About The Author

Kim Hiss, an associate editor at Field & Stream, has hunted ducks, antelope, turkeys, and deer throughout the country, enjoying a number of women's hunts along the way. She lives in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Click here to email Kim.

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« And the Gear Goes To... | Main | Happy Thanksgiving! »

November 25, 2008

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The Smell Test

     I'm no wildlife biologist, but here's a curious tidbit.

     Last weekend, my boyfriend and I were talking to a neighbor about jogging in our area of the Lower Hudson Valley, just above New York City. We all run the same trail in a wooded historic park. The two of them are more committed runners than I am, doing 3-plus miles four to six times a week. I only do about a mile two or three times a week. They've also been using the trail for a number of years -- longer than I have.

    During the course of the conversation, we got on the topic of deer encounters on the trail. I'll run into whitetails every so often, but before I get close, they spook, crash through the trees like the legions of hell are at their heels and disappear. I rarely actually see them, I'll just catch a flash of white tail disappearing over a hill.

     However, my boyfriend and our neighbor have the exact opposite experience. They'll routinely run up on deer standing right in the trail and refusing to move. They'll try to shoo them away, and the animals still don't leave. One morning, my boyfriend came up on a doe and a fawn. He slowed, stopped and tried to spook them off the trail, but Mamma just looked at him -- he couldn't get her to go.

     So, my boyfriend and our neighbor are now entertaining the theory that because they run this area so often the local deer are used to their scent and therefore not threatened by their approach. I, on the other hand, as the less frequent runner am not as familiar to the local wildlife, so I'm still perceived as a danger.

     I guess that makes sense, but as previously stated, I'm no wildlife biologist. Sound theory? Or something else? Maybe the deer just instinctively sense I work for F&S and figure they should clear out. -K.H. 


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Laura Bell

I'm not whitetail expert either, but maybe these deer know just how deadly a gal with shooting skills can be? Or could they possibly have a subscription to F&S!!? Lol I've had too much coffee this morning, sorry.

Could be a number of reasons I guess. Maybe they know their cologne scent? Since it's so common in the area, they just pass it off as no threat. If you think about it, when we hunt we sometimes mask our scent with coon, fox, etc., since it's a common smell.


Well I think since your boyfriend and your neighbor run further and longer than you do, they probably smell more/worse, plus I think guys tend to sweat more. Deer probably think that anything that smells like that must live out here too! So maybe it's your deodorant. LOL,like Laura I've had to much coffee this morning too! Seriously, it doesn't seem to make much sense, but I don't have a better explanation than the one you've given. I've had deer stand their ground and stomp at me for a little while, but once I make a move toward them, they take off.


The theory that making yourself a constant presence in the same area allows the deer familiarity isn't far fetched.

A guy named P.K. Jacobson promotes that concept in being able to walk up to a buck. Don't just be out in the woods just for the hunting season, but through all the seasons.

Jim in Mo

Your boyfriend and neighbor are probably correct. Here's why

Thanks for all the input! When my boyfriend went for a run yesterday, a doe and two fawns knew about the time he'd be coming through and had a lovely tea set out for him. It's getting out of hand! -K.H.

It is THAT time of year...maybe that hotty doe is looking for a boyfriend!! LOL
I have one little deer that stands in the field and lets me walk by, even after all of the others have run off.
Not sure why, just wish his Grandpa would try that.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone. The snow is heavy on the trees here in Northern Michigan. It is absolutely beautiful!!

Every year we come up with many theorys about whitetail behavior, all of which fail the test quickly. That is one of the things that I love about deer. You will never really figure them out.

I have to agree with JB on this one, the does are looking for a good man.


You are absolutely right that deer & other wild critters become accustomed to the sight & smell of certain individuals and (more or less) accept them.

Wildlife biologists call this "habituation." Over time, wildlife learns to accept a non-threatening researcher as just another part of the environment.

This can be dangerous, too, as grizzly-boy Timothy Treadwell found out. In other cases, as wildlife becomes habituated and loses its fear of humans, even a whitetail deer might attack (our neighboring community of Helena Montana had to begin killing mule deer wandering the streets of the city when they became aggressive).