Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on August 28, 2012


August column


Editor’s note: One week each month we will run the, Ask The Deer Tracker post.

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Q. – Recently I was tracking what I thought was a respectable buck. The evidence leading me to this belief was the large hoof prints and the fact that the deer was traveling alone. When I reached its bedding spot, I discovered the snow was stained brown on the edge of the bed, evidence to my thinking left by a buck’s hocks. Much to my dismay, when I caught up with the deer it was not a buck as I first thought, but instead, a rather large doe. Can you explain the stains I found in this deer’s bed?

G.S. – Plattsburg, NY

A. – When a doe comes into estrus, just like a woman, the doe will involuntarily drip blood and that same blood will appear within its urine. When the doe beds, it would only make sense that some of this discharge can indeed trickle down and stain the snow. However, the snow would be red or pink rather than brown. It is common knowledge that bucks, leading up to, during and following the rut will rub-urinate. This act usually occurs where the buck has made a scrape. He will place his rear legs together and direct the flow of urine down across both of his hocks or tarsal glands. The function serves to disperse his unique scent.

What is not so conventional to many hunters is the fact that does will, although not as frequently, perform a similar behavior. When executing this function, a doe will bunch up all four legs, place all of her weight onto the front two legs, and as she urinates her rear legs will scissor back and forth under the stream. This behaviorism is generally used in the spring as the prospective mother marks out her birthing territory, but I have personally witnessed does during the autumn months urinating in this fashion.

Q. – Out of all of the whitetail’s five senses, its ability to smell has foiled more of my hunts than all of my miscues combined. Is there a better time of condition than others to combat my scent from getting to the deer and is there anything I can use to mask my scent?

P.H. – Gillette, WI

A. – You are indeed correct that the whitetails greatest defense mechanism is his nose. In response to your questions the answer is yes and no. There are more conducive conditions where a deer’s sense of smell is seriously compromised. There are also numerous variables that affect scent such as wind, temperature, and precipitation. When the air is warm and moist with little wind, whitetails can smell perfectly and you won’t get very close on those days. However, when rain or snow is falling, scent is diluted and dissipates once it hits the ground. A light mist or fog has this same effect.

It seems when the humidity rises, deer become increasingly more alert as more scent is being distributed to them. When the humidity levels bottom out at around 10 to 20 percent, the nasal passage tends to dry out preventing deer from capturing and registering the scent.

Air movement also plays a significant role in a deer’s ability to scent you. The ideal condition for a whitetail would be humidity levels above 20 percent – the higher the better – temperatures above 40 degrees and a constant wind blowing 15 miles per hour. The opposite of these conditions would put the favor in the hunter’s court.

Regarding masking your own scent, I have found nothing natural or created by man that can completely eliminate our stench. My own regiments include staying as clean as possible with no foreign odors permeating my clothing or skin and playing the wind.

Q. – If you only had one week to devote to deer hunting, which week would you select and why?

S. M. – Scarborough, ME

A. – I’m certainly glad that I don’t have to make that decision personally, but I’m also sympathetic to those that don’t have the same time to hunt as me. If indeed I did have to make a choice, I would opt to hunt the week when bucks are seeking and beginning to chase does. This judgment being without regard to weather conditions. I know what deer will be doing at that time, but have no idea what the weather will bring.

The reason for this decision is based on a buck being more mobile at all hours of the day, the fact that he is alone, and is usually preoccupied with making scrapes, rubs or searching for female companionship. Being a tracker, this offers me the best chance.


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