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United States (and more, specifically, NY state -- though that shouldn't matter at all) here.


I am brand new to hunting, and in a few weeks I will be going out into the woods and hunting public land for the first time. Just to be clear, I have taken the NYS Hunter's Safety course and have purchased my hunting license and I have my tags. I am doing everything by the book.

I have read from several credible source now that:

  • Deer are very keen to the smells of different areas of the forest
  • Hence, unless you attempt to manage your scent (minding the wind direction as you stalk, experimenting with various scent blockers, etc.) once they smell you, they will realize that "something is wrong", meaning, they have detected a smell in that area of the woods that ordinarily is not there -- and they "bump" or run away

So this gave me an idea, and I wanted to share it here in the form of a question to see if any experienced/skilled hunters think its a viable idea or sheer rubbish!

I should also say that this idea would also be used in addition to the common, popular forms of scent management (making sure I am downwind of them, using scent blocker, etc.).

The idea

What if I went into the woods to my "spots" (the general areas where I plan to hunt) and carefully placed a few old, dirty shirts with my scent on them down on the ground and left them there for the next 3 - 4 weeks.

Disclaimer: DEC states in their manual that it is unlawful to use public land as "storage" and that any hunting accessories such as stands, mineral blocks, trail cams or other hunting equipment must be removed within a certain number of days of the close of the season. I would absolutely remember where I put these shirts and remove them in keeping with state law at the end of the season. I am one of the biggest critics of litterbugs and would never be one myself!

So the thinking here is:

  1. Deer get used to my smell radiating through sections of the forest where I intend to hunt
  2. If, while on a hunt, my scent management fails and my scent "leaks" into the air, I would think they might not spook as easily as if they would if they were totally foreign to that smell being there

Is this a crazy idea or valid?

I'm thinking it's either a great idea and will work wonders, or, its the polar opposite and will instead drive all the deer out of my "spots" for the entirety of the season :-/

Any thoughts/comments/concerns/input here?

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    I don't know the answer here at all, but something inside me can't help but think- deer that live in the range of bears and wolves and cougars, smell the smells of bear and wolves and cougars all the time. And they still run from it.
    – cobaltduck
    Sep 12, 2019 at 11:29
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    I am not a hunter, so I don't know if this will work or not. But there is another question: Is it ethical?
    – ab2
    Sep 12, 2019 at 13:26
  • I think it is, yes. Sep 12, 2019 at 14:20
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    @ab2 see related Why is it legal to hunt over planted food but not placed food? for some similar concerns. Sep 12, 2019 at 14:25
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    @ab2 Why would it be unethical? Unsportsmanlike maybe, but that is a completely separate matter, and many of us don't give a hoot about "sportsmanlike" hunting. If I ever hunt or fish something, I don't do it as a game of sport - in fact, I find the thought of killing animals purely for sport to be horrific - rather I do it for the end product. Then again, maybe you don't refer to getting a leg-up on the competition (many complain about various forms of "cheating", which is why I jump to conclusions) but rather to something else like littering?
    – Loduwijk
    Sep 12, 2019 at 21:37

2 Answers 2

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This is not going to be effective.

You and your 3 week old shirt are going to smell different. The shirt smells like you, but it ages, when the deer smell the live you, they will know that that person who left his shirt is back.

Also you may be surprised on opening day, how many other hunters think your spot is their spot.

If you wait until after opening day, the deer will all be alerted to hunters in the woods, and be wary of any people.

Additionally, deer know the day before hunting season starts and change their behavior

deer respond to hunting pressure the day before the season opens (and not before). Source

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    Thanks for the feedback @James (+1), I received similar feedback from other experienced hunters as well. Absolutely amazing link that you posted -- mother nature is crazy! Sep 12, 2019 at 14:22
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You would be better served by taking a regular walk to your general spot throughout the year at the same time of the day (provided your spots are on private land and won't be accessed by the general public). The deer will become used to this type of activity. It is similar to how deer don't spook due to lumber activity in the woods, they are used to activity and is "normal" for them to encounter.

Deer won't differentiate between people, they are going to smell "human" and react appropriately. If there are a ton of people making them nervous, they will likely avoid all spots where they can detect people.

You would be better served by using scent coverage on your way to the stand. Even walking in a relaxed manner, so that you don't appear to be a predator. And using the wind in your stand.

The reason that deer "know" that hunting season is starting is because all of a sudden there is an increase of human activity in the woods. Deer being very wary, will change their behavior due to this hence them "knowing".

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