Does Human Urine Spook Whitetails?

Not sure whether you should pee from your treestand? The author offers his insight.

Does Human Urine Spook Whitetails?

Whitetails rely heavily on their sense of smell to avoid predators, but will they react negatively if they smell human odor? (Photo from Exodus Trail Cameras Facebook.)

There was a time when I believed the smell of human urine would spook whitetails. Back then — my teens — I took all the usual hunter precautions, including using a pee bottle, or hiking away from the immediate area for a bathroom break.

Because I was young, the urine bottle tactic and hiking away from my treestand came into play only on lengthy sits. During a typical 3- to 4-hour treestand vigil, I was fine. Those times have changed now that I’m in my mid-50s.

My philosophy about whether human urine spooks whitetails changed my freshman year of college. I attended a university located in central Minnesota with a campus consisting of 2,000 acres of prime whitetail terrain — off-limits to hunting — and spent many days each fall in the school’s woods taking photos of 100% wild whitetails, especially rutting bucks. (The property was low fence, and the deer moved freely onto neighboring farms and woodlots.)

Specifically, I began experimenting with mock scrapes, and just for the heck of it, I began peeing in them. I also peed in any buck-made scrapes I found. From treestands and ground blinds, I watched numerous bucks of all ages and sizes visit these scrapes, and at no time did they react negatively to human urine. 

Seeing this firsthand convinced me that I was wasting my time with toting a pee bottle to my hunting stand. More importantly, it confirmed I was doing more harm than good by hiking away from my treestand for a bathroom break and then returning to my stand, leaving boot odor on the ground, and possibly spooking deer while hiking through the woods. Not leaving the stand also eliminated the chance of a buck walking by when I was temporary absent. (FYI: I spooked one of the biggest bucks I’ve ever seen when I was walking back to my treestand after leaving it for only 10 minutes to go to the bathroom. When I jumped him, he was standing 20 yards from my treestand.)

It's smart to stay hydrated while waiting on whitetails, but when the time comes for a bathroom break, is it okay to pee from the treestand? The author says "yes."
It's smart to stay hydrated while waiting on whitetails, but when the time comes for a bathroom break, is it okay to pee from the treestand? The author says "yes."

What About Wilderness Deer?

Perhaps you’re thinking: Sure, this could be true for deer living in close proximity to people and farms, but what about wilderness whitetails?

The November of my freshman year of college, after 1.5 months of my “human urine/whitetail experiment” on campus, I left school for a week of firearms deer hunting in northern Minnesota. Here, the whitetails rarely see a human, and they spend most of their time trying not to be eaten by wolves.

During the first morning’s hunt, 3-inches of fresh snow fell, blanketing the forest floor. After four hours on stand, I needed a bathroom break, and instead of hiking away from my treestand and possibly spooking deer, I decided to pee from 12 feet high.

Thirty minutes later, I was watching a thick swamp edge when a forkhorn appeared at 50 yards. I didn’t want to shoot the young buck, so I simply watched him. He was traveling right to left and would pass 30 yards crosswind of my stand; it was almost dead calm.

The buck slowly walked and stopped, sometimes raising his nose to test the light wind. At 30 yards he stopped again, sniffing, and I thought, He’s got me pegged.

Right. And wrong.

At that moment, he took a 90-degree turn from his general line of travel and starting walking right toward my treestand. Again he stopped to test the wind. And then he kept sneaking closer. 

Finally, he was directly below my treestand. Remember, I was only 12 feet up; I felt like could jump on his back.

He was sniffing — searching — for something, and then I remembered peeing from my stand not long ago. At that moment, he crept toward the yellow hole created in the fresh snow, then plunged his face into the powder. He quickly raised his head — I was now looking him right in the eyes — and yellow-stained snow cascaded from his eyes, nose and mouth. He licked at the falling yellow snow a few times, too.

Not only wasn’t this buck spooked by the smell human urine, but he was attracted to it — big time!

This whitetail season, I recommend that you skip carrying a pee bottle into the treestand or worse, hiking through the woods just to relieve yourself away from the stand. Pee from the stand; you might lure in a curious buck.

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