Hunting scent control does not have to be complicated.
Every hunter knows a whitetail deer's nose is his greatest weapon. It is the same for many other species of big game animal. Mature bucks do not grow to great sizes without using their wits and avoiding human odors at all costs. Deer hunters now take scent control much more seriously than they did in the past. To the point that some pursue total scent elimination, even though that may not be possible.
Many old timers may tell you it is a waste of time to focus on body odor and to just hunt the winds. While this may be true and effective, I have concluded there is something to be said for taking control of human scent seriously over the years.
In fact, I believe my current routine for my hunting clothing has helped fool a deer's sense of smell on more than one occasion. However, I have learned that going scent-free does not have to be rocket science. Today I will describe my routine in full because I am sure it will help other hunters in their deer hunting pursuits this fall.
Proper washing and storage of clothing.
I have always washed my hunting clothes in a scent-free detergent. Most hunters do these days. However, I did not take the storage after being washed as seriously as I probably should have for a long time. This resulted in many seasons with unfilled tags. Things started to turn around for me on the deer sightings front once I started using a product called the Airlocker, which is basically a heavy-duty closet for you to store your clothing outside. From the time my clothing is washed in the early fall, it does not see the inside of the house again until the season's end. I usually put my clothing in this straight from the washer because it does a fine job of drying it, but you can use earth scented dryer sheets too if you have limited time.
When it comes to washing, I have found almost any scent-free soap for hunting will work. I have used it all at this point and have not really noticed one is better than the other when it comes to making my camo scent-free. Scent-a-Way, Scent Blocker, Hunter's Specialties, Dead Down Wind, Scent Killer, etc, all have laundry detergents that do a fine job when it comes to washing.
While it may sound extreme to store my clothing outside all hunting season. It works. To the point where I can notice the difference in smell. If I can notice, you can bet a deer will notice too. My clothing has a nice woodsy smell to it that no scent-eliminating spray can give it on its own. I like to enhance this natural smell a bit by storing my clothing with earth scent wafers. These wafers are cheap, strong, and they help to infuse your clothing with even more of a natural smell.
Of course, not every hunter is going to have the option of storing their clothing outside all season and some hunters may not like the option. My clothing is a little cool on the cold mornings. However, there are options out there. The simplest is to store your clothing in an air-tight container or tote and dress in your outer layers when you get to your hunting spot. It may seem like a pain in the neck, but I guarantee many big bucks are going to smell that stop at the gas station or restaurant for coffee on your way over if you do not. All the major brands like Scentlok and Scent Crusher make some type of scent-free storage and transport system. You do not necessarily have to go that route. I personally use a cheap scent bag I picked up at Sportsman's Warehouse. I think I paid $20 for $30 or it. My routine before each hunt is to take the clothing out of the Airlocker, transfer it to that bag, drive to my hunting spot and then finish dressing there. My number of deer sightings each hunt has nearly doubled since I started this routine.
I should mention most of my camo is nothing fancy either. Simple stuff from off the shelf at the local sporting goods store. If you are going to spend a ton of money on an activated carbon suit from Scentlok or some other major brand, it makes no sense to not take these extra steps from storage to hunt. Especially for bowhunters who need to get in close to their target.
Making yourself scent free.
After more than 20 years of trying to fool the extremely wary Michigan whitetail every season, it has become clear washing myself is a big part of the equation. Taking care to make your hunting gear scent free does you no favors if your body stinks anyway. You probably should wash up before every single hunt with unscented soap or body wash. In recent years, I switch to scent control soaps and shampoos completely during the season and do not switch back to my regular stuff until I am done hunting for the year. I know this may seem weird and some of these products are not nearly as pleasant to use as something from your local supermarket, but it does seem to help.
I personally do not go as far as switching to a scent control toothpaste, but you can if you think it will help. I do switch to an unscented deodorant, and I think this helps a lot, especially in the early season. A good antiperspirant will help significantly on those warm walks to the stand on the warmer days. Again, I make no preferences on brands of soap and other products. Almost all seem to do their job. What is more important is making sure you utilize them properly and keep the other parts of your scent control routine in check. If you can stick with it, you will see more deer every time you on the treestand.
An ozone generator grants a significant boost.
One thing that has become extremely popular, especially in bowhunting, is the use of ozone generators. These may seem like a marketing gimmick, but there is a science to it. All scents are basically bacteria. So, if you can break down and kill the bacteria, you kill the scent that the deer use to alert themselves to danger. This is where ozone generators come in. There are a lot of popular brands out there. The one most will be familiar with is Ozonics.
At their core, ozone generators produce a gas that breaks down these odor bacteria and molecules, thus destroying the scent completely. These machines are not just used in hunting either. They are sometimes used by cleanup crews to eliminate a musty smell from a basement or in medical facilities to eliminate smells, so there is some truth to this.
I ended up purchasing a different kind of field generator called the Wildgame Innovations Zero Trace, which uses the same concept except the Zero Trace dispenses charged plasma ions into the air which attach themselves to scent molecules and destroy them. I first added this machine to my arsenal last year and likely will never go into the field without it again. Combined with my usual scent control methods, it was like a one-two combo. The 2020 season was the first time ever I was not winded on a hunt, regardless of wind direction. I can now see why so many bowhunting professionals are utilizing odor-destroying machines now!
Of course, one of these generators is not a must-have for hunting smartly with scent control. You can get away without one and I will admit, they are expensive. If you can afford one though, they are worth it. I continually found myself able to relax and enjoy my hunt more because a wind shift was not necessarily a death sentence for the hunt like it was in the past.
Scent control does not have to be complicated.
That is basically it for my scent control routine. I may or may not use a field spray to add a little Scent Eliminator or Scent-a-Way cover scent before I walk out, but I have found that is not always necessary if you have done the other steps I talked about earlier. Though you might consider a little cover scent if you are not wearing rubber boots to your spot every time. In any case, my scent control routine is rather simple. I am a firm believer the brand of scent control products you use does not matter as much as making a routine and sticking with it does. Since I took this new approach, it works. I have been successful in harvesting a wary Michigan buck the last two seasons in a row.
The key to making it work is to make a routine before every hunt and then stick with it. And do not just rely on your control methods either. Continue to hunt that wind the way our forefathers did. Scent control just makes it a little more effective and helps you become more of a ghost in the forest. Once you have a solid routine and are thinking more strategically about your scent in the woods, you will be well on your way towards seeing and harvesting more deer season after season.
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