Can Deer Smell a ThermaCELL, will it spook them?

I first used a ThermaCELL on a Canadian bear hunt 10 years ago. All I could think of was “can the animals smell this and will they spook? Today I’m here to answer those questions for you.

Deer can smell a ThermaCELL insect repellent device from up to 100 yards away, but they aren’t usually spooked by it. The smell of a ThermaCELL device will not scare a deer unless it associates that smell with humans. If you are careful with your human scent, a deer will not associate the two different smells.

All ThermaCell devices create an unnatural smell in the woods. The trick is to not teach the animals to be afraid of the smell. I shot a 300-pound bear at 30 feet with a ThermaCell running next to me. Do things right and deer won’t care about it. Here’s what I mean.

Do Deer Smell ThermaCELL?

Deer can absolutely smell a ThermaCELL. I can smell them sometimes and a deer has a much more powerful sniffer than I do.

The main thing I’m talking about here is the ThermaCELL insect repellent devices. I know there are other ThermaCELL devices, and in reality, this goes for those too.

Thermacell devices use butane cartridges as a fuel source to create heat. With the insect repellant devices, the butane heats up a metal plate that in turn heats a square wafer containing powerful insect repellants. Both the butane exhaust and the released insect repellant is slightly odorous.

Butane itself is odourless, and practically odourless when burned. However, there is an added chemical with a very strong odour so you can tell if it’s leaking. I don’t really know if they put that chemical in these little ThermaCELL butane cartridges or not, but I do know that I can smell both the gas and the exhaust.

If I can smell it, a deer can certainly smell it better. This is an issue of scent control. I, as a hunter, have to learn how to properly control my scent while in the woods.

The little repellent containing wafers have a smell all their own. It’s a weird smell. Not too strong or nasty, just kinda weird. If a deer is anywhere near you downwind, it has a pretty good chance of getting a whiff of that funny smell. Some ThermaCELL wafers come with extra scent to “cover up the odour”.

Don’t fall for that, it’s a shill concept. All it does is add yet another out of place smell for the deer to detect. Just use the no-scent added ones if you can find them.

The truth is, there is a lot of weird smells in nature. There’s only one thing that makes a particular smell repel deer.

The wafer is poisonous and I don’t think I’m supposed to touch it, oops!

Are deer Scared of the Smell of a ThermaCELL?

Deer are not scared of the smell of ThermaCELL in most cases. They don’t naturally associate the unique smell of a ThermaCELL with anything that would scare them.

let me ask you a question. If you thought for a moment that you noticed the slightest smell that you didn’t recognize, would you be scared and run away? Deer aren’t as jumpy as we make them out to be. What they are is fast learners and good remember.

Deer are naturally wary of humans. unless trained otherwise, they will tend to shy away from people every time. It’s a natural fear of humans, not a ThermaCELL that makes deer hard to hunt. The easiest way a deer will find a hunter is through its sense of smell. That’s what we have to workaround.

I’ve hunted with my ThermaCELL a lot and never once had a deer seem more skittish than usual because of it. If you keep to the rules, you probably won’t have an issue using ThermaCELL while hunting. I’ve even seen a deer approach me closely with its nose in the air, presumably investigating my ThermaCELL. I had no other scents out.

Don’t forget to switch it off if the bugs calm down during your hunt.

How to Keep a Deer from Being Scared Off by a ThermaCELL

All you have to do is keep the smell of your ThermaCELL separate from your scent as a human. It’s not really that hard to do. I’ve got a few tips I use that you work with on your own hunt. The biggest part is to just keep your scent down when in the woods.

The biggest tip I can give you is to keep your ThermaCELL off while you are walking to your hunting spot. That way, any deer who comes across your scent trail will not begin to associate the two smells. if they associate them, you may need to stop using your ThermaCELL.

Another huge tip is to not overuse it. The more you burn your ThermaCELL, the higher the chance a deer will put 2 and 2 together. Only turn on your ThermaCELL when you absolutely need to. Just like anything else you do during a hunt, keep it to a minimum. Remember, you’re sneaking around in a deer’s house trying to go unnoticed.

Don’t touch things on your way to your stand. Every time you touch something, even with gloves, you leave a stronger scent trail. Sweat, skin oils, and cheato dust make for a red flag that a hunter is down the trail. If a deer can smell your ThermaCell in the air at the same time it can smell the branch you grabbed, it will begin to associate your ThermaCELL with hunters.

You Don’t need a Scented ThermaCELL

Don’t use a ThermaCELL wafer with any added scent. It’s pretty common to see them “with earth scent” or “with natural dirt scent”. Only, they aren’t natural and they don’t smell like dirt. The idea is to use a “dirt smell” to mask the exhaust and insect repellant.

First of all, it doesn’t smell like dirt. Secondly, the entire woods full of dirt isn’t enough to mask the scent. What makes you think that a little more will? Using dirt scented ThermaCELL wafers only makes it put out more scent, which is harder to deal with. Limit your scent, don’t simply add to it.

Jordan Buck

Jordan Buck is an outdoor writer, a man of faith, and a family man. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. Jordan has taught marksmanship, woodsmanship, and self-defense classes. He has earned black belts in four martial arts and is a certified Krav Maga instructor. He also runs his own Gun Blog and YouTube Channel. Jordan enjoys giving his time and resources to help others and has spent 15 years volunteering in a boy's mentoring program He is and will always be an American Patriot. MOLON LABE

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