Proper scent control is a consequential element in the bowhunter’s overall hunting strategy. With a whitetail’s primary line of defense being its acute sense of smell, inattention to scent control is not an option.
When attempting to have a close encounter with an animal that possesses nearly 300-million olfactory receptors, a variety of precautionary steps should be taken to reduce as much human odor as possible.
While there are dozens of soaps, sprays, deodorants and even ozone generators on the market today, having a consistent scent control regime can be more effective than trying to purchase the perfect potion which claims to result in 100% scent ‘elimination’.
Scent Control Tips: From Breath To Boots
Scent control begins by understanding that scent ‘elimination’ is impossible. We can’t bowhunt in a vacuum and our bodies are constantly producing some form of odor, so scent ‘reduction’ is the only realistic objective.
Personally, I think of scent control like a process. A step-by-step regimen I follow before and during each hunt. While every bowhunter will have his or her favorite methods, here are the steps I take on a consistent basis.
Scent control begins by consistent and careful hygiene. While bowhunters may differ on their preferred brand of scent free soap and shampoo, choose scent free products that work with your pH level. Dead Down Wind’s Body & Hair Soap seems to work well for me.
I make it a practice to shower before every single hunt. Post showering I use Dead Down Wind’s Odorless Hand & Body Lotion, which again seems to work well with my skin type. While not necessary, the lotion helps prevent dryness when sitting for countless hours in harsh winds and cold temperatures.
After applying a scent free deodorant, I end my hygiene regimen by brushing my teeth with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. This combination is known to be an effective means of killing bacteria, and will also brighten your teeth.
A simple tip for keeping oral bacteria low and your breath fresh is to fill a travel size mouth wash container with hydrogen peroxide. I keep one of these in my pack and swish out my mouth throughout the day.
I recognize that each detail of scent reduction is not big in and of itself, but when added to an overall scent control routine can make a big difference.
After showering I make sure every piece of clothing I put on has been washed in scent free soap—from underwear to all outer garments. Again, my pick is Dead Down Wind’s Laundry Detergent. Some detergents have caused rashes or haven’t seemed to work as well, so I’ve chosen to use what works for me personally.
The only time I’ll wear any of my hunting clothes out of the house is if it’s below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Only then will I put on a base layer before heading to my hunting location. Otherwise, I strip down to my underwear and get dressed once I arrive at my destination. (One farmer’s wife thinks we are insane, and yes it can be chilly.)
After getting dressed in scent free casual clothing I try to head straight out the door. My rushed departure is an attempt to prevent any household smells, such as the smell of breakfast, from hanging on my scent free clothing or person.
I also avoid filling up my truck with gas while in route to where I’ll be hunting. It’s also best if one doesn’t stand near the vehicle’s exhaust and takes extra precautions to avoid any foreign odors which could potentially linger on clothing, hair or otherwise.
All hunting clothes, including my backpack, safety harness, and optics are stored in an airtight container. Once I arrive at my destination, I’ll remove my scent free clothes from the tote and put on my hunting clothes.
To keep the tote scent free, avoid putting anything in the tote that might add odor. Also, try to seal it up as soon as you remove your clothing. I have taken dry leaves from my hunting area and added them to my tote as a cover scent, but that is the only odor I want in my tote.
While in the process of getting dressed, I make it a practice to spray down with a scent reduction spray. Depending on the time of year, it may mean spraying down between several layers. If temperatures are near or below freezing, I try to mist and not over spray my clothing.
My personal choice is Dead Down Wind Field Spray, but again, most hunters have a particular product they feel works extremely well.
When hunting in warm weather, scent control can seem almost impossible. You hardly get to the treestand and your sweating like a 15-year old on his first date. Because of this I like to use Carbon Synergy in the early season.
Carbon Synergy is a blend of activated carbon and anti-microbial silver that can be applied directly to your body, sprayed on your clothing or you can dip your clothing in a water/Carbon Synergy mix and allow to hang dry.
This product is not for everyone. It is black and leaves everything it touches darker in color. But, if you want a product that works—this is it.
Before putting on my hunting clothes, I like to apply a thin layer of Carbon Synergy to my entire body. It is a little messy, but it works. Especially in areas that are prone to high levels of perspiration Carbon Synergy has made a big difference.
Now, before you think I’m crazy, last year while hunting from the ground I had a doe come from directly downwind and walk three yards from me. Say what you want to, I’m a believer in Carbon Synergy and have made it a regular part of scent control.
I also ‘dust’ the inside of my Muck Boots with Carbon Synergy. This product removes smell like nothing else. But, if you don’t like getting a little black, don’t try it. If you like getting close to dear, use it. Plus, it is very affordable and a little goes a long way.
It seems one of the most overlooked pieces of gear when it comes to scent control is boots. It will do little good to spend time on soaps and sprays if your boots are tracking unwanted scent all the way to your stand.
Your boots can hold scent for weeks, even months. Especially if you walk in any type of petroleum based product. To prevent leaving a scent trail to and from your stand, make sure you only wear your hunting boots in between your truck and the stand.
I like to store my boots in a scent free bag. And I don’t wear them for any other reason but to hunt in. The last thing I want to do is track the smell of a gas station, restaurant, or my truck’s floorboard into where I am hunting.
My hunting pack is also stored in a scent free container. Since it goes with me to the tree, I make sure it is as scent free as possible. My normal practice is to spray the pack with Dead Down Wind’s Field Spray before and after each use.
If I place anything in my pack, such as food or otherwise, it will be placed in a Ziploc bag. This also helps to reduce any foreign odors while I’m in the treestand.
I also take a small bottle of scent elimination spray in my pack and will spray down a second time when I get into my tree. If it is a hot day and I have been in the tree for some time, I will be sure to regularly spray my head, hands and hat with the Field Spray.
Don’t forget how much odor can come from a bow. Our bow should also be included in this list. I use unscented wet wipes or Dead Down Wind’s Field Wipes to wipe down my bow grip, arrows or any other areas that might have a human odor.
I also try to use scent free string wax or lube in an attempt to limit any foreign odor. Again, will this one small detail make a difference? Maybe not! But, adding all these details together can only help lower my impact within the given area I am hunting.
It may seem like a lot of work to some, but once you get in the mindset of following the same scent control regimen each time you head to the stand, these scent control tips will become second nature.
As has been said many times before, the most important aspect of scent control is to make sure the wind is in your favor and to have hung your stand with that thought in mind. If you have any additional scent control tips, I’d enjoy hearing from you.
Best of luck this season!
8 thoughts on “Scent Control Tips: From Breath To Boots”
Thanks for the tips. I have wondered about using a face mask modified to allow breath filtering, and tried it last year. The issue was not how it altered any pre-shot placement of my string, but the noise made while breathing. If I could lick that, I think it might be a neat trick for those willing to don the mask in addition to everything else 😉
Thanks for the comment, Jesse! It would be nice is someone made a comfortable and quiet mask. Although as far as I know no such thing exists.
I’ll keep working on it 😉 BTW, you may want to check into the rinsing with H2O2 though, not sure that that is okay for our teeth…
Hey thanks. I was trying to think why we spend so much time with scent blocking but no one ever talks about breath. My girlfriends morning breath could suffocate the deer, cant the deer smell that? Why am I spraying myself with all this stuff but other things are not talked about.
Sweet article. Thanks. I’m on a monster, I heard him as I went in, didn’t know it was so big until I found his lair with several 8″ + rubs, by 2′ vertically. Never seen anything quite like it as this county gets hunted hard. I’m hoping he’s nice as the 8 points make 4-6″ rubs at best. Baking soda is best for in the stand mouth odor (salt is awesome, but like peroxide is hard on enamel/causes cavities with too much use and is not something you can swallow. I just found that soda is a health food, 1/2 tsp/day for Ph. So, mix 1 tsp. soda with 1 cup hot water, shake. Turn over small bottle before using to mix a bit, swallow the stuff to eliminate scent and further motion. Salt and soda to brush teeth in AM.
Success using Atsko Sport Wash for EVERYTHING else. Scrub/Wash new boots, especially bottoms. Use it to shower and wash ears/nose with q-tip with a gentle solution of the stuff.
Don’t go overboard on scent sprays, etc., they will attract attention, you want natural behavior if possible . If he’s looking for that, whatever (a scent, a grunt, a ___ ), his already ridiculous senses are tuned too much as he’s even more alert to your area/object. Don’t allow scented laundry anything in the house, ever. The Atsko works better anyway (on wicking athletic fabrics, it won’t plug pores of fabric).
Take apart your grunt tube, get a primos power grunt, it does two settings of grunt, or a single grunt and single bleat setting, suck/blow. Wash every surface of every thing that will go in or that you will touch while getting ready.
Wind direction is everything, but on the swirling winds in the east coast, you gotta take what you can get, meaning sometimes even with good wind, you gotta be setting up 40 yards off a spot, and praying they at least come that close.
Mouth odor is the big one tho… I am in process of making an adaptation for a cheap NIOSH mask from Harbor Freight. Got two masks ~$30 total, and took one’s filter, reversed it, and put it on the exhale valve on the mask. Washed all this thoroughly, let it sit for a couple months as plastics emit the most stank as they cure. Washed it again (not the filters). These stinking cheap filters remove odors from paints, acetone, farm chemicals, so I think they should work for the wiley older deer. The apparatus is nearly too much until temps are sub 55 degrees F and the deer start to move then anyway. I’m using a cross bow now and the canisters do make you tilt your head a bit to get a good sight picture, but it works fine.
…and wash it if you have worn it. Don’t trap the scent on the clothing if you can’t wash it before tomorrow. Those scent free bags are only as scent free as the clean washed stuff that goes in without the clean stuff being exposed to cooking smells or previous wear… (we all stink to high heaven to a deer, do you want the inside of your clothes to make the outside stink?). Wear it, wash it is the only way if you are going after bigger deer or want to see deer in shooting range if the winds are swirling. They will still find you, but maybe you get a window of time or the benefit of the doubt for a bit.
and diet helps, drink at least a gallon of water a day for at least a week ahead to help detox / reduce the amount of crap in your body that your body is getting out so you survive, this stuff comes out as odor…. duh, right?
So water, leafy greens, blueberries, yogurt and also be sure to avoid broccoli/Cauliflower/Brussels/Cabbage, as they make you eliminate Sulfur. (Truth)
I spray the seat, door panel and floor mat of my truck with scent eliminating spray. Not sure if it makes a difference but it cant hurt.