So I decided to do something ridiculous and I wanted to see what live deer would think of a few different synthetic musks and how interested they would be in sniffing them (or if at all). Luckily I know where a magical pack of super-friendly deer live so I went over to visit them with a few dropper vials and scent strips.
For this experiment I took Galaxolide, Tonalide, Habanolide and Exaltolide as well as two controls (non musks) with me, ethyl vanillin and methyl anthranilate. I tested the deer as best I could by presenting the scent strips while my lovely assistant logged average sniffing times in seconds. Each average did not have the same amount of deer as they weren't infinitely patient but they ranged between 6 and 9 deer per material. We are fairly confident that we didn't record the same deer twice on each trial.
ethyl Vanillin: (3.6 seconds)
methyl Anthranilate (2.2 seconds)
Galaxolide: (4.6 seconds)
Tonalide: (4.9 seconds)
Habanolide (4.7 seconds)
Exaltolide (4.1 seconds)
Above and beyond the information from the averages, we noted that the times for ethyl vanillin and methyl anthranilate had a wider distribution with outliers on the near and far ends of the spectrum, while the times for the musks were much closer to a bell pattern with future outliers.
It appears there is some support for the hypothesis that live deer prefer the scent of synthetic musks to non-musk chemicals. More testing is needed.
PS - no deer were harmed during these tests, in fact we fed them a whole bag of carrots after :) this was just for fun as is not intended as a real scientific study.