Wood smoke, cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes-- I would tend to lump them all together. They're all something generally foreign to a deer. They can undoubtedly smell them. Do they care? That's the big question.
When I caught wind of the whole scent management thing back in the middle-to-late 80's, the idea was that these were all bad ju-ju. Before that, we all just accepted that we were hopeless against the deer's nose and had to play the wind. Scent management gave hunters some hope that they could do something to eradicate it. For me, it was buying into the early runner in this: sodium bicarb. That's what I've stuck with all these years. Sodium Bicarb does a pretty good job of knocking all that stufff back if it has a chance to work. The trick was to limit exposure by sequestering your clothes so they didn't pick that stuff up.
Now? Look, I've had bucks come right up to the house while I was sitting out back enjoying a cup of hot coffee in the morning or my favorite happy hour beverage. Normally there's a nice fire going in the woodburner, and you can't miss the stench. What that shows me is that deer have a very situational view of wood smoke and its ilk. If they pick it up where it shouldn't be, and they have some other reason to think something's up, they'll either investigate it cautiously or shy away from it. At night, I've had deer come by repeatedly during the course of an evening at the campfire and snort-- probably same deer too.
I believe that there is a scent signature to a hunter. I believe in scent cones. I believe most of the stuff I was fed in the 80's. What I don't believe anymore is the idea that deer have an innate terror of all things foreign and human. Of all the things that fell into that very large bucket of scents, the ones that I still believe are a gotcha are the various scents of human body parts-- chief among them being pit stink.
It keeps going back to the question: WHY? Deer have a different set of motivations than we do. I know they don't understand death the way we do. I know they probably look at everything else differently. So many times, even when deer figure I'm up a tree or in a blind they act like. . . well, they're not always afraid, not always curious, not always. . . often it seems like they're playing some weird deer game. It's as if they want to expose themselves to the danger and see what happens, or they think that if they come from a different direction I'm not going to be there or . . . well, it's deer. They're a little weird.
I know deer smell me all the time. Most of the time they don't care. Even the biggest bucks I've taken probably knew I was up a tree, but for some reason they just didn't care at the moment. My guess is they had something more important on their minds, and most of that time it was either getting some deer noogie or kicking some sub-dominant buck butt. Other times? I had a pair of twin bucks that had been through at least 3 seasons come out one day and stand there and watch Angus, KYHillChick and myself put up a treestand. I had a doe this year watch me take a big buck and then bed down next to my stand waiting for me to come back and claim my gear.
Compare that to turkeys. I know a turkey's motivation much better. If they see me at 400 yards, turkeys will run and fly like their lives are in mortal danger. They're far less subtle than deer. I think turkeys are kind of stupid, because they'll repeat the same behavior over and over and I can have the same flock walk up to the house 3 days in a row and flush when I pick up the binos. Deer? Sometimes they run. Sometimes they stand there and go back to feeding.
Back to wood smoke. Wood smoke is one of those things that are still a bit of a cypher to me. If I'm not doing my sodium bicarb thing, and I go out to get fire wood and I have wood smoke all over my clothes, the deer bust me all the time, but is that because of the wood smoke on my barn coat or the fact that I didn't shower, put on clean underwear? Is it because I worked up a sweat and got my pits stinking? I don't know.
Bottom line: if you do a modicum of scent management and are as successful at it as I am with the sodium bicarb regiment I wrote about a couple of months ago, you'll see more deer. Deer will get closer to you. You won't get busted as often. What I do deliberately keeps my pits in check and also prevents things like wood smoke from getting on my hunting clothes. Beyond that? I dunno.