By Todd Murray
Everything had been going smoothly as I watched the monster buck work his scrape just 50 yards from my stand. Yet I stiffened when the breeze changed directions. That was a natural reaction from me based on over three decades of pursuing trophy-class Kansas whitetails. When the wind shifts, the game is usually over. In fact, I had hunted this particular stand many times and had been busted occasionally when the wind had inexplicably switched. But not this time.
The buck finished with the scrape and threw his nose in the air to check for danger. Satisfied that all was well, he headed straight for my tree. Moments later my shot was on target and he was mine.
He never knew I was there. Actually, he was the second record-book buck I took downwind from this tree in just three years. I don’t purposely try to set up for deer to come in downwind from my stand, but sometimes it happens. Big bucks rarely follow a script. I hate to get busted anytime, so I take some serious precautions to tip the odds well in my favor when it comes to scent control.
Some 25 years ago I began working on ways to prevent whitetails from smelling me. Over the years I’ve noticed that does and younger bucks will tend to put up with a certain amount of scent or try to figure out where the smell is
coming from. A trophy-class buck, however, demonstrates no such patience or curiosity, and will instantly disappear just as soon as he gets a whiff of bowhunter on the breeze or even human foot odors left behind in the leaves.
Of the three major defenses of a whitetail––sight, sound and smell––the nose is by far the hardest to beat. Good camo can beat the eyes. Soft clothing and stealthy movements can beat the ears. But beating the nose requires a master’s degree from U Stink University.
How to Start
Unfortunately, simply squirting yourself with a scent-eliminating spray and putting on a carbon-lined suit won’t make you instantly scent-free. It will help reduce your scent, but there is much more to do.
First, if it goes to the woods, it must be de-scented. If you truly want to beat the nose of a big whitetail buck on a regular basis, you can’t take shortcuts. Every item you carry must be scent-free. That includes all clothing, boots, packs, treestands, steps or ladders, binoculars, bow, arrows, quivers, calls, etc. We bowhunters tend to carry a lot of stuff, and one item with lingering scent can give you away.
The following describes a typical bowhunt for me. I check the weather and wind direction first. Then I shower with a scent-eliminating soap. I use a towel washed in unscented detergent, line-dried outside and then kept scent-free. This can be done in zip-lock bags.
Every piece of my clothing has been treated the same, from my underwear to my outerwear. If I’m hunting close to home, I slip outside to dress. Fortunately, I live in the country and don’t have to worry about neighbors watching a crazy bowhunter getting dressed in the backyard. I put on each layer of clothing carefully. I save my carbon-based outer layers for when I arrive at my destination. Those are kept in a large zip-lock bag or plastic tub. I put plastic bags over the seats of my truck, and wear cotton gloves soaked with scent-eliminating spray so I don’t touch the steering wheel with bare hands.
If I’m driving a long distance, I wear clean clothes and I carry all my hunting clothing in plastic tubs and change when I arrive at my hunting spot. When the north wind is blowing and the wind chill is 15 degrees, you learn to move fast and be well organized as you strip down and re-dress. I spray down every layer with a scent-elimination spray as I dress. I carry my heavier clothing in a backpack so I don’t sweat on the way in. I eat an apple to minimize my breath odor. I have also used Scent Shield’s deodorant gum with good results.
Before leaving my truck, I spray down clean gloves with scent-eliminating spray and wipe down all my equipment. I spray down all my outer clothes as well. Then I use a scent-eliminating hand lotion, change into carbon-based gloves and head for the woods, being careful to touch as little vegetation as possible. After arriving at my stand and getting settled in, I put on my heavier jacket, face cover and hat. Now I am ready to hunt.
When the hunt is over, I put everything back into the tubs or bags, basically the reverse of what I do to head into the woods. I never, ever stop at the store for coffee and donuts or put gas in my vehicle before or after I go hunting. I avoid any and all strong odors.
Can our human smell be eliminated? Only the deer know for sure. What I do know is that I can apparently reduce my human odor so much that most deer won’t identify me as a source of danger. The vast majority of whitetails come across human activity on a daily basis, often living within mere yards of that activity. In certain places they expect to smell humans. In others, such as where I most often hunt, they don’t. If I can minimize or eliminate game-spooking odors, my chance of success skyrockets. The following products can help you achieve your scent-elimination goals.
Start with the Body
Chlorophyll has been prescribed by doctors for bad breath and body odor, and alfalfa tablets also help. I have used both and
they work, and now they are available in the form of Scent Shield’s BodyShield Deodorant Pill, which utilizes chlorophyll, alfalfa and parsley in a pill form. Hunting Science Chlor-O-Flage uses liquid chlorophyll in a gel tablet.
To control your breath, use Hunter’s Specialties toothpaste or Fresh Breath Mouth Rinse. On stand, use Scent Shield Deodorant Gum or Hunting Science Gum-O-Flage, which both use chlorophyll and other ingredients. Hunter’s Specialties also offers a breath mint, and Vapor Shield offers a lozenge using Black Tongue technology to remove bacteria from the tongue. Silver Scent offers a breath spray with an apple flavor.
Good scent control begins with a shower with good soap and shampoo. Dead Down Wind offers a hair and body soap using enzyme technology called Nanozyme to destroy odor molecules. A long-time favorite of mine is Scent Shield Liquid Body Soap, simply because it works so well. Primos offers a liquid body soap and shampoo using Silver XP technology. Silver Scent offers a three-in-one shaving cream/body wash/shampoo that works well. The addition of silver in any product helps break down bacteria on the skin, thus eliminating odors. Use one of the unscented deodorants from Wildlife Research Center, Scent Shield, Dead Down Wind, Primos or Hunter’s Specialties. For the final touch, use Primos face and body lotion, Silver Scent gel or Scent Shield hair and body lotion.
Before you dress, you need to make sure your clothes are scent-free, and there are detergents from Wildlife Research Center, Hunter’s Specialties, Scent Shield, Dead Down Wind, Silver Scent and Primos you can use on regular hunting clothes that are scent-free and contain no UV brighteners. Not just any detergent should be used on carbon-lined clothing because the soap can plug the pores of the carbon, greatly reducing its effectiveness. Scent Shield and Scent-Lok both offer carbon-clothes detergents that will not block the pores of carbon. Carbon clothing is put into a hot dryer to reactivate the carbon, but Dead Down Wind offers e1 ScentPrevent Carbon Reactivator wash that not only won’t clog the pores but promises to cleanse the pores on carbon clothes, helping with the reactivation process. Dead Down Wind and Primos offer dryer sheets to add to the dryer to make sure no unwanted odors are picked up when drying clothes.
Spray it On or Stink
Robinson Labs, makers of Scent Shield, started the scent-eliminating spray revolution in 1985 and continues to improve on that original spray with Ti-4, which has titanium added to neutralize odors. The original Scent Shield now comes with a battery-powered sprayer for continuous application. Wildlife Research Center has taken it’s very popular Scent Killer spray and super charged it for 2009, making it even more effective. Primos and Silver Scent Products both utilize tiny particles of silver to destroy bacteria and kill odor. Dead Down Wind uses enzyme technology to destroy odors. Other popular and effective sprays are Scent-A-Way from Hunter’s Specialties and Muzzy’s Scrape Juice Super Odor Eliminator.
Oh, What Do I Wear?
My wife often asks that question even though she has a closet full of clothes. Bowhunters today have an even better selection of scent-reducing clothing than she has shoes! Scent-Lok started the carbon-impregnated clothing revolution and continues today with the first layer of defense in their line of BaseSlayers, which I have used with great success. This year they’ve added a new camo pattern called Vertigo. It’s especially designed for treestand hunters. The ThunderTek polyester shell is wind- and water-resistant with a microfleece lining for warmth. It’s available in a jacket, pants and head cover.
Medalist uses silver-lined fibers to keep odor-causing bacteria from developing in their line of base layers and outerwear, which is available in multiple weights for various weather conditions.
The very popular Under Armour line has added Capture Scent Technology, a polymer shield that adsorbs human scent and then washes out in the washing machine. It is available in the ColdGear line of base layers.
ScentBlocker introduced their wildly successful Dream Season line-up with Mark and Terry Drury a few years ago and has now added the new Bone Collector line with Michael Waddell, Nick Mundt and Travis “T-Bone” Turner. Start off with the S3 Camo Bamboo Base Layer shirt and pants utilizing bamboo fabric, then add the Bone Collector Brotherhood series hooded fleece jacket and six-pocket pants with SPF 50 carbon level for outstanding scent control. The Bone Collector Freak Nasty series jacket has SPF 50 activated carbon with S3 and features six zippered pockets and a BodyLock collar and waist. This jacket also features the Quick Draw System which has pull-tabs that keep the jacket close to the body to eliminate bulky clothes catching on a bowstring. The pants have six pockets and leg zippers. Both the Brotherhood and the Freaky Nasty series are available in Realtree AP HD.
More and more hunters are taking to ground blinds. Because ground blinds have darkened interiors, black clothing is extremely effective. The ScentBlocker Bone Collector Black Widow XLT series shirt and pants use SPF 40 carbon and are black for complete concealment in a blind. The Black Widow series can also be worn as a liner suit under your favorite camo.
Mathews is well known for outstanding bows, and now they’ve teamed up with Gamehide to make some serious hunting duds in Lost Camo. The Drenalin jacket, pants and headcover are made from HyperHide, a silent and windproof fleece with a Scent-Lok lining. Mathews also teamed up with ScentBlocker to offer the Lost Camo Solo Pro Fleece jacket and pants with S3 and SPF 60 carbon lining as well as the XLT lightweight jacket, pants, cap, facemask and gloves for early-season hunting.
TrueTimber Camo offers their shirts and pants with HydroScent technology, which uses burst-shaped polymers that are imbedded in the fabric to catch and hold human scent. Washing the garment recharges the polymers, and HydroScent lasts for the life of the garment.
Mossy Oak APX Velocity garments from Russell Outdoors are lined with Scent-Lok, have scent-proof zippers and are wind- and water-resistant. The base layer shirts and pants have Scent Stop anti-microbial technology to kill bacteria and eliminate odor.
Leave Nothing but Tracks
Rubber boots have traditionally been used to control foot odor, but they have their own drawbacks. It takes a long time to get rid of the rubber smell, they don’t breathe and they often fit poorly. The carbon in carbon-lined hiking boots is nearly impossible to recharge as boots can be rough on the inside of a dryer.ScentBlocker has answered those problems with the Dream Season Boa Knee Boots which feature nylon uppers, are waterproof and breathable and have gel inserts for comfortable walking. These rugged boots also offer a removable SPF 60 carbon liner that can be put in the dryer for recharging. The Boa Knee Boots are available in a wool-lined version for cold weather.
Also from ScentBlocker are knee-high overboots called Sneaky Feet that are lined with SPF 40 carbon. Pull those over your existing shoes and slip into any stand undetected.
Elimitrax is a hip-high overboot that utilizes plastics technology to hold in scent so no ground scent is left behind.
Scent-Lok is introducing a boot dryer this year that uses silica to dry out boots and carbon to reduce odor.
Pack it Up
Carbon clothing needs to be stored in a sealed environment when not in use so it is not sucking up odors until you want it to. Plastic tubs work fine but are hard to transport and travel with. ScenTote has small-, medium- and large-sized travel bags that use a carbon web adsorber in the bags to keep carbon clothing scent-free. A medium-sized travel bag is available with a pull-out handle and in-line wheels. There is also a bow case that uses the carbon web to keep your bow and arrows scent-free and a Boot Tote to keep your boots in a scent-free environment.
Hunter’s Specialties offers Scent Safe clothing bags that will seal out odors, as well as a Deluxe Scent Safe Travel bag. It doesn’t do any good to be scent-free and have a stinky blind, so Hunter’s Specialties now offers a ground-blind bag that zips up to store your ground blind scent-free.
Scent Shield offers a carbon-lined storage bag for carrying clothing into the field. The bag’s drawstring top seals out odors and keeps clothes odor-free.
A new category of scent elimination has developed, and this time it is electronic. These new devices take a whole new approach to scent control and the way we think about it. These are small, electronic devices that can be used at home and in the field. This technology has been used to clean the air, eliminate odors, purify water and disinfect surgery rooms. Now it is coming to bowhunters.
The Xterminator utilizes NASA technology to destroy odors with activated oxidation plasma. Put all your hunting gear in an enclosed space (like a closet) and turn it on. It promises to destroy all odors at the molecular level and help to recharge activated-carbon suits.
Wouldn’t it be great to bring this technology with you into the field? You can with the Ozonics HR100 portable battery-powered unit. Hang it above you in a treestand or in a ground blind and the unit releases ozone that naturally cleanses your scent from the air. Use it at home to prepare your equipment before heading to the field.
At some point you will need to oil a treestand or other gear that makes a squeak. Dead Down Wind has a completely odorless oil that can be used on anything requiring lubrication. Scent Control Systems offers odorless WeatherLock Archery Oil for items needing lubrication. Scent Shield has a neat little rubber ball with a clip that has an odorless powder to keep track of wind direction. The Breath-Taker is a carbon-lined mask that fits over the mouth and nose. Lots of odor comes from the mouth, but we can’t stop breathing. The mask will help get rid of breath odors. Natural Predator offers TRU-Carbon powder that can be mixed with water to create a carbon dip for clothing or rubbed directly onto the skin. Primos, Dead Down Wind, Scent Shield and Wildlife Research Center offer field washcloths to clean up when hunting after work or when you churn up a sweat and can’t shower. Carbomask face paint from Hutton Labs is an activated-charcoal gel that works like traditional face and hand paint but stops odors and is completely matte in nature with no shine. Black Canyon offers the Instant Alert Badge which is worn on the outer layer of clothing and changes color to let you know that scent is escaping.
There are many products available to help you control your scent while bowhunting. It might seem like a daunting task to sort through all those items, but the effort will be worth it. There is nothing more satisfying than getting super close to a big whitetail buck and doing so undetected. D
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