20121 West State Hwy 52
Kinston, AL 36453
This site last updated 12/12/2015
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Without a doubt the most important glands to whitetails, the Tarsal glands, are located on the inside of the deer's hind legs.
These glands consist of a tuft of elongated hairs that is underlaid by an area of enlarged sebaceous glands.
These glands secrete a fatty substance, called a lipid. that adheres to the long hairs. |
All deer - bucks and does, adults and fawns - urinate onto the Tarsal Gland in a behavior called rub-urination. As the urine runs over the Tarsal Gland, the fatty material secreted from the glands onto the hairs select out some molecules and holds them on the gland. The urine that is deposited on the gland, however, does not smell at all like the odor of the Tarsal Gland. The urine that remains on the gland undergoes some reactions with the air and with bacteria to produce the gland's characteristic smell.
Many hunters dont realize that ALL deer urinate on these glands at ALL times of the year. Even fawns less than a month old will urinate on these glands at least once a day. Most of the time the excess urine is licked off the gland. However, during the breeding season the males, and primarily dominant or mature males, urinate onto the Tarsal Gland much more frequently. They also no longer lick the excess urine off the gland. This frequent rub-urination, along with chemical changes, is what stains the gland dark and gives the buck the rutting odor.
After completing a study of the secretory glands that underlay the Tarsal tuft researchers at the University of Georgia were surprised to learn that the activity of these glands did not change during the year and that there was no difference in activity between male and females. These findings verify that it is not a change in the activity of the gland that causes a change in the smell of the Tarsal organ, but rather only a change in the frequency of rub-urination.
Clearly the Tarsal Gland is used by deer to recognize other deer. Deer often sniff the glands of other deer. By doing so they can not only tell who the other deer is, but also learn about the others sex, dominant status, and condition. Does likely identify their fawns through the odor given off by the fawns Tarsal Gland. Rutting bucks use this gland to advertise their dominant status and breeding condition both to other bucks and to does.
Since the Tarsal Gland is so important in deer communication, it would make sense that this gland could be used to the hunters advantage. By placing a Tarsal Gland from a mature buck into the scrape of another buck you may signal a challenge to the buck. If he thinks someone is trying to invade his territory he may return to the scrape more often. Using a Tarsal Gland while rattling also has its advantages, as does making a drag from a Tarsal Gland.
BEFORE USING A TARSAL GLAND, however, you need to remember that this gland is a signal of dominance among bucks. If a younger, subordinate deer gets a whiff of the scent of a mature buck, he may choose to go the other way instead. So if you are after the larger bucks only, the Tarsal Gland may help increase your odds. However, if you arent particular and just any buck will do, you might want to forget the Tarsal Gland.