What are Tarsal Glands on Whitetail Deer? And What are they for?

After my group had a successful weekend hunting, I decided to try something new. Not knowing what the outcome would be and considering rattling / calling has not successful in the area, I wanted to try something a little more natural. I had decent pictures on my trail cameras all season and pre-season. The cameras were spread out at almost every blind we had, and we had deer coming during prime shooting hours. Even though it was encouraging, nothing is ever guaranteed with hunting right? I have tried calling and rattling in this area for years, and I’ve never seen any type of response. So this season, I had an idea.

tarsal_glands_574_380_sI removed the tarsal glands from a male and female for the first time. After a quick google search (just incase), I removed the glands off the hind legs. It can be found on does and bucks of all ages. It’s a fatty lump which has a darker coloration. You’re going to need a very sharp blade on your knife. Any knife you would have used to skin your deer would be best. I learned this the hard way when i accidentally cut through the tendon in the leg. It didn’t seem like anything at the time, but when it came to hanging our deer, my group were not happy campers. You will need to remove the fatty part of the leg where the fur is darker. Cut about an inch more around the gland to make sure you keep it intact. I noticed they had a very pungent smell to it. All deer, male or female, have these glands. It’s made up of a dark coloured fur that covers a fatty area, about half way up the rear legs. The dark fur is actually stained fur from constant urination and rubbing. Deer will urinate on these glands all year around and bucks even more so during the mating season. If you click on the picture above, you can get a bit more detail on how the urine scent can give off specific information from deer to deer.

I put the glands in separate ziplock bags (I knew I would be doing this) to lock in whatever scent was on them. My plan was to keep the refrigerated until the next weekend, and hang them from my tree stand while i was posted. When the next weekend came around, I kept both glands strung to my back-pack with holes punctured in it. I wanted to leave as much scent behind me as possible. I kept them low enough that they would rub along the ground as i walked. FYI… if you walk to your post in the dark, and there are branches along the way, expect to lose them a couple of times as you walk…

I was not very successful at my post this year, but we did see fresh tracks along the path I took with my tarsal glands. I always use the same way to get in and same way to get out. The deer seem to always avoid my trail, except for this one time. I am going to experiment with the idea again next season, but I will use them ate my mock scrapes instead. This year was a little to improvised with the idea, and the weather was not in our favour.

If anyone has any experience with tarsal glands, please share it!

March 15th, 2017: As some of our readers pointed out, you must be careful to know your state/provincial laws regarding the use of natural products for hunting. I want to thank those readers that made me aware of the point I forgot to mention in my article! 


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