Saving and Using a Tarsal Gland

Did you know that tarsal glands exist on bucks and does and are active year-round? Also, bucks are urinating down their back legs, called “rub urinating,” to create the musty odor most whitetail deer hunters have grown to love, all year as well. It’s just that they do it more often during the pre rut and rut. Bacteria that lives in the tufts of hair, coupled with certain compounds from the urine create the whiskey brown color and the unique smell of the glands.

According to the Quality Deer Management Association, research shows that it is likely that the scent derived from a tarsal gland likely carries information about the deer’s dominance status, sex and health condition, as well as other traits. The tarsal are the glands that deer use to communicate with one another. Saving and using the tarsal glands can help increase the deer activity in your area throughout this season and many to come.

Collecting Tarsal Glands

Cut the tarsal glands off of the bucks you kill. Wear gloves, deposit them into a Ziploc bag and store them in the freezer. Get your buddies to share one off of a buck they kill. See a dead buck on the side of the road? If it’s within a few days of being hit, quickly remove the glands and drive on. You could also put in word at your local deer processor that you’d like a few as hunters will drop a buck off having done nothing more than gutting it, maybe removing the cape.

When to Use the Tarsal Gland

Deer are curious animals. And being that they communicate through the use of tarsal glands, you can count on them to respond all year. Consider it like we may send a message to an old friend to just check in, let them know how we’re doing.

As bucks establish dominance during the pre rut, using the tarsal gland of a lesser deer could bring him charging in to investigate.
As bucks establish dominance during the pre rut, using the tarsal gland of a lesser deer could bring him charging in to investigate.

During the pre rut, as bucks are establishing dominance, the scent of a younger buck’s tarsal gland in an older buck’s area will bring him searching for the intruder. On the contrary, if you happen to kill the dominant buck in the area, using his tarsal glands to attract others may backfire. He had been the dominant deer because he whipped all the others into falling in line behind him. However, using a tarsal gland from a dominant buck killed in another area could bring the local champ out of hiding to see what’s going on.

How to Use the Tarsal Gland

We like hang a tarsal gland from a tree, drag it around an area with a string or tie it to a decoy. With gloves on, tie a piece of string around the gland and re-deposit into the baggie with the end of the string hanging out so you can grab it with a gloveless hand. If you’re able to find an area full of scrapes, drag the gland through them and hang it in a tree. Set up and wait.

Store-bought attractants have gotten expensive in our lifetime. Of course, a concentrated bottle of tarsal scent or estrous will last a long time. Or you can get it for free. Saving and using those tarsal glands will be effective from right now through the end of the season.

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