.
Deer urine also works well before the rut and can have a calming effect on both bucks and does. Deer are social animals and usually want to be with other deer.
During the rut doe estrus is by far the best scent to be using if you’re hunting bucks. Bucks go crazy when they think they smell a doe ready to mate and will take a lot of risks to find her.
After the rut the deer are preparing for winter and are very cautious. During this time period, it’s best to be conservative with scents and stick to covering up your own scent. That said doe estrus can sometimes still lure in a dominant mature buck who’s looking for the last few does that haven’t mated.
How do you use deer scents?
Making a mock scrape
A great way to lure in bucks and even does is to make what appears to be the scrape of a dominant buck. Expose the bare earth and scrape into it a little with your boot. Then spray some buck urine in the mock scrape. You can even place a dripper above the scrape to make it appear active.
Laying a scent trail
Scent trails are lines of scent that a deer will follow, ideally right up to where you’re waiting. You do this with a scent drag, a rag or piece of premade fabric that you drag behind you on a string. Make sure you drag the scent from your stand into the woods, not the other way around, so that its strongest point is where you are.
Scenting a decoy
Decoys are a creative and fun way to lure in bucks. You just put a fake doe down where to want a buck to come. Of course, deer rely on all their senses, smell and hearing even more than sight, so if you don’t cover all those bases, your buck will know something’s up. It’s important to remove any human scent from the decoy and replace it with a doe’s scent, specifically doe estrus if it’s the rut.
The benefits of scent bombs are that they time release scent over a long period of time. You can buy scent bombs prefilled with scent or you can buy your favorite to put in them. Hang them from a tree, and they’ll put scent constantly into the wind.
Boot pads are a convenient way of leaving a scent trail. They’re absorbent fabric with a band to attach to your boots. You saturate the fabric in scent, and then just simply walking from your truck to your stand, you’ll leave a path of scent for deer to follow.
Using gel or a stick
Gels and sticks are great because they cling to where you want to put them. Liquid sprays can dissipate into the wind or be washed away by a drizzle, but gel and sticks are a lot more resilient. That way you can be sure the scent you want is where you want it.
Sprays and wicks
The advantage of sprays are that you can spread them with little effort, and the scent can cover a larger area. Also, the scent can catch the wind more easily if you spray it.
Wicks accomplish the same thing. They’re sticks or pads of absorbent fabric that you saturate with scent. Then you hang the wicks, and the wind easily catches and carries the scent to the surrounding deer.
What are cover scents for?
As opposed to scents which are designed to attract deer to where you are, cover scents mask your own natural human scent so that deer don’t catch it on the wind or passing by and get spooked. This is one of the most important parts of your scent game. You might not notice your own scent, but the deer definitely can.
Our Top Picks In Detail
Conquest Scents EverCalm Deer Herd Scent Stick
The Conquest Scents EverCalm Deer Herd Scent Stick does what it implies. The smell mimics the smell of deer bedding areas, so it puts deer at ease. Not only does it attract them to the area, but it makes them think they’re in a safe place, so they won’t be on high alert.
The stick design on this scent is a real plus. You don’t have to worry about spilling it, and you can put just the right amount of scent on any surface. It’s like a stick of deodorant, so you can easily rub it on trees, your stand, even your boots. The only downside of this design is that it’s made of wax instead of a liquid, so if it gets too warm, it might melt.
Because it uses deer bedding smells, the EverCalm stick works all season long. That makes this scent one to keep with you all the time. The smell will stick around for a few days, and there’s enough in the stick to last most of the season, too, so you probably won’t have to worry about running out. This scent is essential for the serious hunter who plans to be out most of the season.
- Stick design
- Long lasting
- Works all-season
- Wax may melt in high temperatures
Tink’s #69 Doe-in-Rut Buck Lure
Tink’s #69 has been famous in the hunting world for a while, and it’s really the brand’s flagship product. It’s made from the real urine of does in estrus, and the people at Tink’s add in some other ingredients to the formula as well to make it as potent as possible.
This scent is great for bowhunters. The smell draws bucks in close and gets them to stop in their tracks so you can get a good broadside shot. Since its focus is the smell of deer estrus, it works best in the rut, though you can have some success pre-rut and even post-rut. In the end it’s a pretty irresistible scent for bucks.
Liquid scents can sometimes be a hassle just because they’re messier, but Tink’s minimizes that with their squirting bottle design. The liquid can be sprayed in scrapes or on trails or on wicks or drags which you can then reuse.
The smell of #69 is strong, and it’s natural. You can smell it downwind too, so you can be sure the bucks will. Tink’s is a trusted brand, in part because of this product. If you’re a bowhunter looking for your trophy buck this season, this could be your best bet.
- Natural scent
- Bottle design
The Buck Bombs are great because you can pick from a variety of different scents. The Dominant Buck and Doe in Estrus bombs are a couple of the more popular ones that tend to attract bucks in peak rut. The Doe in Estrus scent seems to work well for younger bucks, and Dominant Buck especially works to bring out the big trophy bucks that want to know who’s in their territory.
A really nice thing about the Buck Bombs is the design. The spray can can be used for short sprays or primed to mist the entire bottle kind of like a bug fogger. The short sprays can be really useful because you can squirt scent all around you without having to move which works well to cover up your own scent. The mist also does a good job of saturating a whole area with scent without you having to do much work.
The only problem with this design is that it’s a more complicated mechanism than some of the other scents, so it’s a little easier to break. Sometimes the cans can malfunction without misting all the scent. If you’re using these for short sprays, the price range is pretty good on this scent too.
The scent is strong, and you can use it both for attraction and cover up. Some of the smells like Ambush can be used all season long and especially work great to mask your scent. If you need something quick, easy and cheap to get scent out there, Buck Bombs are a great option.
- Variety of scents
- Price range
- Easy to use
- Spray design
- Easy to break
Code Blue Whitetail Doe Estrus
The Code Blue Whitetail Doe Estrus scent has been getting a lot of attention recently. You have to wonder how exactly they do it, but each bottle is doe estrus urine taken from one individual deer. And well, that’s basically it.
The bottle even comes marked with the deer’s registration number so you know who to talk to if you have a complaint.
The scent comes in gel form, which is great because it clings to things a lot better. It works really well with drags, but you can also drip it from trees and shrubs or even your boots if you want. The strong scent of a doe looking for a mate attracts bucks in the rut. Make sure to spread it at the right time because some of the older, wiser bucks might catch on if you use it when none of the other does are in estrus.
Unfortunately, since this scent is the urine of one single doe, the bottles come pretty small, just one ounce. You could probably spread it out of a few hunts, but if you’re going to be hunting all rut, you’ll have to spring for more bottles. The Code Blue Estrus scent is a good one to always have on hand for when you sense those conditions are just perfect, and you want that little extra to lure in that trophy buck.
- Natural Scent
- Harvested from a single doe
- Small quantity
Wildlife Research 385 Magnum Dripper Active-Scrape Combo
If you want to shell out a little bit more cash for something a bit more advanced, take a look at the Wildlife Research 385 Magnum Dripper. This setup uses new technology to drip scent into a mock scrape over the course of weeks to make the scrape appear active. What’s more, the drip only functions during the day, so you can lure in bucks in daylight. It also shuts itself off it bad weather so you don’t waste scent. All this without electricity or batteries, too.
The design of the Magnum Dripper is the ultimate in convenience. You can leave these up over wide areas along with other scents or game cameras to figure out who’s coming through where and when. Theoretically, you can change the scents out too. Of course, it’s best with a buck scrape scent, but you can try out different kinds to see what works for you.
The materials are durable, so you can leave the dripper out in the woods for a long time, and it’ll continue working. It comes with a detailed instruction booklet too, so you can make the most of mock scrapes. This scent is a little pricier than others, but when you consider everything you’re getting, it’s worth it. Plus, Wildlife Research includes a mail-in rebate.
Deer behavior can be complicated, and sometimes you have to get creative with your strategies. Mock scrapes are a great option because they’re how bucks mark their territory, so they’ll respond to new scrapes in their area, especially if they appear active. If you’re having trouble getting a routine down with the herds in your area–if all the bucks are only moving at night, for example–a fake scrape dripper can really help with that. It’s definitely an innovation worth having in your arsenal.
- Long lasting
- Price range
Nationwide Scents Deer Attractant Scent Lure
Nationwide prides themselves on their urine collection facility and their farms’ two herds of 700 whitetail deer. This makes sense because these farms are the reason the brand is able to make such potent scent products. The freshness of Nationwide’s Deer Attractant Scent Lure is one of the more impressive things about their products, and it keeps deer from getting suspicious.
The Nationwide scents are versatile as well. The buck scrape scent can be used in scrape drippers over mock scrapes, of course, but it can also be spread around stands for cover up, or used on scent drags or wicks.
Nationwide packs their deer attractant in eight-ounce bottles, as well, which is large for deer scent. This not only means it’ll last you throughout the season, but it’s a great value too. The only downside is that the bottle is just that–a bottle. It doesn’t have any mechanisms for spraying or spreading. It’s basically just made to be poured into other devices like a dripper, so if you want to spray it around to cover your smell, you’ll have to put it in a spray bottle or something similar.
This attractant is really powerful, and the scrape scent has a lot of uses. It brings in curious bucks all season long, and it also has a calming effect on does. For the hunter who’s already got his setup and needs something strong for his mock scrapes, the Nationwide Deer Attractant Scent Lure is hard to beat.
Whitetail Obsession Bowhunter’s Fatal Obsession
Okay, so the name might sound more like a brand of mascara, but we promise it’s a powerful deer hunting scent. Oh, and it’s especially designed for bowhunters, too.
Whitetail Obsession claims this is an old secret trapper’s formula that calms deer. It works all season long, and it works on both bucks and does. Sometimes it can lure deer in, but its real talent is as a coverup for your own scent. Instead of alerting deer to your presence, this scent will have deer right up next to your stand calm and happy.
Fatal Obsession comes in a spray bottle that can be used to cover your boots or douse a scent draw, but it works best misted in an area around your stand or blind. You might have to fiddle with the bottle sometimes because the spray mechanism can be faulty.
We really like Fatal Obsession because it’s made specifically for bowhunters. The scent works like a charm to stop deer who cross by it, so if you place it right, you can get deer to set up for great broadside shots. Close by too. It’s a must have for the active bowhunter who’s planning to go out a lot this season.
- Good cover
- Works all season
- Price rance