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About Whitetail Scent Glands

Whitetails are driven by scent. After all, their nose is the No. 1 tool for communication and security. Thus, it’s important to understand how the various whitetail scent glands influence deer behavior. Here’s everything you need to know about whitetail scent glands.


Located on the forehead between each antler base, this gland creates scent unique to the deer. When rubbing a tree, scent is deposited onto the surface of the tree trunk. Eventually, it leads to a buck’s darkened forehead fur. However, bucks and does alike have been seen exhibiting this behavior.


The preorbital glad is positioned a few millimeters from the front corner of each eye. It’s believed that it serves dual functions, including eye lubrication and scent depositing. Generally, when working a scrape’s licking branch, deer rub their preorbital gland over the branch.


The nasal gland is within the nasal cavities. Its purpose is to lubricate the nasal passageways. In short, this optimizes conditions for a deer’s olfactory system, ultimately enhancing its sense of smell.


The salivary glands are positioned inside the mouth. These enhance digestion by producing enzymes that aid in breaking down food. This gland also keeps the mouth and tongue lubricated and comfortable. Furthermore, this helps deposit additional scent when working a scrape’s licking branch.


The tarsal gland is located at the hock (midsection) of the back legs. This gland creates a mucus that engages with urine during and after a deer urinates. Of course, all deer can rub-urinate and urinate over their tarsal glands. However, bucks tend to do so more during the pre-rut and rut. Thus, the pungent smell comes from repeated application and combination of bacteria and pheromones in the urine and on the legs. In short, the generated scent can indicate gender, dominance, health status, readiness to breed, and more.


The metatarsal is located on the back legs a few inches above the top of the hoof. It is a small, half-moon-shaped patch of white hair. Interestingly, these do not seem to play a role in scent communication. According to some sources, these glands are proportionally larger in northern whitetails. Because of this, these are potentially used to regulate body temperature.


Moving down the leg, the interdigital gland is located between each side of the hoof. It’s positioned at the crest of the hoof split. This gland secretes a yellowish liquid that hits the ground when deer run, stomp, etc. It leaves a distinct odor that’s seemingly unique to them. Some biologists believe that scent from a mature buck’s interdigital gland can indicate its dominance. Likewise, a doe’s can signal if she is receptive, or not. In either instance, it’s likely that interdigital scent helps a trailing buck determine which direction a doe, or other deer, went.

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