As the autumn leaves crunch under your boots, you feel ready. Scent-free clothes? Check. Sprayed down gear? Check. Wind in your face? Check. You slip through the trees, confident this will be a successful hunt. Somewhere ahead, your trophy buck beds, relaxed yet alert. This is your moment. But then the doubts start running through your mind. Am I doing scent control correctly? Did I take every measure possible to reduce my human odor? Outsmarting a whitetail’s nose is no easy task, but these scent control tips can help you remain undetected.
- Wash clothes in special scent-free detergent
- Store clothes in sealed containers or outside away from human odors
- Shower before hunts using scentless soap/shampoo
- Adjust diet to reduce human odors
- Use scent elimination and cover sprays
- Walk slowly to stand to avoid sweat
- Constantly monitor wind direction
- Maintain clean hunting gear and accessories
- Consider advanced measures like ozone generators
Why Scent Control Matters
A whitetail’s nose knows. Their incredible sense of smell allows deer to detect danger, identify food, locate mates and more. A mature buck’s nose can pick up odors over a half-mile away under the right conditions. With 300 million scent receptors, deer easily smell things that humans can’t detect. This makes controlling scent a top priority.
Even the slightest unnatural odor can alert deer and ruin a hunt. Perspiration, perfume, vehicle exhaust, laundry detergent, coffee and other scents can betray your presence. Whitetails associate these smells with humans and will avoid the area if they detect them. Controlling scent gives you a crucial edge when bucks have their guard up during hunting season.
Washing Hunting Clothes in Scent-Free Detergent
Effective scent control starts with proper treatment of your hunting clothing. Regular detergents contain fragrances and chemicals that deer can smell from a good distance away.
Wash all hunting apparel in a scent-free, unscented detergent specifically designed for hunters. Brands like Scent Killer, Dead Down Wind and Wildlife Research Center make detergents that thoroughly clean clothing without leaving odors.
Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets, as they contain perfumes. After washing clothes, store them in an airtight plastic bin or bag until you are ready to hunt. This prevents contamination from other odors.
Showering Before the Hunt
A morning shower with unscented soap and shampoo is another easy way to practice scent control. Standard soaps and shampoos contain fragrant scents that can linger and alert deer. Using scent-free body wash eliminates these worrying smells.
Deodorant, cologne, perfume and scented body lotions are also problematic. A quick wash with odorless products allows you to enter the woods fresh and residue-free. The cleaner you keep your body, the less scent you will carry into the field.
Consider Diet Changes
The food you eat can have a big impact on your natural body odor. Many experienced deer hunters adjust their diets during hunting season to avoid foods that produce strong scents.
Limiting garlic, onions, spicy cuisine and red meat can help reduce human odors. Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol, which can affect your scent. Pay attention to what you’ve eaten before a hunt, and adjust as needed to minimize odor.
Use Scent Elimination Sprays
Before heading out, apply a scent elimination spray to your hunting clothes, boots and gear. Popular brands like Scent-A-Way and Dead Down Wind make odor-neutralizing sprays that destroy bacteria causing body odors.
These sprays use activated carbon, silver and ozone to eliminate existing odors. Spray down all clothing, bows, packs, blinds and any other gear. Allow time for the spray to dry fully before going into the woods.
Mask Scent with Cover Scents
Cover scents provide an additional layer of odor masking and confusion. Natural cover scents like pine, acorns, dirt, cedar and sage can help you smell like the environment. Place these along your entry route to mask your trail.
Using deer scents like urine or estrus can also hide human odors. Apply cover scents sparingly and avoid contaminating your hunting spot. Pay close attention to wind direction when using scents.
Walk Slowly to Your Stand
When walking to your hunting location, move slowly and steadily to avoid sweating. Perspiration carries human odor, so make your entry nice and easy. If you have a longer hike, account for extra time.
Once settled in your stand, do minimal movement to prevent scent dispersal. Remaining as motionless as possible helps prevent deer from circling and winding you. Even small fidgets can send scent out in unpredictable ways.
Hunt the Wind
Monitoring wind direction is arguably the most critical component of scent control when deer hunting.
Always set up your stand downwind of where you expect deer to approach from. The wind should blow from the deer toward you to carry your scent away. If you’re unsure of the forecast, bring a wind detector.
Consider the impact of thermals – rising morning air and sinking evening air – when hunting bluffs, slopes or heavily wooded areas. Thermals can shift scent in multiple directions.
Maintain Clean Gear
Your treestands, blinds, ATVs and other gear should be kept as scent-free as possible. Wash blinds with scent-eliminating soap. Store stands, chairs and accessories in sealed bins when not in use.
Treating gear with scent killer spray periodically is wise. Avoid contaminating your hunting area by driving ATVs or walking around stands excessively before the hunt. Keep all gear clean for optimal odor reduction.
Some diehard hunters take scent control even further by:
- Wearing carbon clothing like ScentLok to absorb and trap odors.
- Using ozone generators or scent-destroying foggers to sanitize gear.
- Putting gear in locked storage containers during transport to avoid contamination.
- Spraying down entry/exit routes and parking areas.
- Sealing clothes immediately upon returning home to control odors.
- Avoiding product scents marketed to attract bucks. They also attract does that could spook deer.
While being 100% scent free is unlikely, following these scent control practices will greatly increase your odds of evading a whitetail’s nose. Do your homework on prevailing winds. Wash and spray down all gear. Shower before each hunt. Use cover scents wisely. Move slowly on your way to your stand. With the right scent control techniques, you can beat a buck’s formidable sniffing abilities.
Controlling human scent takes knowledge, preparation and diligence, but profoundly impacts your odds of evading a whitetail’s nose. Implementing a strict regimen of washing, spraying, diet changes and odor masking can help convert more hunting encounters into tagged deer. Don’t let your odor announce your presence this season. Follow these tips to hunt effectively and invisibly on a deer’s terms.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best way to wash hunting clothes?
Use a scent-eliminating detergent and no fabric softener or dryer sheets. Brands like Scent Killer, Dead Down Wind, and Wildlife Research Center make effective scent-free detergents. Wash clothes separate from regular laundry.
How often should you spray down gear?
Ideally, treat all hunting equipment with a scent elimination spray like Scent Killer before each hunt. Storage containers can hold smells, so gear should be resprayed after being stored. Reapply if gear gets wet.
Do commercial scent eliminators really work?
Tests show products with activated charcoal, silver, and ozone eliminate existing odors effectively. However, they don’t make you completely scent-free. Use in combination with proper clothing wash, showering, diet, etc.
What food should you avoid while hunting?
Limit garlic, onions, spicy food, and red meat near the hunt to avoid strong scents. Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol. Pay attention to lingering odors from what you’ve eaten. Adjust diet as needed.
Is it better to hang stands earlier or later?
Some believe hanging stands too early allows deer to become aware of them before the hunt. But going in too late risks leaving excess scent. Find a happy medium based on deer pressure. Prepare stands 2-4 weeks out.
How do you use cover scents effectively?
Use cover scents like cedar, pine or acorns along your entry/exit route to mask trail. Scents must match native environment. Sparingly use deer urine/estrus scents. Constantly monitor wind direction when using.
What’s the best way to play the wind?
Check wind forecasts frequently and have backup stand options for different winds. Use wind indicator while on stand to detect subtle shifts. Thermals require stands positioned above deer. Move if wind swirls.
How important is your entry and exit?
Very. Many experts stress that the way you enter/leave your stand is just as crucial as hunting the stand. Scout optimal low-scent access routes. Walk slowly. Avoid contamination/scent saturation of area before hunts.
Should you use scent-masking sprays on your body?
Directly applying sprays to clothes/gear rather than skin is recommended. However, some use unscented body sprays minimally. Showering thoroughly and using scent-free soap is more effective than masking sprays on your body.
Following strict scent control measures takes diligence. But pays major dividends in deer hunting success. Implement these tips to remain undetected by even the wariest whitetail.