Vanilla as in the flavor, not as a generic question.
QUESTION: My local sporting goods store had a bottle of deer attractant that smells like vanilla. That’s not a natural scent anywhere I hunt. How can it possibly work on deer?
ANSWER: Good question. It really shouldn’t, because it’s a foreign odor, but deer are attracted by different scents for different reasons. Urine-based scents function as social and sexual attractants, appealing to a whitetail’s urge to be with another deer for one reason or another. Food-based scents appeal to their need to feed. And while I wouldn’t recommend it, scents from foods that don’t normally occur in a specific area will still attract the deer that live there.
That might be part of the answer to vanilla. While foreign, it is a food-based scent. With their complex scent detection system, it’s possible deer recognize some component of the odor as edible. Another part is simple curiosity. Sometimes deer are inexplicably attracted to foreign objects, odors and sounds.
Some deer will startle and run the first time they see your new ground blind or shooting house, but others will stand and stare, sometimes at length. When sitting stock still on the ground, I’ve had deer walk up to me, staring, stomping their feet and moving their head from side to side, but coming nearer, out of curiosity.
Incidentally, another curiosity scent that sometimes works on deer is anise oil. But like vanilla, it sometimes has the opposite effect.
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