Every hunter alive has probably read, heard or watched on television about the importance of personal scent control. It has been drilled into our heads to wash our clothes in unscented detergents and wash our bodies with soaps produced specifically with the big game hunter in mind. Unfortunately, there are still some hunters out there that know very little about the subject, and others that are still disbelievers as to how important it is to eliminate as much human related odors as possible. They feel that they have been successful without following a scent control program and using such products, so they believe it is all hype.
On the other extreme, there is the archery hunter. One of the most dedicated species of hunter alive, and in that category there are those like myself that take everything they do to an extreme. I have been called obsessed with it, and I will admit that I am just that, but with having a high success rate and having countless experiences with big game of many different species at close range, with a personal best of having a whitetail buck at a distance of three feet while at ground level for over 30 minutes. I take great satisfaction in knowing that I have successfully fooled the nose of one of the most wary animals in the wild. What makes up the term "extreme scent control?" I put practices to use in the category that many don't know about and even fewer put into practice.
Beat his nose and you'll beat him. The author strives to get as
close as possible without having extreme angle shots which often
requires ground level shots.
Most everyone knows the importance of washing their clothes in the hunter detergents, washing their bodies in hunter soaps and shampoos and staying away from fuels like gasoline and kerosene. But to be truly extreme about your personal scent control, what do you have to do to become known as obsessed and ridiculous when it comes to this topic. Do what I do and you'll soon find out.
Scent control begins long before the hunt even begins. It begins in overlooked areas like where you store your equipment. Avoid storing treestands, clothing and other related equipment anywhere that they can come into contact with harmful odors, such as any kind of fuels or other human related odors that can permeate any fabrics that may be attached to the equipment. Store them in areas solely designated for hunting equipment, even if that means building a shed for that purpose alone.
Before you even wash your clothes, be sure to wash out the washer tub to remove any residual household detergents. Rinsing the entire tub and thoroughly cleaning the agitator where a build-up of detergents usually occurs is extremely important. Before placing your hunting clothes in the dryer, be sure to clean out the lint trap as a filled lint trap can create a back pressure of air which can push odors from previous fabric softeners and regular clothes washing back onto your hunting clothes. Also, use dryer sheets made specifically for hunters like those made by Hunters Specialties.
Washing your hunting clothes in a scent free washer is one of the
first steps in hunt preparation.
It is very important not to forget to wash your hats. Many hunters I know are fanatical about washing their clothes and yet wear the same hat, day after day without washing them - sometimes never washing them. Hatbands can be some of the foulest smelling pieces of clothing worn if not cleaned regularly.
Immediately after drying your clothes thoroughly, place them in a scent free container. This can be something specially made for storing hunting clothes or just a plain, unscented garbage bag. If you are hunting in an area that has pine or hemlock, it can be extremely beneficial to place limbs from those trees inside the bags or containers to allow the clothes to absorb the natural odors.
The order that the clothes are placed in the container should also be considered. Keep in mind that the least amount of time that the clothes are handled, the less amount of human contamination takes place on them. I place my clothes into the containers in the reverse order that I will be putting them on. Which means outer layers are placed on the bottom, middle layers next and followed by undergarments on top. The last thing you want to do is pull scent free clothes from the container and set them on a floor or other area where harmful odors can come into contact, while you're digging around for your next layer to put on.
Cleaning your body to be as scent free as possible can also be taken to an extreme and this is what often separates the men from the boys on this one. While some of my practices may be viewed as somewhat strange and unnecessary, I really don't care as I take great pride in having the ability to be up wind of an animal at ground level and for them to still be comfortable in thinking that there is no nearby danger.
I begin my process of cleaning my body by keeping body hair to a minimum. Hair holds odors the most so by reducing the amount of hair on your body, the fewer odors you will carry around. Now I'm not saying you have to shave your whole body, but by trimming armpit hairs and removing hair in other areas that could potentially be the foulest part of the body, you have taken away some of the smelliest parts of the human body's problem areas when it comes to odor.
Another factor is the showering procedure. It is extremely important to take your bathroom break BEFORE you shower and not after. By using the toilet first and then showering, you can be sure to remove and residual urine or fecal matter from your body by paying close attention to those areas. As gross as this all may sound to some of you, it is one of the most crucial parts of personal scent control and yet probably one of the least adhered to in today's hunting society.
I prefer to take showers as this allows clean water to run over my body continuously instead of sitting in increasingly dirty water. During the shower I prefer to take one as hot as I can stand it. I find that this seems to loosen up the dead decaying skin the most, and it is that dead skin that causes the formation of bacteria which in turn causes odor. I will lather my entire body with the hunter's soaps and shampoos and then scrub my entire body with a loufa. The loufa will additionally help remove the odor forming dead and decaying skin, not to mention those hard to reach areas that often become a haven for odors like your back.
Once I get out of the shower I will dry off using towels that have also been washed in a hunter's detergent. It does absolutely no good to go through all the previous processes to only dry off with a towel that smells like a fresh ocean breeze. From there I can go to my clothes, which are already set up in the containers in the order that I plan to put them on. Finishing the cleaning process with the application of a hunter's deodorant is also important to help reduce the formation of scent forming bacterium. Using the deodorant under the armpits, feet and behind the knees will also help reduce odors.
An important aspect of extreme scent control is diet. This is a year round program as it is important that you constantly monitor what foods your body can process properly and what foods it can't. This process is year round, year after year because a person's body changes as it gets older and while some foods you may still like and enjoy - your body may not agree. Then there are the foods that just everyone has trouble with like the dreaded "musical fruit," more commonly known as "beans" that should be avoided by just about everyone during the hunting season.
Odorous foods such as onions, peppers, garlic and other like foods and spices should also be avoided, not only because of the foul odors it can create through your digestive system but from the bad breath they can create as well. Mouth odor is another one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of scent control as well and products such as chlorophyll tablets or special hunter's chewing gum can help alleviate this problem as well.
Breath control is an overlooked aspect of scent control.
Products like these can help combat that problem.
What you drink before and during a hunt can also have a detrimental effect on the amount of odor your body creates. Alcohol can produce foul odors the next day and drinks such as coffee, soda and tea contain caffeine which will increase the need for urination which can harm a hunt should the need to urinate come over you while on stand. For that reason it is a good idea to have a urination bottle on hand if you plan on being on stand for several hours.
Another important aspect of scent control is to NEVER wear your hunting clothes for anything other than hunting or scouting. If you return to camp or home in between a morning and afternoon hunt, take your hunting clothes off before you even go inside. You definitely don't want to lie around the house, take a nap or do any household or camp chores while still in your hunting clothes. In instances like these midday breaks I often take a second shower before going out on my afternoon hunt.
For those of you that have a significant other that enjoys the fragrances of burning candles in the house, try to negotiate what I call a "cease fire" in the house. My wife just loves the smell of those candles, but come hunting and a few weeks prior to the season opening, the burning of scented candles in the house halts. Even with all the other measures that I take, I prefer to take no chances in fragrant odors permeating any clothing or hair that I can carry into the field. I am fortunate enough to have a spouse that enjoys game meat as much as I do so she never fought me on this issue, but for those that have a spouse that's a little more resistant, I advise a strong negotiation instead of a strong-arm tactic. Peace in the home makes for peace in the field.
Any stand preparation such as paint touch-ups or carpet work should be done at a minimum of weeks in advance of when you plan to "set the stands." This will give the odors from the carpet, glues or paints time to dissipate well in advance of them going into the woods. I also opt to thoroughly wash my stands down with a hunter's detergent after all my stand preparation work is done. A sprayer that hooks up to a garden hose like those used for "Miracle Grow" but filled with a hunter's liquid detergent works great for that. However, be sure the container NEVER had anything in it other than cleaning products solely designed for hunters.
The use of rubber boots while afield is also very important and equally important to use boots that have straps at the top that can be pulled tied against your leg. A boot with a loose top acts as a bellows on each step, pouring human scent over the top which will in turn make the purpose of wearing a rubber boot moot. Washing rubber boots inside and out on a regular basis is also an important aspect of reducing the formation of harmful odors.
The use of rubber boots is also an important asset when hunting big
game. Even more important when making scent drags to a stand location.
Most of the scent control products on the market today which are designed for hunters will work well. There are some scientific products on the market such as the ones with silver particles and the enzyme technology products as well. At the moment I am still using the silver technology products like those produced by Xtreme Scents as I have had extremely good results using these products.
Products like these are essential for keeping human scent to a minimum.
In the author's opinion the use of these products alone won't do the
job if other precautions aren't taken as well.
I also choose to wear a double layer of scent blocking material in addition to everything else I do as an added insurance policy for scent control. I will wear a base layer that contains the silver fiber technology for scent control as well as my outer layer that has the same technology. On top of all that I wash my hunting clothes in a silver particle detergent to further reduce the chances of spreading harmful odors to a wary animal's nose.
While these tips are not all I do to control my scent while afield, they are some of the most crucial ones and perhaps some of the most extreme that I follow. Over the years I have taken some exceptional trophies and had I not been obsessed with knowing how scents work on my own person as well as how the animals react to them I wouldn't have had the success I have had thus far. Follow my advice and perhaps your success could be even better in the future as well.
The use of rubber gloves when applying attractant scents is
extremely important to maximize success opportunities.
The author arrowed this Pope & Young Pennsylvania buck at 12 yards by
allowing estrous scent to blow past him and into a nearby swamp.
Even when in a blind during the heat of summer the author uses
scent control practices for photographing wildlife.
C.D. Denmon, from Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, is an award winning outdoor writer and wildlife photographer and currently writes for several publications throughout the country. He has been hunting for 24 years and has hunted throughout the United States, Canada and Africa and has been successful at taking many trophy class animals in the process.