Does human urine have an effect on deer movement?
Deer hunting myths come and go, but when deer season is on we all strive to change bad luck into good luck and see big bucks walk by. Trail cameras are one of the ways that we try to follow home ranges and overall health of the herd. Deer smell a variety of things in their daily lives and I tried to see if it was a big deal if they smelled me.
It's one of the oldest questions in deer hunting: does our obviously human urine smell bad enough to deer that they would avoid it? I had to put it to the test, for hunters everywhere, and the greater good of the scientific world.
First of all, as you'll see in a moment, I started this experiment back around the third week of August. Being as under efficient as I was, I hadn't realized that the batteries were dying in the trail camera until the end of the first week whereby part of the card was blank at that time.
The end result: I actually peed in front of this camera for over two weeks, using one big hoof print left by a big mama doe.
Now, barring a dozen pictures of my back, (which I have) I'll have to kindly ask you to simply believe that I did this. Wildlife biologists such as Dr. James Kroll and Dr. Karl Miller have spent a lifetime studying such issues in deer movement as it pertains to mature bucks and deer hunting, which deer hunters everywhere have taken note of. This assessment was made by a man with only a trail cam and time. Oh, and a fair amount of liquids drank.
What I'm trying to say is, this simple test was meant as an evaluation by one American hunter with the effects of human scent on his mind, and it by no means is scientific. We've seen people urinate into mock scrapes, considered using fox pee as a cover up, and read about whether or not to use a pee bottle in the stand, but do the organic compounds in human pee really cause deer activity to change?
Or at least what I left when nature was calling?
You'll see this young buck again shortly, but we've been seeing him and his brother (a small forkhorn) all summer. We've also seen a number of foxes, turkeys and interestingly enough only one coyote picture.
Around the weekend of Aug. 26, I started walking out to the small pond where we have a camera set up. The deer walk by this spot all summer, so it seemed like a good place to try for a couple of reasons: the draw of water and the openness.
The only fruit trees available are old, wild prickly pear. Some big deer travel through this area, and one decent young buck with a future, but so far, no nice buck has showed himself.
I have a few pictures from before the battery died, and certainly changed them at the end of the week, but it was clear to me right from the beginning that the deer use didn't slow down much. Seeing a fox made me wonder if the canids were affected by the smell at all, being that they are among the wariest of animals in the woods.
The fox kept coming, but I haven't seen a coyote since. When we think of scent control, we usually consider it as taking care of our body odor. But what's more odoriferous than urine? Anyone that likes asparagus will tell you that it definitely will make your urine smell unique and quite bad, so do different foods eaten really mean different smells?
There are more photos of deer than are necessary to share here and, of course, some that were not very clear. Deer came by at all times, walking right up to and past the spot that was used for the experiment.
Looking at the information on the pictures you can see that it was sometimes very hot, which should have made that spot stink even more.
Remember, this was done by one person, once a day, in the same spot.
Where are the bucks?
The little forkhorn finally showed himself, but he's just a baby. The mother does and fawns never stopped using the area, but we haven't seen that budding six-point with the decent spread since July.
With deer season right around the corner, did I kick one buck out of the area for good?
Big bucks are notorious loners, and that's one of the greatest reasons why we let these youngsters grow. They can smell each other's scent on a licking branch before they even see it, and come running for miles at the smell of doe-in-estrous urine. So are we to think that they wouldn't be alarmed at the smell of our pee?
The bottom line
That nice looking starter buck is now a six-point with great genes. We have one youth hunter starting out this season, and if he takes this deer I'm all for it. I'm the type of hunter that continually passes up young deer hoping for older, more mature bucks. Not strictly because of antlers, but because I love to watch deer grow year after year. Last season we took a nine-point with a muzzle so grey it was almost silver. It had exactly two teeth left. That's the kind of deer I look for.
They don't always grow a monster rack because they're old, but they got that way because we let them, and because they're smarter than we are (probably even more so).
Many will argue that doe urine and buck urine are two of the best methods to attract deer to us when they might just as well stay away. With CWD taking a terrible toll on deer herds, there's a real possibility that we may have to stop using genuine deer urine for safety's sake alone. Whether or not to pee from your stand, or anywhere near it, is up to the individual. At least for me during the offseason, it didn't seem to affect the majority of the deer at all.
The bottom line for me is this: I always use a pee bottle. If there is even the slightest chance of spooking a big buck, or any deer for that matter, I'm not taking it! It's tough enough to be sure that you're using scent control correctly without walking into the woods and leaving something behind that's not natural.