Can Turkeys Smell Cigarette Smoke?

Wild turkey sense of smell

Turkeys actually have underdeveloped olfactory lobes in their brains, so they can’t detect many smells.

They have excellent vision during the day, which you’ll know if you’ve ever tried to hunt them. But, when it comes to their senses of smell and taste, they are not as sensitive.

Does this mean they can’t detect hunters? Can turkeys smell cigarette smoke on your hunting clothes or backpack? We’ll explore all this and more in the following article.


Do Turkeys Have A Good Sense Of Smell? 

Turkeys aren’t blessed with a powerful sense of smell. Turkeys only have small olfactory lobes at the front of their brains, so they don’t have a strong sense of smell.

While it’s thought that turkeys can smell food that is appealing to them, smell is not their most important sense. In fact, when it comes to choosing their food, the shape and color of it are more appealing to turkeys than how it tastes or smells.

This is something to bear in mind if you’re trying to lure turkeys to your hunting area with foods and snacks that they like. Snacks like nuts, acorns, and corn are all good options. 

How Good Is A Turkey’s Sense Of Smell?

Turkey nose

If you’ve ever tried to deter turkeys from your yard by using a product that has a strong flavor or aroma, you might have found that it doesn’t work. This isn’t just bad luck! As sources have reported, these products don’t work on turkeys because these birds don’t have a developed sense of smell or taste.

A study (The Wild Turkey: Biology and Management) found that when researchers tried to test turkeys’ sense of smell by putting mothballs near corn to see if they would be deterred by the strong mothball smell, they found that this didn’t put the birds off at all. They ate as much of the corn from the pile close to the mothballs as they did of the corn that wasn’t near the mothballs. 

If you’ve ever smelled mothballs, you’ll know that they have a strong, unpleasant smell, so it’s quite surprising that the study found that the turkeys either didn’t detect it or weren’t put off by it.  

Can A Turkey Smell Cigarette Smoke?

Can A Turkey Smell Cigarette Smoke?

Something else that has a strong, unpleasant smell is cigarette smoke.

If you enjoy smoking cigarettes around your hunting site, you might have wondered if you shouldn’t and if it alerts turkeys to your presence. But, this isn’t the case.

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to conceal your scent as much as possible anyway. The area in which you’re hunting won’t just be frequented by turkeys but by other animals that have a more developed sense of smell, such as deer.

A deer’s sense of smell is approximately 1,000 times more powerful than a human’s. While we have five million scent receptors, deer have 250 million. 

So, if deer pick up on your presence, this could alert other animals, such as turkeys, that there’s a potential danger in the area. By reading other animals’ responses, turkeys can move away from the area to protect themselves, preventing you from being able to make a kill.

This is something to bear in mind because turkeys and deer are known to spend time together in the wild. If deer sense danger, for example, by smelling something that isn’t natural to their environment, turkeys have been known to follow their movements to ensure that they stay safe. 

Can I Conceal The Smell Of Cigarettes? 

Strong scent of cigarettes

If you’re a smoker, or someone in your hunting group is, you should try to hide the strong scent as much as possible, on your clothes and any other items. Here are some tips for hiding scents when hunting: 

  • Wash clothes that smell like cigarettes with a fragrance-free laundry detergent. 
  • Always take a shower with fragrance-free soap or body wash before you go on a hunt. 
  • If you get cigarette smoke in your hair, use a non-fragranced dry shampoo.
  • Make sure you use flavor-free toothpaste. 
  • Place a hunting backpack that smells of cigarette smoke next to a wood fire so that it absorbs the smoke from the wood.
  • Clean your hands with a fragrance-free hand sanitizer after smoking. 

While you can try to conceal the smell of cigarette smoke during a hunt, this isn’t always possible when you’re on the go. Most products that you’d usually use to mask cigarette smoke contain strong fragrances that can also alert wildlife to your presence.

Therefore, it’s best to avoid smoking as much as you can during a hunt as even outdoors, the smoke can still be absorbed by your skin, hair, and clothing.

This might feel like an impossible goal to achieve, especially during multiple days of hunting. Make use of products to help you quit smoking for the duration of your hunts, such as nicotine gum or patches. 

Related Questions 

Below are answers to some common questions regarding cigarette smell.

How does the cigarette smell get on your skin?

Skin absorption of nicotine

When you absorb nicotine into your lungs, it also gets absorbed into your skin and this has an effect on your sweat glands. Nicotine increases how much you sweat and affects the smell of your sweat, which can make your skin smell like smoke.  

What should you do with cigarette butts in the wild?

Make sure you pack them in an airtight container so that they don’t leave behind a smell.

Do all birds have a weak sense of smell?

Many birds, not just turkeys, have a poor sense of smell. However, there are some types of birds that have a more powerful sense of smell, such as vultures and griffons. 


If you hunt turkeys, you might wonder if you need to avoid smoking cigarettes out of fear that they’ll be able to detect your presence.

In this article, we’ve shown you that you don’t have to worry too much about cigarette smoke when hunting turkeys because these birds don’t have a highly developed olfactory system.

However, you should always try to avoid bringing unnatural scents into the hunting environment because other wildlife can pick up on it and this, in turn, could spook the turkeys that you’re trying to hunt.


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