Can Deer Smell A Thermacell?

by Derrick | Last Updated: December 11, 2022

When you’re in your tree stand, you have a lot on your mind, wind direction, picking shooting lanes, and other essential aspects of your hunt. The last thing you want to worry about is pesky mosquitoes driving you crazy while trying to keep movement to a minimum.  

When camping, I have used Thermacells with solid success, and I am confident they work well to repel mosquitoes and allow me to enjoy my time in the woods. But this has led me to wonder, can deer smell Thermacells?

Can Deer Smell Thermacells

Thermacells do emit a unique odor that is slightly detectable by the human nose. A deer’s sense of smell is 500 to 1,000 times as strong as a human’s, so deer can detect the smell of a Thermacell.

So now that we established they could smell the Thermacell, the real question is, does a Thermacell spook deer? Deer generally are not spooked by a Thermacell; even though they can smell it, they do not associate the Thermacell with danger.

Thermacell coils have the active ingredient Allethrin, a synthetic version of a naturally occurring repellent found in chrysanthemum flowers. A natural active ingredient instead of a synthetic chemical compound further helps ensure the Thermacell is less likely to spook deer.

Thermacell also makes an earth scent refill designed to mask human scent and be less likely to be smelled by animals than regular Thermacell refills.

Do They Emit Smoke?

They emit a slight amount of smoke barely detectable to the human eye. I would not be concerned with a deer seeing the smoke from a Thermacell.

Benefits Of A Thermacell When Hunting

The benefits of using a Thermacell when hunting are many:

  • It keeps you safe from mosquito bites and, therefore, many of the harmful diseases mosquitoes could carry
  • While Thermacell doesn’t promote this, users have reported it helps keep bees and wasps away, which can be a real nuisance when hunting in warmer areas.
  • It doesn’t produce as much of an odor as traditional Deet-based bug sprays do.
  • It does produce any audible noise that could jeopardize your hunt

Negative Aspects Of A Thermacell When Hunting

There are some negatives associated with using a Thermacell when hunting:

If you’re hunting in an area with heavy wind, this can affect the Thermacell, but generally, bugs are less prevalent on windy days.

Some people have had mechanical issues with their Thermacells catching fire and burning up, but overall this is a very small percentage and quite rare.

A Thermacell generally will not protect you from ticks, but they do have Tick Control Tubes that are known to be effective when used correctly.

Lastly, a Thermacell can be less effective when misused, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully to ensure you have the best results.

How To Use A Thermacell When Hunting With Minimal Impact To Your Hunt

Thermacell has a variety of products. You can find the instructions located here on their website. For this article, I will assume you may be using the portable Thermacell hunting unit, so let’s talk through how to use that, but if you are using a different model, then be sure to review the proper instructions for your unit.

In addition to the above directions, if you are in windy conditions for maximum mosquito control, place the unit upwind from you so the wind pushes the repellent towards you.

Other Ways To Help Repel Mosquitoes and Flies

  1. How You Dress

When hunting, if flies and mosquitoes are a problem, you can wear clothes that help avoid them reaching your skin; I have used tape to help close the opening around my arms and legs and used a head net to help protect my head, neck, and face while also providing some protection around the neckline.

  1. Beard Net

A net that covers the face is very effective in repelling flies, especially if you wear it with a hat. It has to be loose enough so that there is a gap between the net and your skin, so it doesn’t come into direct contact.

  1. Remove Standing Water Near

If you are tree stand hunting has a lot of standing water, you could fill in the holes or otherwise drain the water; often, this isn’t possible, but if it is, it can be another option to pursue.

  1. Wear Insect Repellent

When flies and mosquitoes are really bad, you can wear a repellent that will help keep them away. This isn’t always possible in colder weather, but in hotter months, it might be something to consider. Make sure you spray your face and neck or other exposed skin if that is where they are bothering or biting you.

  1. Spray Permethrin on Your Clothes

Permethrin is a chemical that prevents mosquitoes from reaching your skin (it is made to spray on your gear and clothes, not your skin); when it dries, it lasts for six weeks or more through multiple washings; this makes spraying clothes very appealing because the cost of doing so is minimal compared to buying clothing with permethrin already applied like many hunting clothes come pre-treated with permethrin.

Why is Repelling Insects So Important?

Repelling insects is crucial because they can carry diseases that are harmful to your health. The bites themselves are also annoying, irritating, and itchy.

Mosquitoes carry diseases like encephalitis, malaria, and the West Nile Virus.

Mosquito bites can get infected, causing prolonged discomfort, and could lead to more severe issues if not correctly taken care of.

The Zika virus is another concern mosquitoes have been blamed for transmitting; this virus has been linked to congenital disabilities and other neurological issues.

Can You Deer Hunt With a Thermacell

Yes, you can hunt deer with a thermacell. Anytime you use something that emits a sound, smell, or movement, you risk a deer busting you, so you have to balance the risk versus the reward. But using a thermacell is better than swatting at mosquitos for hours.


In summary, Thermacells are effective at controlling mosquitoes while deer hunting; overall, mosquito control is essential not only for a successful hunt but also to avoid many of the potential health ailments that can come from mosquito bites.  

If you decide using a Thermacell isn’t right for you, then using other insect control is essential.