Myths, lies, and old wives’ tales loom large in the outdoor pursuits. Here at MeatEater, we’re dedicated to separating facts from bullsh*t, so we created this series to examine suspect yarns. If there’s a belief, rumor or long-held assumption you’d like us to fact check, drop us a note at email@example.com.
After field dressing a kill, your gas will start to smell like animal organs within 24 hours. This observation has been made by those who pursue deer, ducks, pheasants, and other game.
This has been a deer camp topic of conversation for as long as humans have gathered to hunt. I’ve never experienced it, so I reached out to 10 of the most serious hunters I know to see if this phenomenon affects them.
Of the 10, six said it happens every single time they clean their quarry. One hunter specifically told me that duck gut farts are the worst, while another claimed the smell of his gas changes within a few hours.
On one popular bowhunting forum, this topic has been discussed three times in the last two years. An informal poll on one thread showed that 23% of forum users responded with “yes” when asked if their gas smells like guts after cleaning game birds.
Farts are composed of swallowed air and a cocktail of carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen, and trace gases that are produced by the bacteria in your colon. The odor is a direct result of your diet and the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.
“Foul smell just means the carbohydrates you consume are being malabsorbed—it’s fermented,” said Dr. Myron Brand, a gastroenterologist from the Connecticut Gastroenterology Consultants. “It’s all a function of what you eat.”
Could some transdermal effect occur where contact with animal guts changes the chemistry of your gas? Or, could fumes inhaled from animal innards make your flatulence resemble a gut pile? According to Dr. Alan Lazzara from Henry Ford Health System, the answer is no. But he has an explanation as to what’s going on, which he refers to as “déjà poo.”
“There are two proposed mechanisms for this phenomenon,” Dr. Lazzara said. “One, there are remnant game gut particles resting on the hunter’s nose hairs or hands that stimulate olfactory receptor cells after processing meat. And two, the memory of game gut odor is triggered in the hippocampus and mammillary bodies after smelling another similar smelling fart down the line.”
Dr. Lazzara further explained that olfactory signals, which control our sense of smell, go through the hippocampus and mammillary bodies, which are integral in memory formation and recall. “Neuroscientists theorize this is why certain smells trigger distinct memories, like how banana bread baking might remind you of mom.”
If your farts smell like animal entrails, it’s either in your nose or in your head. Whatever the reason, I hope you’ve been blessed with many gut pile-inspired farts this year—a measurement of a successful fall.
Feature image via Captured Creative.