As you move around hunting, and even when you are just sitting, your body is giving off millions of scent molecules into the surrounding air. The clothes and boots that you wear, and equipment you carry all have odors that add to the scent pool around you.
The greatest of the whitetail deer’s senses is their nose!
In hunting areas that see moderate to heavy pressure, the deer associate human odor with danger and give the hunter very little leeway for mistakes. Deer in areas with light hunting pressure are less conditioned to that association, and lapses in scent control won’t have the same consequences.
When you are out hunting, if you think “I am sitting facing a steady wind so I don’t need to worry about all that scent control stuff”, think about all the area downwind of you that is being polluted with your scent.
Some of the areas you hunt may include a ‘hub’ where several deer trails come together, which means your scent will eliminate a large area of potential. Remember mature bucks may come from the wrong direction because their travels are not always regular during the rut.
There is also the challenge of a variable wind, a swirling wind, a changing wind, a crosswind, thermals, sea breezes, gusts, downdrafts and zephyrs.
Remember how many times you have sat around a campfire only to have the smoke blow into your face as the wind changes several times in a few hours.
So hunting on windy days means you have to be aware of where your scent is going.
Deer don’t tend to move around a lot on windy days because they lose a lot of two key senses being their smell and hearing.
The most deer movement tends to occur on calm or light wind days.
However on these days, your odor spreads around you in an increasing scent pool or fog in all directions!
If there is a light wind it tends to be variable around the obstacles like trees, rocks, hills and creeks. So your scent will likely end up in all directions making hunting that site highly risky at best and in fact it is best not to hunt prime hunting spots under these conditions, and put the buck on full alert, or worse, cause him to change his habits.
However, waiting for the ideal wind for a particular site may not be an option for reasons such as time constraints or pressure from other hunters. In that case you need a scent control system to minimize your scent.
So how can you control the amount of your scent that reaches the whitetail’s nose?
Try to understand wind flow in the area you are going to hunt, so that means understanding how wind ‘flows’ over and around obstacles in that area. It also means understanding what temperature does to create thermals so that when hot air rises and cool air sinks you can take advantage of it
Reduce your scent as much as practical
An effective scent control system should include:
- Before your hunts wash with unscented antibacterial soap and shampoo and dry with towels washed with odor-killing detergent
- Use an odor neutralizing deodorant on your body for every hunt
- Brush your teeth with baking soda and try not to eat, smoke or chew tobacco after that in order to reduce breath odors
- Wash all hunting clothes including socks, gloves, hunting cap and underwear with odor-killing detergent, and then line dry them outside, not in a dryer
- Store and transport the clothes in scent-free bags
- Wash all hunting gear such as backpack, ropes, harness, stand, grunt tube, knife, release and wristband. Rifles can be oiled using a brand that acts as a masking scent. Bow, arrows and broadheads can be washed with hydrogen peroxide In general anything you take into the woods should be used exclusively for the woods and sealed in a scent free container when not in use
- Wash rubber boots and Elimitrax , inside and out, with odor-killing detergent, and don’t wear them until you get to your hunting ground as they pick up odors in your vehicle if used for driving. If you have leather boots, make sure they are lined with something like Scent-Lok and sprayed with cover scent and odor neutralizer
- An activated carbon Scent-Lok suit will help to dramatically reduce your odors in the woods. It works by keeping your scent molecules inside your suit as they are attracted to the carbon surface, but allowing air and moisture to pass through the suit. After a while the carbon needs to be reactivated by placing your suit in a clothes dryer for a short while. The label on the suit will provide instructions
- If you wear your hunting clothes while travelling to your site, they will pick up odors from your breakfast, your vehicle, or any place you stop on the way to your site, such as a gas station or restaurant
- When you leave your vehicle and start walking into your hunting spot, walk slowly so you don’t build up a sweat. If this is unavoidable, wear several light layers that you can take off when you get close to your hunting site, and then put on your heavier clothes
- When walking in you can grind your boots in fresh deer droppings
- Avoid coming into contact with vegetation while hunting as this leaves your scent there for hours for deer to discover. Use your bow or rifle to brush aside branches
- When you get to your hunting site, put your hunting clothes on from their scent free bags. This can either be done while you are on stand, or a hundred yards away, so you don’t leave a pool of your scent at the base of your stand. Don’t tuck your trousers into your boots otherwise your scent can escape out the top of the boot with each step. Put your trouser over your boots so the scent from your feet can only travel up inside your Scent-Lok suit
- Climb up to your tree stand using activated carbon gloves so you don’t leave scent on the steps or bark
- If you are hunting in a light or variable wind situation, every half hour you should release a wind checking device such as Wind Floaters or Smoke Stack to see what the wind is doing, ALL the way to the ground
If you are going to reduce your scent using the system above, you should follow all of the steps and not just a few of them.
The aim is to be as odor free as possible. However, having done all of the above, you should still hunt thinking about the wind as though you haven’t done any of them.
If you combine hunting scent free with a toolkit of tips and techniques, you are well down the road to successfully bagging your buck of a lifetime.