As every whitetail hunter knows, a deers sense of smell is probably the top reason we hunters go home empty handed. I can tell you from personal experiences that it is EXTREMELY difficult to fool a deers‘ sense of smell, especially the older class deer, but it can be done with a little hard work . Theres a lot of talk about scent control but very little talk about the details associated with it. Many hunters believe that if they “Spray Down” and hunt a favorable wind direction for a particular stand that they are all set. There’s a lot more to scent control than that.
Now days there are a lot of products out there created solely for scent control protection. Some work better than others but all attempt to either mask, cover up or eliminate human scent. Although I have not used all of these products, there are a few that i have found work extremely well including Dead Down Wind and X-system products.
No matter what products you use, completely eliminating your human scent is virtually impossible. But you don’t necessarily have to eliminate all of it to have success afield. Obviously the more you eliminate the better, and there are a few things to keep in mind when employing a scent control regimen, some are more obvious than others. It’s the fine details that get us into trouble and remember this...DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE A DEERS SENSE OF SMELL
1. ONLY WEAR FRESHLY WASHED CLOTHES
This is probably the toughest thing to achieve just because it means we have to do A LOT OF LAUNDRY! Realistically, a freshly washed outfit only lasts a couple hunts before our body odors contaminate it for future hunts. In a perfect world, a we would all have a half dozen outfits already washed and hanging outside at our dispersal. Obviously that is not practical for many of us so we are stuck doing laundry every other day.
Details: Dot your i’s and cross your t’s and you will be more successful
- After you have finished washing your hunting clothes with a scent-free detergent such as Dead-Down-Wind®, store them immediately in an air tight scent container. Do not allow the scent of your house to get on your clothes. It won’t take but a couple minutes for this to happen. Try going to a bar for 1 beer and see if your wife doesn’t smell it on you when you get home!
- If you have the chance, hang them outside as much as possible, just be aware of your neighbors. You don’t want to pollute your clothes with the smell of your neighbors trash burning, or their laundry, vehicle exhaust or fireplace smell.
2. Shower before every hunt with a scent free soap, deodorant, and toothpaste
This one is obvious but important. It doesn’t take long for our bodies it excrete oils which contributes to our odor. Also, it is a good idea to dry off with a towel that has been washed in scent free detergent as well. When you are done, throw it in the dryer for 5 minutes then in an air tight container for future use. Very important. All your efforts could go down the drain if you smell like Snuggles and these perfumes are relatively strong . Also, try not to hang out indoors for very long after you’ve showered.
3. Invest in scent-control garments
The scent control industry is rapidly growing, partly because of a new concept in scent control technology that uses nano-silver fiber technology. I personally use X-system® base layer garments and believe in their ability to assist in my scent-control regimen. I still believe that you need to take special care of your field wear by washing them periodically and kept away from foreign odors.
4. Establish a FIELD changing station
If you are wanting to preserve your hunting clothes for future hunts, it’s important to create an easy and inviting way to change in and out of your hunting clothes afield and away from any foreign odors. Yes this means stripping down to your BVD’s but is well worth the effort. I use a small piece of carpet that I sprayed down and use it to stand on while changing. You are going to need something like this as it beats standing in the wet leaves or mud. Be sure to change several feet away from your vehicle even if it’s not running. If you use an ATV to get closer to your hunting spot, treat this the same as a vehicle unless it’s an all electric ATV the doesn’t omit any odors. Obviously you have your freshly washed hunting clothes in a scent tight container and throw in some leaves and/or pine branches native to the areas that you hunt.
VARIABLE WINDS...A hunter’s worst enemy
It amazes me how much we hear about hunting with the right wind direction but thats it. No one elaborates on this issue any further than that. One of the most frustrating things that can happen is a wind direction that is not the way it’s supposed to be when you get to your stand. And after 25 years of bowhunting experience I can tell you that there’s only one undeniable truth about winds, and that is their uncertainty. This is why I take extra care of my scent control because sooner or later, a perfect wind quickly turns into the worst possible wind direction, potentially ruining your chances at harvesting a buck of a lifetime.
How land features effect wind currents
I don’t claim to be an expert in this arena, nor have I done any extensive research in this regard other than many, many hours afield. But based on my experiences, this is what I know.
1. Elevation and foliage effects wind direction
In general, hilly terrain creates swirling wind currents and thats understable. Rule of thumb I have is to hunt on highest ground where winds are less effected by elevation than in bottomland. But even on high ground winds can be unpredictible. A lot depends on individual circumstances of that particular stand and sometimes you have to hunt a particular spot to understand how a particular wind direction reacts with the surroundings. If it is a situation where the winds have a chance to pick up speed across a field, then suddenly it encounters a substance such as a block of timber, winds, especially those of more than 15mph can bounce off and swirl. This effect can be exagerated in October when the leaves are still on the trees creating a more dense object.
I pay extra attention to my scent control when hunting in bottom lands and valleys and always wait for a wind direction that runs parrallel to the valley. This seems to provide the most consistent winds. A cross wind will do nothing but swirl all day long and unless you have taken every scent control precaution, you will be miserable cause you won’t see many deer.
2. Wind Speeds effect wind direction
If you are waiting to hunt that very special stand spot, dont’ just wait for the right wind direction, wait for the right wind speed. In general, really light winds (0-5mph) and really gusty winds (15mph+) are subject to variable directions for different reasons.
Most people don’t realize that really light winds, especially those at dawn and dusk, are highly effected by thermals. Thermals are changes in air currents based on the uneven heating and cooling of the earths surface as air contracts and expands. Actually, thats exactly what causes wind to begin with, but you will have to google that if you want to know more. Thermals tend to rise in the mornings (as the air heats up) and fall in the evenings (as temps cool). Regardless of what direction they are going, on days with light or no wind, the thermals have more effect on air currents because the predominant wind is not present to overule this effect. For example, the air out in an open cornfield is going to be warmer at dusk than the wooded areas making the air expand. And since the current predominant wind is not a factor, this warm air reacts with cooler wooded air creating variable wind currents.
Gusty winds are unpredictable because gusts gain enough momentum to bounce off of terrain features and go i every direction. I typically avoid hunting in high winds for obvious reasons including variable wind directions.
Lets face it, controlling our scent can be a big pain in the fanny, especially when you do it in detail as I've described. We all know it's not for everyone and hunters will have success regardless of how bad they stink to a deer. However, for those of you that are willing to put forth a little extra effort, the rewards can be tremendous. You can fool a deers nose, I've done it several times. But I can tell you it was only on the days when my scent control setup was nearly perfect. Many of these deer that I fooled did smell something, but it wasn't enough to create any alarm. And after a few minutes of sniffing the sky, they went about their normal business. I encourage everyone to at least try it just once. Wait for the best day of hunting season, pick your best stand spot, have a detailed scent control plan of attack and go for it! I promise you will see the difference.
Best of luck to everyone and remember to always hunt safe.