Defeating The Whitetail Nose

Posted by: Jordan Howell on Sep 30, 2012
Page 1 of 3

As avid bowhunters we have all been busted by a whitetail's nose at one point or another.  In the early days, this probably happened more than we care to admit as we cut our teeth in the deer woods trying to place an arrow into one of these elusive creatures. There is no question that seeing a flash dart through the trees and the telltale "white flag" makes every bowhunter cringe.  The same can be said of the high pitched wheezing sound that deer make in an effort to alert the entire area to our presence. 

Hunters have been trying to overcome a whitetail's acute sense of smell for hundreds of years. And during that time many different techniques have been employed in an effort to accomplish this goal.  However, in recent years there have also been many “technological” advances that can also help you fly under the whitetails nose and become more successful. Let’s take a closer look at some of these techniques and advances in order to make you more deadly in the deer woods this fall.


Alerting deer is something no hunter wants to do and can literally ruin your hunting area for days to come.

Know your Enemy

In order to understand how to defeat a whitetail's nose, one must first understand how a deer's nose works.  A whitetail deer's sense of smell is by far its most powerful and valuable sense.  They rely on their nose to provide them with information about food, their surroundings, mating, and danger.  A deer's olfactory sense is incredibly complex. 

Studies have shown that a bloodhound's nose is approximately 100 times more sensitive than that of a human. This means that their nose can pick apart odors and separate different components of them.  For instance, a human may go into a bakery and smell an apple pie, while a bloodhound will smell flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, apples, butter...etc.  This gives them the ability to pinpoint very faint odors.  They can also determine the age of an odor by its intensity.  This is why tracking hounds can tell which direction a person went.  The trail in one direction is stronger than in the other, if only by a very minute margin. 

With that being said, studies have also shown that a whitetail's nose may be as much as ten times more sensitive than a blood hound's.  Think about what that means in hunting terms.  A deer is in tune with everything in its environment. It knows the smells of every plant, tree, and animal it normally encounters.  Any new or foreign odors that are introduced to its environment will immediately send up a red flag and will put the deer on edge. 

And while many of these odors are ones we ourselves are unlikely to smell, that does not mean that the deer cannot.  Gasoline and food odors can linger on boots and clothing for a long time. You may have pumped gas in your hunting boots two months before entering the woods, but there is a good chance if a deer walks across your trail it may be able to still detect that faint residue.  If in fact a deer's nose is that sensitive, it may suggest that hunters, especially bowhunters, don't have much of a chance.  However, there are a few tricks you can use to help increase your odds of remaining undetected.


Deer have a very sophisticated sense of smell. This sense is on overload when working excisting scrapes or making new ones. Any human odor will easily be identified.

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Jordan Howell

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3 Comments on "Defeating The Whitetail Nose"

Re: Defeating The Whitetail Nose #
"If you are able to keep deer downwind of you they will remain calm and at ease, and will be more likely to continue using the area." "Therefore, keeping the deer upwind of your location is vital to success." Really? I think you need to revisit the terms "upwind" and "downwind"......slightly confusing in your article.
Posted by Kyle on 10/2/2012 3:12:58 PM
Re: Defeating The Whitetail Nose #
i was thinking the same thing. upwind and downwind are used incorrectly in this article.
Posted by Brian on 11/11/2012 7:23:01 AM
Re: Defeating The Whitetail Nose #
Big time problem....I am a ground bow ground hunter, I perfer this than a stand but also will use a stand. Sent free is a must and picking wind direction is most important! I found that if you use a sent cover and use the wind to push it for you, all will be fine, no mater if it switches directions on you. But you must be sent free as possible, thats what makes it work for the nose that knows nothing.....
Posted by dchrysler on 12/2/2012 9:42:19 AM

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