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This article will outline the effectiveness of using vanilla extract to attract deer while also identifying possible formulas that will bring you success in the field. We will also explore the legality and overall validity of using vanilla extract as an attractant. 

Scents which deer are naturally familiar with, such as other animals and earthy aromas (dirt, trees, etc.), in general are unremarkable and do not grab the attention of deer.

Attracting Deer with vanilla extract

However, food and odors that smell appealing to deer will often attract them, provided that the scent is not overpowering (especially if the smell does not suit the habitat).  

You will be happy to know that deer certainly find something about vanilla extract appealing and intriguing.

Value of Vanilla Extract as a Deer Attractant

Though proficient hunters can achieve truly incredible success while silently waiting in a stand for the best moment to ambush cleverly cautious deer, less-skillful hunters must occasionally boost their likelihood of encountering deer to have any chance of achieving success. 

For some hunters, a favorable method of attracting more deer is to spread a scent in hopes that the deer investigate the odor and find themselves in a position to be ambushed without problem. 

When used appropriately, scents are a valuable addition to your equipment and overall approach to hunting.

One such scent which has proven by many hunters to attract deer of all ages is vanilla extract. Many believe that fawn and other younglings are particularly curious of the smell vanilla extract emits.

Scent attractants (such as vanilla extract) can also be described as curiosity scents because they stimulate the interests of deer and draw them to the location of the odor. 

Correct Approach to Spreading Scents 

As most hunters should know, deer have an incredible sense of smell, and this innate attribute is essential to their survival.

Accordingly, employing a scent to deceive deer by lulling them into a false sense of security can be remarkably complicated.

Shooting deer successfully with the help of a scent will typically require hunters to consider where they spread the scent and the amount they apply. 

It is vital that these factors are considered as deer are extremely alert while investigating odors (and sounds for that matter).

While vanilla extract can and will attract deer, an excessive amount of an odor that does not fit the environment can be alarming and frighten deer enough to deter them from investigating a smell further. 

Additionally, deer are expected to try to find the source of scents, therefore it is important that the scent is not spread too closely to you. If so, the likelihood of them detecting your own scent is high. 

Consequently, a subtle placement of vanilla extract in close proximity to your position, should be sufficient to entice deer long enough to take down. 

Note that some hunters find success in spreading vanilla extract on tree stumps near their stand, and on their trail cameras.

Vanilla Extract is Not a Cover Scent

It is generally recommended that hunters do not use vanilla extract as a cover scent (same goes for other attractants). When deer follow the scent attractant on you, as they move closer, the deer will typically flee very quickly in response to detecting your presence through your natural scent. 

Ultimately, a cover scent should not be an odor that attracts deer because they will likely notice you before they even reach the source of the scent. 

Furthermore, applying vanilla extract to your clothes or body may bring unwanted attention from bears and other critters.

This is not to say that hunters cannot have any success while wearing attractants as a cover scent. Though vanilla extract will not keep you hidden, it is possible that the scent keeps deer interested and exposed long enough (even after detecting your presence).

Interestingly, Oregon does not permit the use of substances placed to attract animals with their sense of smell and taste unless the attractant is applied to your clothing or body (and worn). 

This is a good example of a suitable time to wear vanilla extract as a cover scent. 

It will become apparent that regulations concerning scents and baiting can differ significantly from one state to another. 

Buying Imitation Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Flavor - The Choices are (Almost) Endless

Vanilla extract is easily obtained in a variety of different container sizes. 

Depending on how frequently you will be bringing deer in using it, you might need only an 8 oz bottle or, cheaper in the long run, you might prefer a more sizable gallon’s worth.

Handy tip: You can get a gallon of Rodelle Imitation Vanilla for a fraction of what the extract costs per ounce and it is just as effective. 

Here are some examples of what’s available in a few different sized containers

Mixing Vanilla Extract and Other Deer Attractants

When it comes to mixing vanilla extract or vanilla imitation, there isn’t a strict method of creating an effective scent, i.e., there is no universal vanilla extract deer attractant recipe. 

There are a number of different tips and tricks that explain how to mix vanilla extract for deer in such a way that they will be unable to resist.

Essentially, the likelihood that your mix deters deer or leaves them uninterested is very low.

Subsequently, making a straightforward deer attractant from (store bought) pure vanilla extract mixed with distilled water is perfectly satisfactory. Not only is this mix easy to make, but it is also relatively inexpensive.

Another tip provided by seasoned hunters is to make a mix of 75% imitation vanilla extract plus 25% soy or vegetable oil. The purpose of the oil in the mixture is to prevent it from being washed off the surface you’ve applied it to if it rains.

Perhaps you would prefer to follow a recipe which is more distinctive and sweeter or one which focuses on vanilla imitation rather than pure vanilla extract.

There are many generous people who are comfortable disclosing their recipes, and there are many different scents deer are attracted to, hence finding a recipe to take inspiration from should not be too difficult. 

Where you've mixed other ingredients with the vanilla extract, you should simply give the spray bottle a shake before each time you apply it to ensure a good even coverage is created.

Best Ways to Spread Scents

The simplest and most convenient way to spread a scent is to spray the scent with a spray bottle filled with the substance. 

Another method which works effectively is to hang scent wicks on branches and douse the wicks with the scent. A popular brand is the Wildlife Research Center Key-Wick dispensers. 

Alternatively, you can use cotton balls or a cloth if that fits your preferences; however, cotton balls are not as easy to place on trees.

You can also carelessly pour a scent out of a bottle, but this may leave the area excessively infused with a scent.

Legality of Vanilla Extract: Is it Unlawful to Use?

As a hunting implement, scent attractants are incredibly helpful and work very well for hunters; however, depending on the state in which you hunt, the legitimacy of their use may be contested. 

Legislation covering baiting and luring is not consistent across states; accordingly, it is important that hunters not only read the laws which apply to where they hunt, but also fully understand what is and isn’t regulated.

It may take a few read-throughs of your state’s regulations to truly understand what you can and cannot do. This is because occasionally the regulations are not made completely clear.

All 50 states have regulation pertaining to baiting and luring game. They are presumed to be accurate as of Summer 2018.

What is Baiting: Is Using Scents and Attractants Considered Baiting?

As briefly alluded to above, sometimes laws are not made completely clear, and can sometimes leave room for interpretation.

In several states, legislation explicitly asserts that scents and attractants are illegal to implement; however, some states prohibit the use of baiting on public land but fail to include their definition of baiting. (Note: some do, but still leave room for interpretation). This means hunters in these states don’t know if they can use scent attractants on their hunts.

Baiting does not have a universally accepted definition. Many hunters are adamant that the meaning when referred to hunting requires the use of feed to lure or attract game. 

Other people may use a broader definition and believe that baiting refers to simply luring/attracting game with their sense of smell and taste. 

It is important to recognize that your baiting laws may somewhat resemble the latter definition and therefore minimize what you can use to lure game. 

Ultimately, it is important to know whether your regulations are stricter than other states and understand if you are more susceptible to fines. 

Ambiguity of Baiting Regulations

We mentioned above that in some states, there are hunters that are unsure of what is and isn’t legal because the legislation is not completely clear.

This is common in various states because many do not provide precise explanations (leave room for interpretation).

Consumption and Ingestion: A common instance of vague phrasing in baiting regulations involves the use of consumption and ingestion.

Essentially, several states dictate that (most) artificial scents and substances are legal provided that they are not designed or intended to be consumed by deer or other animals.

Vermont makes it clear that consumption can mean eating or licking. 

The states below also prohibit the use of scents designed to be consumed by animals, but do not explain if consumption includes licking. 

If you hunt in any of these states, you may want to assume that consumption extends to licking. If you want a precise explanation of what you can do, contacting the agency which is responsible for conserving and protecting your state land would be a wise decision.

Food-Based Lures and Substances: Baiting laws often include words such as “food substances/products/materials”, “food-based lures”, and “other food”. The use of these terms can cause hunters to question whether vanilla extract and other scents are realistically food products. 

Vanilla extract, though not food itself, is a liquid substance that is added to food to enhance flavors in a recipe. 

If food (substances, materials, etc.) is prohibited where you hunt, you should assume vanilla extract (and any substance which contains food ingredients) is illegal because it is based around food. 

Some states recommend that you do not use products which have vague descriptions of their ingredients.

Delaware and Maryland’s Limited Information: Both Delaware  and Maryland  simply state that it is unlawful to hunt game with bait, with the exception of hunting deer on privately owned land.

Neither state provides their definition of bait, hence there is plenty of room for interpretation of the baiting regulations.

If you wish for a precise explanation of the regulations, a good option would be to contact the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Why Do States Prohibit Baiting?

When hunters bait deer, they increase the instances of multiple deer approaching one spot. A high concentration of deer can be very problematic for the environment and deer themselves; therefore, you never want deer clustered in one region.

Though hunters can effectively sustain the populations of deer concentrated in a single region, rarely can the deer’s habitat flourish and survive when the area is too populated. 

Clustering deer in a small region can cause heavier browsing which can severely impair forest regeneration. Specifically, the deer may consume most of the habitat and destroy juvenile trees. 

Additionally, bringing deer to a single spot multiple times can increase the likelihood of spreading harmful diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

In short, a high deer concentration is unfavorable for the environment and deer themselves.



A Final Word

With the provision that spreading scents is legal where you hunt, using vanilla extract in attempt to lure deer to a certain area is something you should definitely try at least once, especially if you are not achieving the success you would prefer.

It is important to remember that deer are extremely vigilant when investigating odors, hence you should ensure that you do not spread too much and guarantee that they will not pick up your scent too.

Finally, baiting laws are not always straightforward; accordingly, reading your regulations and truly understanding what is and isn’t regulated is critical. You should always make an effort to hunt lawfully.

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