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Can I use vanilla extract as a cover scent?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: I have a friend I deer hunt with that uses vanilla extract when hunting. He takes and puts it all over him before he gets in his stand and swears it works as a cover.  I have my doubts, knowing that it is not a natural smell to deer.  He said he read it in a magazine but I refuse to use it.  He has killed a lot of deer but he has been busted a lot too. I think he has had a lot of luck with the wind direction or has had deer come in from up or down wind of him.  I was just wandering if you had any knowledge on this.
- Jack N.

ANSWER: You are correct in your assertion that vanilla is a foreign scent to whitetails.  Intuitively one would think introducing such an odor would only put these already cautious animals on high alert.  However, deer are also curious, and may act in unexpected ways to the presence of a foreign odor.

While I have no personal experience using it, I too have an acquaintance who claims to have had some limited success with vanilla scent.  The same must be true for others as several scent companies sell vanilla-based scents or blends.  However, they are designed and sold to work as curiosity scents, attracting deer to a specific location in much the same way you might use a food or rut scent.  Over the years I have had occasion to work with most of the major wildlife scent companies and I’ve never heard of anyone recommending or using vanilla as a cover scent.

Ultimately it becomes a personal choice.  Using any attractant or cover scent could work for or against you.  Using an unfamiliar odor increases the possibilities for alarming game, but could also turn the tide on an otherwise reluctant deer.  You just have to roll the dice.  Regardless, you still need to be fastidious about controlling human odor.

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