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Coffee breath, oil changes and other things deer love: deer staying away? maybe it's you!

I recently filled out a questionnaire that asked me to list 10 of my favorite things. That wasn't hard to do--I'm 40, and I know myself well. I listed things such as working on our trees and garden, traveling with my family and chasing critters with my bow and arrows.


I enjoyed pondering that question. It got me thinking about bowhunting. Then, bowhunting got me thinking about whitetail deer and eventually my thoughts went someplace odd: I began to wonder what deer would say if they had a chance to answer that question. What if we gathered up the deer on our hunting properties at the start of the season and asked them to list out 10 of their favorite things? With bow season just around the corner, here's what I'd guess they would list:

Bug Spray

I'm guessing deer wouldn't make a distinction between sprays or lotions, all-natural repellents or chemicals, deep woods or backyard formulas. Bug spray is bug spray and deer love it all.


This fall when those pesky mosquitos are buzzing around your facemask, go ahead and spray it on. Squirt it onto your hands and rub it in. Mist the air around your stand from time to time. As you do, however, picture the whitetails on your property chanting your name, clapping their hooves and cheering you on. There are few things that alert your deer herd to your presence more quickly than the smells of DEET and citronella oil.

Oil Changes


Spend 30 minutes under the hood or engine block of your hunting truck and you'll put the deer on your property at a fantastic advantage. They'll love you for it. The smell of oil is about as natural in the outdoors as the smell of bug spray. In addition, deer also love it when you fill your tank with gas the day of a hunt. A few petrol particles on the underside of your boots or on your hands and you'll help them determine which areas to avoid.

Most soap, including scent-eliminating soaps designed for sportsmen, do not have the ability to remove gasoline or oil from skin. Grease-cutting soaps--like dish soap, Goop and Lava--work best at removing perfumes picked up at the pump.

Indian, Mexican or Greek Food

If that old, wary buck on your property could treat you to dinner, you can bet he wouldn't fix you pasta or bread. He'd whip you up something loaded with garlic, onions and various spices. He'd probably serve little smokies smothered in tangy BBQ sauce for an appetizer and strong coffee after dinner.

One of my favorite ways to spend time is chopping, slicing and dicing all sorts of things on my end-grain butcher block. I love to play in the kitchen. My family loves it when I play in the kitchen. But nobody loves me in the kitchen more than the deer on our property. Coffee, spices and sauteed mushrooms and onions fill the air with odor particles that coat our skin, hair and mouths. That aroma doesn't leave with a quick shower and a tooth brushing. As much as it pains me, I stay out of the kitchen and eat bland food on the day of a hunt.

Crinkly Packages

I'm not quite sure what the good folks at SunChips were thinking when they designed their sound barrier-breaking package, but they're a new favorite with the Cervidae family. If you must take a snack to the stand, wrap it up in a paper towel as opposed to the plastic and aluminum containers that many snack goods comes in.


When I take my always-starving kiddos with me to the woods, I pack snacks in a quiet, scent-concealing plastic container. We wash and reuse Tupperware containers for snack packs.

Tide & Downy

Don't get me wrong, I like the ocean breeze, summer air smell of a fresh load of laundry as much as anyone. But if I can smell those manmade products, you'd better believe that deer can smell them too--quite likely from more than 100 yards away. There are few things deer love more than hunters who wash their hunting clothes in Tide and dry them with Downy dryer sheets. It might not make you popular among your whitetail population, but washing your clothes and bath towels in scent-free soap will help you fool these wary creatures.

Hard Nights Out

If a deer had money, he'd be delighted to pay your tab at the end of a hard night of partying. If you hit the bars the night before a hunt, be aware you're probably taking the bar with you to the woods the next day. The hunter who thinks he can spray on a bit of cologne, throw back six cold ones and then wash up and hit the stand scent-free in the morning is fooling himself. Alcohol doesn't just sit in the tummy before flushing down the toilet--it oozes through the pores in our skin as we sweat. This process occurs for several hours after a night out.

Our breath also continues to emit the smell of alcohol for several hours after drinking. When a person drinks, their body metabolizes the alcohol in their liver. Much of the alcohol is then sent into the blood stream, where it reaches the lungs. When you breathe in and out, your lungs send the smell of alcohol into the currents wafting by your head. Even if you can't smell it, that 10-point buck downwind from you can tell whether you did shots or draughts the night prior. Just ask him ... if you can get his attention as he bounds off in the opposite direction.


Forget the warnings on the package--a deer will tell you smoking is good for your health. What he'd really be thinking, however, is that smoking is good for his. It always amazes me, but every year I talk with guys who think that cigarette smoke in the woods doesn't spook deer. I'll never forget bumping into a hunter from Iowa several years back. I'd just shot a doe and was loading her into the back of my pickup. He walked up and said, "I was beginning to doubt that there were any deer in these woods. I haven't seen one up close for months!"


I said, "You must be frustrated. What keeps you coming back?"

He replied, "I just enjoy getting outside, having a few good smokes and getting a bit of time to myself."

Whitetails love it when you light up in the woods. They'd lean in with the match and offer you a flame if they could. When that smoke hits the wind, it lets them know precisely which areas to avoid that day.

Hot Tubs & Pools

That wall-hanger probably won't join you in the water, but you'd better believe that he'd turn up the heater, lay out your towel and help you in and out of the hot tub or swimming pool. Deer love chlorine. It may kill bacteria, germs and various small critters, but every year it saves some of their lives.

Many guys travel in order to hunt. They stay in lodges, hotels and resorts. It's fun to have a nice long soak at the end of a day sitting on a cold, metal treestand, but think twice. Chlorine doesn't wash off skin or out of hair easily. Thirty minutes in a hot tub and you're probably going to carry the unnatural scent of atomic No. 17 with you on the hunt.

Close Parking Spots

You know that feeling of excitement you get when you find that perfect parking spot closest to the store? That's the same excitement deer on your property feel when you park near your treestand. I think deer learn to recognize hunting vehicles. On our land, deer seem comfortable with the smell and sight of a tractor. They're even relatively relaxed around recreational four-wheelers. But when I've driven my F-150 too far into the woods in order to grab that by-the-front-door-of-my-stand parking spot, I've put the deer in my area on high alert.


There's great debate over how near or far is best. I'd suspect that if a room full of whitetails could weigh in, they'd say, "Come on, guys. Don't over exert yourselves. Why carry that hefty, cumbersome gear too far? Park right up next to your stand. It won't bother us at all. In fact, we'd love it!"

Anything Shiny

Deer love shiny objects. If you want to become "Hunter of the Year" in your deer's opinion, take lots of shiny equipment, jewelry and gear to the treestand with you. Last season, a friend of mine who wears glasses took his glasses off and hung them on a branch of the tree. He didn't want to spook the deer as he looked down the lane toward the setting sun. A magnificent 10-point buck appeared on the trail, started walking in his direction and then stopped on a dime 50 yards out.

In spite of my friend's incredible concealment--he was tucked deep into a line of cedar trees--the buck stared right at his stand, clearly alerted to something unnatural. The buck ran off. My friend looked down and noticed that his glasses were hanging in a way that they still faced the sun, sending off a glaringly bright signal that something wasn't quite right. Deer love such signals, whether they come from camera lenses, large-faced watches or wedding rings.

Giving Them What They Love ... or Not

I imagine that these are a few things deer love--which means that we've got a decision to make this season.

Are we going to give these elusive creatures what they want, or are we going to hunt them effectively?

Garlic, bug spray and shiny watches, or close encounters, filled tags and exciting memories? It's your call.
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Author:Pipher, Zeke; Cochran, Bruce
Publication:Petersen's Bowhunting
Date:Aug 18, 2011
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