Skip to main content

Using a Buck's Sense of Smell to Your Advantage

A sensitive-to-smell nose can keep a white-tailed buck from crossing paths with hunter, but it also can lead him to the taxidermist and freezer

Using a Buck's Sense of Smell to Your Advantage
(Photo courtesy of Code Blue)

Deer have a remarkable sense of smell. In fact, it’s estimated a deer can smell at least 1,000 times better than a human. Although this keen sense of smell can alert a deer to a hunter’s presence, the smart hunter also can use a buck’s sense of smell and his desire to mate to his or her advantage.

code blue doe estrous

(Photo courtesy of Code Blue)

Dr. Steve Ditchkoff,professor in wildlife ecology and management at Auburn University, says female whitetails are only receptive to breeding for a 24-hour window each season. For this reason, it is imperative that a buck be able to locate and mate with the receptive doe during this short time span to ensure genetics are passed on to the next generation. He does this by using his nose.

“When a doe is coming into estrous, she produces hormones that act as a signal to male deer that she is receptive or soon to be receptive to mating,” Ditchkoff said. “Bucks smell these hormonal cues, which are located in the doe’s urine and are produced by various glands.”

If a buck smells a female in estrous, he is going to dedicate 100 percent of his attention to her until she is no longer in estrous. For this reason, scent products like Code Blue’s Doe Estrous, work effectively for drawing bucks into shooting range.

Ditchkoff said Code Blue’s Whitetail Doe Estrous is an effective product on the market because it produces a more natural scent.

“Each bottle of Code Blue’s Whitetail Doe Estrous is produced from one doe in estrous, unlike other brands, which combine urine from several different deer. The urine combos produce an unnatural scent simply because groups of deer don’t urinate in the same spot.”

Doe Estrous can be dispensed by using Code Blue’s Drag Rag, which lets you create a convincing scent trail by dragging the rag to your hunting stand. The scent can also be dispensed using Code Blue’s Scent Shot Scent Wick Canister. When you're ready to hunt, just squeeze the top tabs and pull up to expose the wick and send scent streaming in the air. Code Blue’s Temptation Electronic Scent Warmer electronically heats your deer scent to a deer’s actual body temperature to enhance its natural attraction.

“Any technique that you can use to broadcast the odor has the potential to attract bucks,” Ditchkoff said. “Heating it up, volatilizing it and spreading it out are all effective tactics. The goal is to get that odor to where you want it to go.”

Ditchkoff said many hunters use estrous scent attractants during the rut, but he believes the attractant is more effectively used during the post-rut and pre-rut.

“During the rut, there are so many deer in estrous, that the hunter’s estrous scent has to compete with the scent of does in the area,” he said. “During the post-rut, the bucks’ hormones are at their peak and there are few receptive females, so there’s less competition. Those bucks are actively looking for receptive does, and if they smell one, they’re going to search for her. The pre-rut is also a good time to use the scent. Even though the bucks aren’t quite as hot, they’re still keyed up and looking for receptive does. During that time of the season, there are few does in estrous, so the competition is limited.”

Code Blue’s Whitetail Doe Estrous is proof that although a whitetail’s remarkable sense of smell can create a challenge for hunters, smart hunters can use scent to outwit even the most cunning buck.


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now