Hunting > Whitetails

Debunking Six Deer Hunting Myths

The more deer hunting myths debunked the better. That's a fact. This is my attempt to take down hunting's overused cliches, one fact-less myth at a time.


1. It Can’t Happen To Me: Nothing flips my switch more than seeing treestand hunters in deer camp who refuse to wear a safety harness. The usual excuse is, “It won’t happen to me.” Which is exactly what most accident victims told a Consumer Product Safety Commission task force formed to review data concerning accidents. The Commission reported that the average age of victims who fell or hung to their death in treestand hunting accidents is 44 years old. These were treestand hunters with up to 20 years of experience that got lazy and too familiar with the risks. In 75 percent of the deaths, the subject was not wearing a Full Body Harness. In this group, 55 percent were using climbing stands and 45 percent lock-on or ladder stands. Most treestand accidents occur when getting into or out of the stand or when putting up or taking down a treestand.

For the most part, hunters believe it can’t happen to them. Many believe that if they do lose their balance, they could quickly grab something to arrest their fall and regain their balance. Of course these assumptions are both wrong. While lock-on and ladder stand accidents are common, climbers account for a lot of accidents, too, primarily when a hunter fails to attach the top and bottom sections and then loses the foot climber. Another sure way to get into trouble is to attempt to level a stand while sitting in it. Not wearing a safety harness in a treestand doesn’t mean you’re a tough guy. It just means you’re stupid.

2. Smoke Em Up: I was in an Illinois archery deer camp one year and woke up thinking the place was on fire. Instead, the outfitter had built a bonfire out of old leaves and wood and had his hunters standing in the smoke. “The smoke will mask your odor and the deer will never smell you,” he said. “You need to try this. You can even hunt with the wind at your back and the deer won’t spook.”

What are you smoking? Those hunters never got a shot all week, but they did have several stories about deer they had seen that avoided their stands. Most whitetail hunters have no idea how well a deer can smell, and that they use their noses as their first line of defense—always. Make sure you follow a meticulous scent control program each and every time to head afield, and always hunt with the wind in your face.

3. They Can’t See Me: Don’t you love watching those cable TV hunting shows and seeing bowhunters all camo’d up in a treestand—except for their shiny faces and hands? That program will certainly work if the deer never look up, and since many of these shows are filmed on private land where hunting pressure is nil and the hunters have weeks to get a kill on film—you rarely, if ever, see the one that got away. But I do. An uncovered face or hand will shine like a beacon in the night—especially if it is moving. With their less-than-20/20 eyesight, deer depend on seeing movement to warn them of danger, and are always on the lookout for something amiss or wiggling where it isn’t supposed to be. They can spot that shine from far away. Are you willing to risk your entire season on such sloppiness? I’m not.

4. Hunting in the Wind is a Waste of Time: Just because the wind is blowing doesn’t mean deer shut down their lives. Yes, deer do not like strong winds, which make it hard for them to detect predators amid the noise and motion of branches whipping around. It also affects their ability to smell out a potential problem and detect its source. The truth is, during strong winds the hunting can actually be very good—if you use it to your advantage. That means concentrating in areas protected from the wind, thus eliminating large chunks of ground where the odds are lowered on that day. A moderate wind doesn’t affect deer movement much, but during strong breezes, bucks tend to drop down to lower elevations, draws, hollows and valleys or protected bowls within which they can move about freely while escaping the harshest winds.

I’d rather hunt days with a light, steady breeze—but I’ve killed a lot of nice bucks on days with strong winds. But one thing’s for sure, you can’t do it if you’re sitting in front of the TV.

5. Peeing From Your Stand Will Scare Deer Off: The old wives’ tale has it that if you do not bring along a pee bottle to your stand and answer nature’s call on the ground below, you may as well head for the house and find a new spot to. Research has shown, however, that the smell of human urine does not noticeably affect deer, if it affects them at all. One research project with penned deer had the researchers spraying all sorts of things into scrapes to see which deer liked best. In one case they used four things—buck urine, doe-in-estrous urine, human urine and car air freshener. Results? With bucks, doe-in-estrous was the most popular, followed by human urine, then car air freshener, then buck urine.

Stay as scent free as possible, and don’t turn the ground near your stand into a public urinal, but if you have to go, just go, and keep hunting.

6. Scrapes are Great Places to Hunt During the Rut: There’s been a lot of research in recent years using trail cameras to find out when bucks are most active at scrapes. What the research has shown is that the best time to hunt scrapes is when you first find them in the woods—usually just ahead of the hard pre-rut. When the rut is in full swing, mature bucks will sometimes check scrapes, but they are more likely to be found cruising between doe bedding thickets and preferred food sources. Research has also shown that multiple bucks will freshen the same scrape, and they range in age from very young to very old, debunking the myth that only mature bucks work a scrape.

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31 Responses to Debunking Six Deer Hunting Myths

Cloud wrote:
November 13, 2014

Great myth post. I agree about the pee. My dad has a jug and I pee on the back of my tree. Bagged an 8pnt in 2012 downwind. Three doe running around him playing grab ass for about 15 minutes. They weren't intimidated by my presence. My best advice for Deer Hunting: Right place right time, you may only have a moment to spot that ghost creeping gracefully in your area. When it happens you better be ready. Stay alert during your entire hunt. Most of all, enjoy yourself, I freakin love hunting season. Good luck Hunting 2014!!

trey wrote:
October 01, 2014

I put my clothes in a trash bag with pine straw it works for me

jeff wrote:
August 29, 2014

As for smoke my ancestors did alil of it but most of their scents made from natural things from the for Terrys 40 ft comment...ever seen a deer look up 40 ft? That's my minimum... I can kick back n do whatever n they don't notice....but on scent stick w wat works for ur area

Chris wrote:
November 17, 2013

I killed my biggest Buck while peeing and a cigarette in my mouth. But the wind was blowing to the west and my ground seat was to the west end of my property. I've also killed many deer just wearing jeans and work shirt.

Mose wrote:
November 16, 2013

Last year my kids (18 & 20) went hunting by themselves with rifles they borrowed from me. They had no plan. They figured to sleep in the back of my daughters car and eat 2 cans of pasta; they didn't even have a can opener and they forgot their knives (my daughter had a key chain pen knife). Last day of the season, both wearing the required hunter orange, they each tagged their deer. Me, I do a lot of hunting, very little catching. I've tried everything anyone has ever mentioned. They had no plan, no real destination and very little experience. My daughter field dressed both deer with her pen knife and I had to buy another freezer as I had stocked my freezer with a side of beef for the year. I'm glad I like hunting; catching is just plain work!

Gary wrote:
November 15, 2013

You people should do a little research on how well a deer can smell. As the one person said...A turd covered with the best scent still smells like a turd. A human covered with the best scent still smells like a human. Forget the scent, and hunt in to the wind!

RyDaddy wrote:
November 15, 2013

I find peeing from my stand brings in deer....of course that's probably because I use the nice 98F puddle as a way to disperse my doe-in-heat liquid on those sub-freezing WI mornings. I never pee from the stand without dribbling doe-in-heat into the wet spot below me!

Missouri dear hunter wrote:
November 15, 2013

Does any of you have a 150plus deer hanging on your wall? Hunt the wind. Would you run to a smoke smell......I sure wouldn't.

Redheaded Stepchild wrote:
November 15, 2013

The best way I have found to get that trophy buck right up next to you is to lay your bow on the ground, light a smoke, then wrap your cold fingers of both hands around a cup of coffee. Works every time.

Johnnybegood wrote:
November 11, 2013

I shot a 11 point on oct1 in a T SHIRT and socks lmfao with WD40 spray on lmfao everybody has there own way of hunting do what works for you and everyone here has valid points so good luck this year to everyone

Darin wrote:
October 14, 2013

Anyone ever look at the old skool pics of deer hunters? Red flannel, jeans, cigarettes in their mouth; Oh, and a whole slew of big racked deer on a pole. Keep your tips and I'll kill deer.

Shawn wrote:
October 12, 2013

Honestly every area is different. Many different attempts have been made to see what deer are scared of and what deer are attracted to. One just may be different then the other . Their is no complete right and perfect way to hunt because we are human and deer are just animals we all make mistakes. It's just luck of the draw weither that dream buck decides to take a path near where your hunting. Because he doesn't have to. It's a choice their are no myths no bullsh-t to any of it. It's just right place right time

Mike wrote:
March 13, 2013

I would rather hunt a strong wind then a dead still day. At least with the strong wind, your sound is concealed. Also, with a strong wind, lingering scent is swept away. I will no longer hunt on dead-still days.

satilla308 wrote:
October 09, 2012

guess i need to tell them deer standing next to the burning brush pile in the clear cut that they should be scared and run..... too late though. sometimes watching too much tv will cause novices to make everything too complicated..... remember companies pays the celeb hunters to sale there products too you. dont believe me. go to x-mart and look at all the topwater bass lures and tell me why the backs are all painted purdy and the bottoms are one solid color. fish take an arial photo before striking. companies just make a product and advertise it in such a way to make you feel compelled to buy it. Smoke works great but even if you saturate a turd with smoke it still smells like a turd and you can spray 50 gallons of scent spray on it and it will still smell like a turd. so stop wasting money and hunt into the wind. ITS FREE

MJ wrote:
September 13, 2012

Great points and though I do agree with the points, and the cow pies. Growing up we store our hunting gear in the barn, and made sure we cleaned is and spread the fields we were hunting once a week during archery and gun seasons. However, the biggest buck I have shot on public land in Saint Louis county, came straight for me almost like he was looking for another fight, while I was moving my tree stand. Due to two hunters placing stands between mine and the main trail and pond I was hunting, and illegally bating the area.) No Camo just jeans and a grey t-shirt, no scent control or attractant, and all the noise of setting up a 15ft ladder stand. He came out 30 yards from the stand at the bottom of the bluff and walked straight for me. I even had time climb down and get the bow hooked to the hoist. Shot him 15 yards from the stand, while he was looking at me like he was trying to figure out what I was doing in a tree. Nice mature 8+ year old 8 Point, after he broke the tips of both antlers and 1 brow tine.

kenneth page wrote:
July 09, 2012

I got a friend that sits by camp fire every morning and he says it works. Im scared to try it I like to use strawberry car freshener just a spray and u are good.

Paul wrote:
June 21, 2012

Oh yea! And forty foot is pert near minimum

Paul wrote:
June 21, 2012

I smoke a pack a day and have no problem seeing and getting deer.and that's on public land.pine pitch.its all in the approach.and scouting

Olaveson wrote:
August 10, 2011

?Been into the local army surplus store and see used carbon suits. ?Why they tossing good suits if it can so called be reactivate with just a toss in the dryer. Any one else saying mmmm... Yet..

Olaveson wrote:
August 10, 2011

I take a bee smoker and load it with all kinds of dry stuff I find in the area. Smoke myself lightly and have done it for years with great success. Can't sell idea so it gets a bad rap but it works, just don't over due it and smell like you've just started a house fire. Deer smell for things that are out of place. Smoke in certain area where it is common will work.

deer eater wrote:
December 04, 2010

Some pretty good stuff here. I hope all you city boys keep smoking yourselves up. Meanwhile I'll be sure to keep fresh cow**** on my boots and continue to walk up on deer like a ghost. Oh yeah. Forty feet up on a tree?! Fella, I don't think you know a foot from an inch, no offense.

Ray wrote:
November 30, 2010

Natives Americans used smoke as the way to mask human odor. The theory is that smoke is all around them. Houses burning firewood, campfires, natural fires, etc. I've had deer nearly walk into me in the woods while I smelled like a big campfire. Take your BS scent elimination products and sell them elsewhere. None have worked nearly as well as a good fire in my experience.

Terry wrote:
October 29, 2010

Great job! First- what in he__ are you doing 40' feet up! Please carry your cell phones (on Vibrate)if accident happens, paramedics are a call away. Smoke? Have you ever seen a deer come in following smoke from your camp fire?This is a DANGER smell for deer, thier nose is as good as the best dog. They will go around. Good hunting!

TreeClimBr wrote:
September 23, 2010

I wholeheartedly agree... use a safety harness. I have a top of the line Carbon Fiber climber (cuz I'm a big guy, 6'4" & 280). 3 years ago, the bottom of my climber bolt came loose (I never noticed) while I was 40 feet up and the bottom fell out.. literally. All I can say is thank god for safety harnesses and walkie talkies with friends on the other end. After hunting for 35+ years, I thought I knew it all, had seen it all, etc. But at the behest and insistence of my friends, I put on the harness and it saved my life. I wouldn't even consider going up a tree without one.

Silver49 wrote:
September 14, 2010

Take it from a hunter who has used a climber for two decades. I have only fallen once, but was wearing a safety strap. No doubt from 20 feet it saved me from serious injury or worse. Don't be stupid, wear a safety strap or harness.

Julien wrote:
September 01, 2010

Smoke odor says "Fire." Fire would be what to a dear .. a torch singer in a piano bar on Saturday nite? Excuse me while I go buy a fresh bottle of doe in heat.

Stu wrote:
August 31, 2010

I agree with Hoffman 100%. I wouldn't use it as my ONYL method of scent cover. You can't not shower for three days and then stand in smoke, but it is great when used properly. I have seen it personally work year after year. I don't pee from the stand as it is noisy and draws attention, not because of the smell.

J Hoffman wrote:
August 30, 2010

I think youre insight on smoke is very misleading. Used correctly, it is an excellent tool.

Ken Viva wrote:
August 27, 2010

Great article! Completely agree with those points on those myths.

Christopher Hall wrote:
August 27, 2010

I agree too. Great article by the way!

Leon D. Jacobs wrote:
August 26, 2010

I agree