In case you didn’t know, states like MN and PA have implemented bans on the use of urine-based scents in CWD management zones. And most recently, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources set a rule banning urine-based scents for deer hunting in their state.
According to a press release from the Wildlife Research Center and Tink’s, the scent company, these products have been widely used by hunters for many decades to help them be more successful in the field. Banning them takes away a great tradition and an important tool from hunters in those areas, per the release.
The argument made by rule makers to ban these products is that they unnaturally congregate deer like bait or feed, thereby increasing interaction between animals and possibly increasing the spread of disease. While a scent set-up can effectively attract the interest of deer nearby for a short period of time to the benefit of a hunter, putting a small amount of deer urine on some wicks is insignificant regarding the overall “congregation of animals” argument. It would cause no more congregation than using a call or decoy and is a natural occurrence of deer already in the area.
A typical deer releases about 64 oz of urine per day in good weather conditions and 42 oz in bad weather conditions which calculates to approximately 150 gallons per year. Tink’s has never verified the frequency on camera, but their assumption is that each deer urinates on average 4 to 6 times per day. That’s over 1800 times per year. The point is that deer are naturally urinating exponentially more urine in the general area already versus a hunter using 1 or 2 oz of urine that lasts a few hours to attract deer closer to his hunting location. Even with deer lure, you still have to be in a good spot where deer already exist. It does not bring in dozens of bucks from far away for extended periods of time like bait or feed might. The animals do not eat the scent and do not spend long periods of time there interacting with each other like they would at a bait pile. The animals that are attracted live and urinate all around that area already.
If you made any legitimate argument at all, it would be that you are adding scent locations to the already natural ones, per the release. But then this logic would mean that deer are actually decreasing the amount of congregation because now they are attracted to multiple spots versus just the natural ones that were going to be there anyway. Plus, the urine deposits would be more diluted because there are more of them. Most importantly, urine-based scents help hunters to be more successful, decreasing the population, further decreasing natural congregation of deer in that area over long periods of time. If using urine-based lures encourages deer to move around to these different scent locations actually decreasing congregation at the natural scent locations, thereby diluting the urine deposits in these natural locations, and increasing hunters’ success therefore lowering the risk of disease transmission, then what is the Wildlife Agency really trying to accomplish with this rule?
In the recent press release by the South Carolina DNR, it was stated “CWD research conducted in Colorado showed that mule deer were able to be infected with CWD after exposure to just the urine, feces and saliva of infected deer.” This statement is misleading and misrepresents the actual scientific finding of these studies. Many studies have attempted to transmit CWD with urine and none have been successful in deer. Later studies in Colorado used urine from CWD sick deer, concentrated it 10-fold, and injected it directly into brains of mice that were genetically altered to be 6 times more susceptible to the disease than deer. One of the 9 mice became infected. We are led to believe that urine is a risk for spreading the disease by putting a small amount, from facilities that are enrolled in a program to safeguard their deer from risk of contamination, on a scent wick or squirting it on the ground when only one mouse became infected by injecting infected and concentrated urine into its brain? Hunters are not injecting deer with urine and the urine is coming from healthy animals and not sick ones!
Moreover, the urine collection process prevents or removes nearly all contamination from feces or saliva. Based on the study referenced and other available research, it is estimated to take close to 2 fl oz of pure infected saliva from a single sick deer entirely ingested by one single deer to invoke an infection. Even with the larger 4 oz bottles, we would have to believe that half of this bottle is pure saliva, and that the saliva was infected in the first place. Then we would have to believe that a single deer would drink the whole bottle. This is ridiculous to even be a consideration.
The urine from hunting scent companies like Wildlife Research Center® and Tink’s® is collected from healthy animals and not sick ones. South Carolina wildlife officials say that the urine comes from captive herd facilities and that CWD has been found in 40 captive cervid facilities since 2012. What they don’t tell you is the collection facilities that companies like Wildlife Research Center® and Tink’s® use are from a small number (less than a dozen) of highly specialized facilities and are vastly different than the other likely 10,000 deer farms across the country. Of the 40 mentioned positives since 2012, only 16 were in a certified herd testing and certification program, and none of those were closed to importation of deer like the facilities where urine is sourced. The facilities the urine scent companies utilize are all 100% monitored, meaning every deer that dies is tested. CWD has never been found in one of these urine collection facilities.
South Carolina wildlife officials also say the scent industry is not regulated by any agency or entity and there is no testing or marking requirements identifying the source of the urine products. That is also false. The collection facilities are regulated by state and federal department of agriculture and wildlife agency rules and regulations relating specifically to CWD and to the operation of those facilities. All of the source herds are 100% monitored. The department of agriculture requires that testing is conducted before issuing the testing certifications the facilities all have and maintain.
It is also important to note, that lead authors of the most commonly referenced studies on urine and CWD agree that “the risk of urine-based scents spreading CWD is virtually zero”. See more about this at www.wdfacts.org
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.