In the whitetail space, there's a lot of back and forth about scent control. So who's right? The guy that doesn't shower for days, or the fanatic with an extra washer, dryer, and hunting vehicle to keep human smell off their clothes?
During an out of state whitetail hunt, a few buddies and I used a state park nearby as a home base. Following a day of hot weather hunting, an overwhelming scent of a teenage boy's favorite body wash filled the bathhouse. A few jokes followed, and some serious talk about scent control in the whitetail woods. Ronnie (I'm going to give him due credit) was new to hunting and one of the most eager people I've met. He laughed off the jokes and asked, "On a serious note, I thought we just had to be concerned with wind direction?"
Ronnie was right, but learning scent control methods is a matter of checking out all your choices. To kill whitetails, you'll need a way to button up your scent signature. Whether you're the gearhead who likes to use scent control products or the hunter who welcomes an all-natural smell and wind smarts, there's something about scent that can be learned.
Truly, manipulating the way you smell is all about reduction. If you ever get close to a multi-day hiker in a room without moving air, you'll instantly notice the eye watering odor. The foul scent pooling around them seems like a force field.
For a deer, scent pooling is a big deal. In a bowhunter's world, 30 or 40 yards away will make the difference. Your scent will create a barrier without a good thermal pull or a steady breeze. Masking your scent or making it less invasive can help your case at a time like this. A deer may still be cautious on approach, but you can reduce your scent enough to make that deer more relaxed.
Have you tried covering up your dog's puke smell with a household spray? It doesn't help much and can often make foul odors worse.
As a guideline, avoid mixing odors when using scents to cover your tracks. Blending natural and hostile smells may teach deer to avoid that strange scent.
The best three practices for using cover scents:
- Reduce human odors first.
- Match smells to the setting you're hunting.
- Avoid contacting things you've treated.
Let's pretend that your home has a unique smell. You leave for vacation for a week to a place that smells different. When you come home, your nose might notice your home scent. Is that like a deer with a tight home range? Maybe a mature buck that is living near houses or recreational areas?
Scent Control Clothing
Almost every company that makes clothing for big game hunters advertises scent control in their line of goods. Top brands that promote this clothing type are used by well-known hunters in the whitetail space, and these pieces of clothing serve a purpose.
Science is there to support the elements woven into their fibers. Activated charcoal and other elements work, but they will not fully remove the human scent; they will only reduce it. While they may buy you a few critical seconds when settling a sight pin, they won't be foolproof. But a few seconds might be all that stands between your arrow and a spooked deer.
Soaps, Sprays, and Washes
Chemicals are still not the answer to tricking a whitetail's nose. But they can help reduce human odor to make it less intrusive. Most unscented products will do the trick. You'll do yourself a favor by avoiding strongly scented products. Stick to the unscented stuff if you can't find what you need on the shelf.
Hunting products that help reduce odors are controversial but are sometimes a good idea. They have an extensive shelf life and often give you the extra wanted seconds. If they bring you confidence, then I say use them!
Of all scent-eliminating things, a true ozone generator works. Ozone is a molecule with an extra oxygen atom. When you turn a generator on, it pastes itself onto an odor and changes the form of the smell. It can also aid in killing bacteria, which means you'll make your camo last longer!
There are a few things to consider with ozone:
- Reducing washes will help save your clothes from wear, tear, and fading.
- It can harm your lungs when used in large amounts, so using it in your blind or truck isn't a great idea. (Small amounts of ozone from hunting generators are less concerning).
- Ozone isn't an extended treatment. If you want it to be effective, you should also work at reducing your own scent.
Wind and Thermals
Want to be bulletproof in the whitetail woods? Learn to use wind and thermals to your advantage. That doesn't always mean keeping the wind in your face. More often than not, hunting a risky wind makes better results. For example, if you know a deer travels from the south, a north wind will hurt your hunt. But what about an N.W. or N.E. wind? Those winds will make that buck feel safe and keep your wind away from his keen nose.
Thermal currents are trickier than consistent wind. Learning to time them is your best bet. Rise in the morning and fall in the evening can be more challenging than it sounds. The colder the environment, the earlier in the evening they will fall. If mornings remain cold and cloudy, it may take longer for a thermal current to rise. You'll need to do some in-field experiments on how the thermals work in your area. But you'll feel like you've learned a magic trick when you do.
When it comes to scent elimination, it boils down to what gives you the most confidence. What will help you stay in one place the longest? What will help you keep pushing forward on that stalk? If you believe the product makes the advantage you need, then do it!
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Blackhats team member.