Can Deer Smell Cigarette Smoke?


There are plenty of hunters that smoke, and many of them choose to smoke while in the stand. Hunters have gone back and forth for years debating on whether or not whitetails can smell cigarette smoke, but maybe a better question would be “will cigarette smoke spook deer”? This is what we really want to know and it may just change the way you hunt.

Whitetail deer can absolutely smell cigarette smoke, but they do not seem to mind it. Many hunters have reported that it has zero effect on their hunt, which is hard to test. Although, with the lack of scientific evidence showing one way or the other, these personal anecdotes are all we have to go on. 

If I had to guess, some hunters that say smoking has no effect on their hunt just want to smoke. Which is fine, everyone can hunt however you like. However, if you are wondering if it is worth it to go a whole hunt without smoking, let me show you the benefits.

What About Scent Control?

Most hunters go to extreme lengths to make sure their scent is completely eliminated. Personally, I take scent-killing showers, wash my clothes in scent-free detergent, spray my gear in scent-killing spray, and keep my hunting clothes in air-tight bags. That’s a lot… and plenty of hunters do even more than me when it comes to scent control. 

Scent control is a critical step that all hunters need to do to make sure deer do not smell them. Deer can smell incredibly well, and much better than we can. So if you cannot fool a deer’s nose, you will never get a mature buck within bow range. 

I know that most hunters will say that the wind will carry away their scent and that if you play the wind you will be fine, but that will only get you so far. Sure, if you are downwind of a deer they are going to have a much harder time smelling you. However, the wind direction changes a lot, and relying strictly on the wind is not going to get the job done every time. 

If you want to play the wind, then you have to do it in conjunction with a scent control routine. So when the wind does change and a deer comes from a now unfavorable direction, your scent control will keep you from being detected. 

So then why would any hunter go through all that trouble, just to light a cigarette in the stand and smell like cigarette smoke? Well when smokers need or want to smoke, they are going to smoke. Yes, it is going to produce a foreign smell that deer can 100% smell, but do they care about that smell?

How Deer React to Cigarette Smoke

Any smell that does not seem natural to a deer will alert them. Smoke seems natural enough, but fires are not an everyday thing in the woods. If I had to guess, most deer go their entire lives without seeing a fire. 

Even still, most hunters report deer not paying any attention to smoke or its scent. Oddly enough, some hunters even go as far as to say that the smoke attracts deer. I just cannot believe that it is true.

Deer have very keen noses and can smell human scent very far away and it does not take very much to set them off. So if you are a serious hunter and do not want to be detected, it is a no-brainer to not smoke in your stand. 

Cigarette smoke has a strong smell that I can smell from quite far away, surly deer can smell it from even farther away. If you are high up in a tree, that smell may be carried away by the wind, but deer close by can still smell it on the ground.

Plus, how do you know that every deer in the area does not mind the smell of smoke? It has a strong smell that deer can smell from dozens, if not hundreds, of yards away. So if a deer does not like it, they may turn around before they come close enough to be seen.

Long story short, the deer that you do see, do not tend to react to cigarette smoke. Maybe it is because we are higher up in a treestand, or maybe those deer really do not mind it. There is a chance that some deer do mind the smell, but we would never know because they never get close enough to be seen.

You May Never See The Deer That Smell You

Every deer population is different, and every deer can be different. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that mature deer, especially bucks, did not get to maturity without being careful. If a smart deer smells something that it has never smelled before, it is going to be a little cautious.

I have never smoked, but I have been in the stand multiple times completely scentless, and motionless when an old doe comes out that seems to have a sixth sense. Some deer like that can tell when any hunter is in the woods. I am guessing that if you are giving them even more leverage by smoking, then they and other deer are going to be able to tell that something is up.

The odd smell could make these mature deer steer clear of the area for a while. Dumber and younger deer may not care all that much about the smell. This does not mean that you will never kill a mature deer while smoking. Although, if you have hunted for a while you know how smart these deer can be, and I am willing to bet that the smoke could turn them around before you ever see them. 

Smell Association Theory

While I am not sure if I believe in this theory, there is an interesting theory out there regarding smokers and deer. Basically, it states that if hunters repeatedly smoke while hunting that deer will learn the smell and that it is dangerous. Especially if they are with a deer that was shot by a smoking hunter. 

Hunters do not constantly smoke, and most of us are only able to get out in the woods for one or two dozen days a year. I do not think that deer would be able to put two and two together, but it is an interesting theory nonetheless.

Another reason I do not believe this theory is because there are many other factors that signal hunter activity. If this were true then things like a giant pile of corn, an abnormal amount of buck grunts, or a freshly cut trail to funnel deer would give us away every time. 

Deer are not able to reason like we are. So things like a corn pile are just simply there, without a need for explanation, or the mental capacity to comprehend an explanation. All and all, deer are not going to learn that cigarette smoke means death from above.

Related Questions

Is Vaping In the Woods Better Than Smoking?

Vaping is no better than smoking in the woods, it actually may be worse. Even though it is supposed to be better for you, the fruity and artificial flavors smell very foreign to any wildlife. These smells may attract more attention than plain tobacco smoke alone.

However, if you are trying to quit smoking and are using vaping to do that, I strongly recommend taking it with you. Quitting is worth a few puffs of cotton candy vapor in the stand. Just try not to use it constantly.

Can Deer Smell Marijuana?

Yes, deer can smell marijuana. This is very similar to the effect a cigarette has. While cigarettes and marijuana have two very different smells, the effects should be very similar if not the same. I would recommend being much more careful with marijuana though. Not only is it illegal in many parts of the country, but you also do not want to be caught operating a weapon while under the influence.

Can Deer Smell Chewing Tobacco or Dip?

If you can smell it, so can the deer. If you are using smokeless tobacco while in the stand, I recommend you spit in a bottle. This should be much better than smoking because the scent can be contained a little better. Just don’t spit off of your stand, deer are definitely going to smell that and it will be so close to you that it may spook them.

Conclusion

While there is not much scientific research on the topic, it does not seem like deer mind the smell of cigarette smoke that much. At least the ones that you see do not mind it, but there could be deer farther away that can smell it and turn tail before you ever see them.

I tried to answer the question as best I could, but I cannot make it through an entire article about smoking without expressing how important it is to quit smoking at least once. While the smell of cigarette smoke may not ruin your hunt, it will certainly limit the years you have left to hunt.

I have seen a handful of my friends try to quit nicotine and I know how difficult it can be, but it can be the single best thing you will do for your health. Plus, if you ever want to be able to hunt with your grandchildren, something my grandfather never got to do because of smoking, then you NEED to quit.

If you are still reading, I know you are somewhat interested in quitting, or you would have clicked off a while ago. If you need help, I recommend checking out thetruth.com. They have a ton of great information and resources for quitting. You can even email me about it if you would like, patrick.long@omegaoutdoors.net. YOU CAN QUIT!

Patrick Long

I am a Georgia Tech student, writer, and an avid outdoorsman in the great state of Georgia. I have been hunting for over 15 years, and writing for a few years now. The deer stand is my happy place, and if I am not studying for my next exam, or writing about the outdoors, that is where I will be. If you would like to know more about me, visit my about page.

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