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arrowflipper's picture
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Over the past couple of decades, I have refused to burn a campfire during the hunting season due to the smell of smoke.  I guess it's really for two reasons..... I don't like sleeping in a smoky sleeping bag, and I am afraid it will alert the game.

Do any of you have any experience in this area?  Does smoke on the cloths bother deer and/or elk?  I have always tried to be as scent free as possible and being around a campfire will saturate you and your cloths with odor.


numbnutz's picture
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Location: portland,oregon
Joined: 09/06/2007
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I tend not to worry to much

I tend not to worry to much about camp fire smoke, As far as being scent free, theres no such thing. but what i do is i have camp cloths and hunting cloths, when I'm out hunting i wear my camos but when i get back to camp the first place i go is the tent and change, i put my hunting cloths in my tote, also in my tote i have a very large air tight ziplock type bag i put my cloths in to keep them as scent free as possible, and change into my normal camp cloths and with those i dont care what gets on them. In oregon there are a ton of recreational outdoors people all summer long camping and hiking and such that burn camp fires so i really dont think camp fire smoke bother the game to much, heck last year we were at camp and about 10pm sitting by the fire i heard some noise so i grabed my flash light and shined it where i heard it and there was about 20 deer feeding 30 feet from camp.

niceshot_smitty's picture
Location: Los Alamos, NM
Joined: 06/08/2011
Posts: 452
I do not think the smoke bugs

I do not think the smoke bugs the game, they smell it all the time being.  campers, hikers, other hunts, wildfires ect.... 

I have hunted with camp fires and with out fires.  I have tag out both ways.  i also hunt in a highly hunted place.  so contact with people is always out there. 


buffybr's picture
Location: Montana, USA
Joined: 11/15/2007
Posts: 358

niceshot_smitty wrote:

I do not think the smoke bugs the game, they smell it all the time being.  campers, hikers, other hunts, wildfires ect.... 

I'll agree with that.  Late summer and fall wildfires in the western states can keep the smell of smoke in the air for weeks in several states hundreds of miles from the actual fire.  Wildlife are used to it.

I've hunted deer and elk many times when the smoke from burning nearby logging slash was so thick that we couldn't see the ridge on the other side of the valley we were in.  A few hours later when the smoke cleared, we would spot deer and elk, totally undisturbed by the smoke.

One time I was helping a Forest Service timber crew burn large logging slash piles in northern Montana.  These were machine piled slash that were the size of a two car garage.  Late in the afternoon one day there were about a dozen elk bedded down within 100 yds of one pile that we lit.  After work, I returned to that pile and shot a 5x5 bull who was still where we saw him several hours earlier.  The slash pile had burned down to just a few smouldering stumps, and the heat from the fire had melted the ground snow 40-50 yds from the fire.

I think the notion that wild animals are terrified by smoke and fire came from Walt Disney's movie Bambi.


groovy mike's picture
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not any more

I used to worry about smoke spooking game until I was hunting with a friend of mine who was at the time a heavy smoker (he has since quit).  We were standing there within sight of each other and a small spike horn white tail buck approached us walking unconcerned in our direction.  My friend's cigarrette smoke was hanging low about 3 feet off teh ground and was dense enough to see it eddying in the nearly still air for a dozen feet or more.  That deer walked right through that smoke and did not go on alert.  Maybe he was a non-typical really extra stupid or unobservant whitetail, but he didn't get teh chance to breed another year.........

Tndeerhunter's picture
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Location: Tennessee
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The key there might

The key there might be...spike horn. I have seen Juvenile deer do some awfully D U M B stuff. Ever seen a 16 year old male do that kind of thing?? 

Don Fischer's picture
Location: Antelope, Ore
Joined: 03/24/2005
Posts: 3213
I think we give all big game

I think we give all big game more credit than they deserve. Smoke they smell quite often but even the sent free method I believe over does it. I know some people wash their clothes in special scent free soap, what makes you think it's scent free in the first place? Our scenting ability is no match for a wild animals. And how often does an animal smell "Cheer" detergent so as to make the human connection. I think the only thing scent free does, if anything at all, is alert the big game to a strange smell. That won't make them bolt. What makes them bolt is when they precieve something out of place as a threat.

I think its more important to conceal your movement, that will move big game when its spoted and recognized as being out of place. I recall some years ago hunting late season in a white T-shirt. I spotted some deer about 150 or so yds in front of me. I stood still and they never moved, just continued eating. Now and then they would look at me but if a head moved in my direction I froze. I occured to me that they could see the T-shirt really well but it probably looked like the back end of a deer. I don't recall the direction any breeze may have been blowing but, I was moving up hill in the morning and in the morning, thermals go up hill. I am certain they could smell me. But not recognizing a threat kept an eye on me but weren't to worried.

I have watched videos of bow hunter's stalking deer so close that had the hunter had a hurricane force wind blowing his scent away from the deer, the deer still would have smelled him. What finally tells the animal something is wrong is it see's the hunter moving but doing so like a preditor. How many times have you walked up on a deer just ambling along? I've done that a lot of times. Cows and other game just amble along, it's not an action that is considered a threat. But sneak along like a preditor and get spotted and they are gone. I have been sitting on a stand several times and had does walk right by me. They look right at me and I hold still. They do not bolt till they see me as a threat. I have had that happen when they moved from up wind the down wind without scaring them.

hunter25's picture
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Location: Colorado western slope
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To be honest I have rarely

To be honest I have rarely camped out when deer or elk hunting as I live so close to some really good hunting and can be there only 20 minutes from home or tirty minutes from work if coming from the other direction. I guess it may be strange but I don't mind the smoke smell on my clothes at all and have not seen it have a negative impact on my hunting or scouting when I have been camping to do so. There are far more negative smells to worry about than wood smoke in my opinion and as long as you watch the wind I don't worry abou it at all. Keep in mind of course that I am not archery hunting and getting that much closer to the game animals may have a greater affect than I am used to.

Ca_Vermonster's picture
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Location: San Diego, CA
Joined: 07/27/2007
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Like others have said, I

Like others have said, I think it also has to do with where you are hunting.  I know that wehre I hunt whitetails, we are only 500 yards from a hunting camp that has a wood fire going continuosly, as well as some other wood burning stoves.  if the deer are used to smelling smoke, I don't think it bothers them.

But, if you are in the backcountry in Colorado or some place like that, it may bother them.  But, they even have forest fires from time to time, so I would think that they wouldn't mind that smell very much at all.

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