Are smoking hunters forever doomed whenever they venture into the woods?
In this April 14, 2020, file photo, a deer leaps through a field off Route 202 in Bangor. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Every year, deer hunters spend millions of dollars on products to control their scent.

White-tailed deer can smell odors from far away. Often, if a deer smells a hunter for any reason, it will steer clear.

Hunters use everything from special clothing, to scent-reducing laundry detergents, soaps, shampoos and sprays, to cover-scents designed to place close to the stand or blind to mask human-related odors.

So what about hunters who smoke cigarettes? Are they doomed when they head into the woods?

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Not by a longshot, say many Maine hunters, some of whom have a long history of smoking and shooting deer.

“I have had to put a cigarette out on more than one occasion to shoot a deer,” said Jesse Wilson of Bucksport. “I also know other people that have shot some monsters while smoking.”

One hunter who smokes even shared a short video on Facebook of a deer browsing directly in front of his ground blind.

How is it that cigarette smoke wouldn’t deter a deer, you ask? Smokers’ clothing almost certainly already carries the smell of tobacco.

Lots of hunters believe it comes down to a critical element — wind direction.

Hunting while walking into the wind, or watching for deer that are moving upwind of you, is among the basic tenets of hunting. Some hunters reason that any deer that are upwind aren’t going to smell the smoke.

Then there are hunters who argue that any deer coming from downwind likely will be scared away by any human scent.

“If the wind is blowing from you to the deer, it doesn’t matter what scent control you use, if you’re smoking or not smoking, game over,” Corey Hinkley said. “If the wind is blowing from the deer to you, you can smell like an ashtray, a big onion, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got a chance.”

Other hunters are convinced deer aren’t necessarily scared away by the smell of smoke, particularly if they’re used to it. Curious deer might even be attracted to smoke and manmade odors.

Then there are theories about specific deer hunting tactics. Bow and crossbow hunters generally have to allow deer to get within 30 or 40 yards, which brings them closer to smells. Gun hunters can be hundreds of yards away.

Realizing there are doubters among hunters who don’t smoke, the smoking crowd also seems to have a good sense of humor when discussing the issue.

“My question is, why does everyone put their cigarette out?” Mark Howes asked. “Shoot the deer. Finish the cig. Go get the deer.”

Joseph Tavares of Springvale believes that smoking might even enhance his chances of getting a deer.

“I’ve shot most of my deer with a cigarette in my hand,” he said. “I quit before this year, haven’t seen one yet. I’m convinced smoking brings ’em in. If I don’t see one soon, I may have to buy a pack and test the theory out.”

And still others ditch cigarettes for smokeless tobacco to try to improve their chances in the woods.

So, the debate about whether cigarette smoke scares away the deer continues. Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...