How Good is a Coyote's Sense of Smell?

Like most canines, coyotes have an incredible sense of smell that sometimes baffles hunters. How good is it?

How Good is a Coyote's Sense of Smell?

Whether you're in open spaces like in Texas, where this songdog met its maker, or in wooded areas,  minimizing movement and using scent management tactics can help you beat a coyote's nose.

While bowhunting in northwest Kansas a few years ago with Heartland Pride Outfitters, I spied movement along the treeline to my left and eventually saw a coyote trotting along.

It was unconcerned with anything and about as relaxed as could be. I had no plans to shoot it. When in Kansas for bucks, you ignore coyotes and wait on the deer. I watched as the coyote casually moved through the brush until it got near my ladder stand, which was securely locked on a big hardwood nestled among some cedars.

A few yards in front of the stand it perked up and eventually, albeit warily, got to the ladder. Sniff! Sniff! The songdog didn't like the aroma and zipped behind a cedar to my right. I turned to look just about the time it popped out again and it made me.

I'll admit I'm not a great hunter but I do what I can to keep up with wind direction and scent management. My LaCrosse Alphaburly Pro boots and clothing were kept outside and sprayed liberally with Wildlife Research Scent Killer Gold and Cedar Masking Scent. I know a spray scent isn't the end-all, be-all for odor management but I believe those products help and have used them for years.

It wasn't a big surprise, though, that the coyote smelled me or  something it didn't like. It didn't run away lickety-split, even after seeing me in stand, but loped off with a back glance or two before trotting away again over a rise.

A human has a family of more than 400 olfactory receptors to sort and discern scents. Because people are different, genetics plays a role in our ability to smell. So, too, does our health; disease or other issues may impact or blunt the ability to smell.

Dogs have 220 million olfactory receptors. Whitetail deer have about  297 million. An interesting albeit unscientific look at these with bird dogs, skunks and game cameras in pastures shows how these species interact with wildlife and human scent.

How many receptors do coyotes have? It stands to reason at least 220 million, like other dogs, which gives them pretty good skills at picking  up scents from humans and animals. We've seen coyotes stop cold in a pasture and throw up their nose, testing the air, or turning away from a trail walked on by a hunter. Deer do the same, of course.

Beating a coyote on its turf takes strategy and hunting skills. Setting up with the right wind, using odor management products (if you desire), employing a decoy and minimizing movement all can help you beat them before they beat you.


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