This debate is as old as whitetail hunting itself. How to control one’s scent while hunting deer. If you cannot beat their nose, you cannot be successful. In this post, I am taking a dive into my scent control and ways I am taking my personal scent control measures to the next level for 2019.
There should be ZERO surprises when I say that my personal belief in scent control holds that I must consider three things: Scent on my body, the scent on my gear, and what the wind/thermals are doing on any given day.
First and foremost, I believe the wind is the most important consideration a whitetail deer hunter must consider. You can have the best possible deer movement, weather and location but if the wind is wrong you are finished before you even start. Wrong winds have ruined more whitetail deer hunts than any other factor.
Many successful deer hunters use the wind as the only scent control in their arsenal. They play the wind and pay attention to the thermals and have success year in and year out. I wish that I was one of them.
In my style of hunting, I always end up with too many deer downwind of my setup. Far too often I do not have that perfect setup where my wind will not be carried away to a place with little to no deer movement. That tends to happen when you have smaller parcels to hunt. My locations range from 10 to 80 acres in size. The reduced size of the property creates limitations to where you can set up. It is just part of the game.
Last season, I began experimenting with trying to locate my stand locations so that the wind blows onto neighboring properties to avoid deer alarming where I am hunting. I have no real data on success and failure but can say that I am seeing more deer on my parcels. When you can’t control everything, I feel we need to control where our scent is going once it leaves our body, so why not send it to the neighbors as an early Christmas gift.
I wrote about Ozone in a previous post. The science behind ozone is real-world applicable, so I trust that for hunting it will do the same things. I use ozone to treat my clothing and gear prior to going hunting. I built an ozone closet and my opinion is that it has worked very well so far in reducing scent on my gear. Maybe I am fooling myself, but it makes me feel confident so I will continue to do it.
I put my gear in the ozone closet and treat for 30 minutes prior to my hunt. The O3 molecules destroy scent on the pack, clothing and other items that I am taking into the field with me. I either dress immediately or I pack the items in scent-free storage containers to travel to my hunting location.
There are limitations to what I ozone. I will NOT under any circumstance put my safety harness or anything associated with it into my ozone closet. Ozone is an oxidizer and it is not recommended for safety gear and frankly, no big buck is worth a potential injury. The harness manufacturers recommend not exposing their products to concentrated levels of ozone. Heed their warnings and stay safe.
I also avoid putting my rubber boots and binocular strap in the ozone because it brakes down the elastic and rubber thus ruining those items. Some people ozone their bow, I cannot get on board with that concept so I choose to not put my bow in the ozone closet either. I have rubber stoppers and sound deadeners on my bow so, I am staying away from exposing it to ozone.
I use a spray for those items that I do not use ozone to treat. My preference is an unscented spray because I do not want to add scent when my goal is to remove it.
Our household laundry is 100% done scent-free year-round. We use detergent and dryer sheets that are free of perfumes on all laundry items within the household. Because of this, I have no issues laundering my hunting clothes in our washer. I prefer to hang my clothes outside to air dry. My scent control clothing doesn’t get washed unless absolutely necessary. Proper care of these items dictates not to launder. I do run it through a dryer cycle to reactivate the scent control properties. My pack gets washed in a tub outside in scent-free detergent and hung to dry. I pack everything in scent-free storage bags or totes to keep it all free of foreign odor prior to hunting. I prefer to use a commercial hunting laundry detergent for my clothing because our unscented household detergent contains UV brighteners.
I use gloves when handling my gear in and out of the laundry and when packing my backpack to avoid transferring human scent to my gear. This season I will wash numerous pair of inexpensive brown jersey gloves in scent-free detergent and store them in a plastic bag. I plan on using the gloves one time and then rewash them along with the towels I use before I go hunting. Yes, I plan on using separate towels too. I will wash and dry as normal and store in a scent-free bag to avoid them picking up foreign odors.
All of this may seem unnecessary to purists who hunt wind alone and that is ok. I am a control junkie and with so many things out of my control when hunting whitetails, I find comfort in looking at the little things I can control. Mark Kenyon said it very well when he talked about controlling the little things, even if it is just a 1% improvement we are stacking the odds in our favor.
My biggest changes for 2019 will be in how I eliminate scent on my body. In prior years I used my regular soap, shampoo, and deodorant and then “cleansed” myself by using a hunting body wash just prior to hunting. One day last season I sat in my stand and wondered, “Why, if I am concerned about residue in my washing machine, am I not equally worried about residue from my daily personal hygiene products?” From there I hatched a plan.
This year in August I will begin using only fragrance-free shampoo, deodorant, and soap. These will be regular personal hygiene products, not a hunting industry marketed product. There are many manufacturers out there selling hypoallergenic skin products free of perfumes etc. and they are much less expensive than those marketed to hunters. I will however still use my “green” soap just prior to going into the field. Some habits die hard.
The main idea is to not add anything to my person that could linger even after my shower. While I understand that I theoretically should be able to wash away these products, I have to wonder if the deer can still smell the Irish Spring and Old Spice residue? I will be going totally scent-free two months prior to the start and continuing through the end of the 2019 deer season. I want to have close to zero added scent on my body. We have enough human odor produced by bacteria and enzymes, why add additional layers? Is this excessive? Maybe, but I feel that I am controlling what I can in an environment that is mostly out of my control. Is it a pipe dream? Maybe so, but what do I really have to lose?
Scent control is a highly contested topic among whitetail deer hunters. For many, simply playing the wind is enough. Others go to the extreme to cover or reduce their scent profile. It comes down to personal preference and the methods deployed need to fit your hunting style. Like all things whitetail hunting, scent control comes down to what makes you feel comfortable when you are in the field. It is not a one size fits all situation, and there is no right or wrong method. Whatever suits you, do it.