About Whitetail Deer Danger Scent

Do you realize an ammonia-like odor is released from tarsal glands of alarmed whitetails that can act as a deer repellent up to four days?

Take a look at the erect tufts of dark hair on the insides of the bounding doe’s hind legs in my accompanying photograph. Whenever a whitetail becomes alarmed enough to raise its tail, snort and/or bound away, the tufts of hair overlying its tarsal glands become erect. While erect, the underlying glands release an ammonia-like odor into the air. While airborne, this odor silently warns all downwind deer (up to 200 yards away) something very dangerous is upwind. It also creates an easily followed (easily smelled) scent trail for less fleet accompanying fawns and other deer to follow. Wherever emitted, the odor persists up to four days (or until it rains or snows), meaning anytime a whitetail bounds from or past your stand site, the persisting odor acts as an effective deer repellent for four days.

2 thoughts on “About Whitetail Deer Danger Scent

    • By soaking tarsal glands of whitetails in scentless mineral oil (refrigerated) many years ago,, I created usable scents for research. Samples made from doe tarsal glands mildly smelled like ammonia, which, as expected, alerted or alarmed downwind deer. Years later, after watching several downwind deer simply watch other deer being pursued by wolves, I began to realize mature whitetails are not necessarily alarmed by nearby wolves or human hunters unless it appears obvious they themselves are the current chosen prey of wolves—sneaking or stalking toward them and often halting. Samples made from tarsal glands of older bucks in early November smelled strongly of tarsal musk, overwhelming any other odors that may have been present. I have taken a few young bucks that were attracted by buck musk in November, but learned it was as likely to make bucks abandon the area, likely being convinced they were smelling the currently dangerous dominant breeding buck. I once tried using pure ammonia as a scent-line to keep deer from moving in a certain direction. It worked but downwind deer quickly abandoned the area—a big mistake. Finally convinced it wasn’t worth the effect, I quit experimenting with tarsal glands. If you are thinking of creating a deer repellent for you garden or roses, cotton soaked with ammonia in a container would probably work fine with less effort.

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