QUESTION: I'm a tobacco chewer, and three times this season I witnessed a buck stop and stick his nose right into a spot where I'd dumped a spit cup. I also watched two young bucks lick and paw the ground, then start fighting over it! I couldn't believe it when a mature buck also licked and pawed the spot, and I ended up shooting it later. I also watched a doe stay bedded beneath my stand, right next to where I'd spit tobacco the entire day before. Do you have any idea why they don't fear my tobacco and might actually be interested in it? - Douglas F.
ANSWER: This one is a real stumper.
As for tobacco plants, the info I was able to find seems to run the gamut.
Some sources say deer do not eat tobacco plants and they avoid them, therefore tobacco makes a good deterrent for keeping deer away from other crops and ornamental plants.
I found other sources to the contrary, including photographs of tobacco plants allegedly browsed by deer.
Chewing tobacco, on the other hand, seems to be a different story. Most of what I found was anecdotal, but strongly indicated some sort of attraction.
Several suggested, and it seems likely, it might be the molasses in the chewing tobacco attracting deer more than the tobacco itself. So, if you're a wintergreen chewer, this might not work so well.
Before you go running to the corner mart to pick up a bag of leaf, there are several things to consider.
Tobacco spit is a foreign odor. It could alarm deer, particularly if they learn to associate it with humans.
It might also sometimes function as a curiosity scent, like vanilla or anise oil. In that case, it also draws them closer to you and other human scents you've left behind, increasing the chances of alarming them.
You should also know that smokeless tobacco is addictive and causes gum disease and tooth loss in humans. I have no idea what it does to deer.