Making Sense of Scent Control: Tips For Managing Scents While Deer Hunting

scent killer clothing spray

If you spend a little time in the hunting community, it will not take long before you identify some people that seem to have more success than others.

It is human nature to begin wondering what they are doing so differently to have such success while the majority of hunters struggle. The tendency is to think that they have a big secret that allows them to be successful.

However, in reality, it is a collection of small secrets that ultimately lead to repeatable hunting success. One of those important details is scent control.  

The fact that most big game animals like whitetail deer rely on their sense of smell to help evade predators, including hunters, is undeniable.

As hunters have come to realize the importance of minding their scent, a plethora of products related to scent control have popped up on store shelves. Some of these products are gimmicky money grabs, while others are a legitimate help.

This article should help you decipher between the two by discussing the important factors of scent control. 

 

Scent-Stopping Strategies

Pre-Hunt Preparations 

There are a few things you’ll want to do to help control your scent before you even leave the house in the morning. Some of the most important examples include the following three strategies: 

1. Clothing Selection

First Lite Merino bottom

Clothing designed to help with scent control is one of the categories in which you will see lots of products on the market. From integrating silver to integrating carbon into the fabric, lots of ideas have been pitched as “game-changers.”

If you want to get fanatical about it, you can buy clothing that has a carbon-activated barrier to help kill your scent. A more basic solution is to stay away from synthetic layers, which tend to get and stay smelly.

Merino layers are much more resistant to odor buildup and retention.   

 

2. Clothing Care

Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer Scent Elimination Laundy Detergent
Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer Scent Elimination Laundy Detergent

Make sure that you wash your hunting clothes with a scent-free detergent. Most fragrance-free detergents on the regular market are geared towards those with allergies, so you can be sure they are free of scents and dyes.

On the hunting side of things, you will find some detergents scented like apples or other masking scents, as well as scent-free products.

However, because it is marketed as a hunting detergent the price automatically goes up, and you probably will not gain much over mainstream scent-free detergents. 

After you have washed and dried your clothes, store them in a plastic bag or air-tight container prevent contamination from household or camp smells.

While clothes that smell of bacon from being hung too near a cooking area might be appealing to hunters, animals probably will find it more off-putting.

 

3. Personal Hygiene

Scent-A-Way Liquid Body Soap & Shampoo
Scent-A-Way Liquid Body Soap & Shampoo

When you shower during your hunting season, make sure you use a scent-free soap. After your shower, use a scent-free deodorant.

Again, there are products available on the sporting goods market that are designed to do the job, but they will cost you more than a general product that is likely almost identical.  

Avoid using anything else on your body that is especially fragrant like shaving creams, aftershave, lotions or hair gels. 

 

 

The Beginning of the Hunt 

Once at your hunting location, there are a few other things you’ll want to do to control your odor and avoid spooking your quarry. The two most important steps include: 

1. Give Yourself a Spray Down

When you get ready to enter the woods or field from your truck or camp, spray your clothing, pack and anything else you are carrying down with a scent eliminator. This is one thing you will buy that is definitely geared towards hunters.

Lots of big-time hunters swear by these products (and not all of them are paid to do so). At the very least, when you consider all the money you shell out to go hunting, the cost of using a scent killer is probably worth a try.  

 

2. Sneak into the Woods 

When you think sneaky, you probably think about not allowing yourself to be detected by sight or sound. Next time you are sneaking in, add smell to that list.

Try to walk into your area downwind of where you are going to hunt, ideally, with the wind in your face. It helps to check the wind forecast before hiking in, so you know which direction will be ideal to come from.

As you make your way in, avoid touching trees and bushes unnecessarily. Even for your walk in, but especially if you plan to sit in a tree stand, carry a bottle to urinate in.  

 

During the Hunt 

Tink's scent bomb
Tink’s #69 Doe-In-Rut Buck Lure – 100% natural doe urine with their secret ingredient.

Even after the hunt starts, you’ll want to manage your scent carefully. Above all else, keep the following three tips in mind: 

1. Attractants

If you are taking a stand, consider putting out some attractant scents. Most of these are based either on their need to eat (apple or molasses), or their rutting instincts (doe, buck, cow or bull urine).

A variety of brands offer products for this, including scent holders that you can saturate and place around the area.

If you have done the job of masking and neutralizing your own scent, the attractants should be far stronger than your odors.

 

2. Keep Cool

It is no secret that sweaty people are smelly. So, it makes sense you should try to not overheat if you are hiking or stalking animals.

Wear layers of breathable clothing so you can take off or add articles as needed to stay at a moderate temperature. Walk at a pace that does not allow you to overheat.

As an added bonus, the slow speeds needed to stay cool are a good speed for spotting game.

 

3. Mind Your Wind

Hunters Specialties Windicator
Hunters Specialties Windicator

Since they have not come up with a bubble that totally incases you while you hunt, the wind is still the ultimate factor in scent control.

No matter what measures you have taken to mitigate or mask your odor, you are always going to be better off if your quarry is upwind of you.

All of the measures you take will help you in a shifting wind and require that an animal be closer in order to detect you, but an animal downwind of you is still bad news.  

The cheapest and arguably most important scent-related product you will buy is a bottled wind-indicator that will help you use the breeze to your advantage.

One puff of the powder into the air will show which way the prevailing winds are headed, and help you coordinate a downwind approach on your animal. 

 

Additional Miscellaneous Tips 

For the most part, the above tactics are fairly basic. Using that system will reduce the risk of your being sniffed out by animals, without having to do anything too drastic to gain an advantage.

Still, there are plenty more steps that some will take to capture even the possibility of a greater benefit. Some of the next-level suggestions are: 

1. Get dressed in the woods. Take your clothes directly out of the dryer and put them in your airtight tub. Do not remove them until you have exited your camp or vehicle and can get dressed with no risk of contamination. 

2. Setup your tree stands well ahead of time so they lose their human scent. Also, set them as high as possible to keep your smell high above the animals. 

3. Apply masking scent to your body. If you are on the move and you cannot simply hang a scent-holder from the tree, go ahead and squeeze some of that doe in heat urine on your clothing. 

4. Keep your food and other smelly items sealed. Use an airtight plastic bag or a dry-bag to store anything that is in your pack that is especially odorous. 

5. Avoid smelly feet. Make sure you dry your boots thoroughly and wear clean socks every day. For that clean-room level scent management, wear rubber (non-breathable) boots. 

 

Conclusion 

In the end, it is up to every hunter to decide how important scent control is to them. At a minimum, learn to pay close attention to the wind so that you keep your scent away from animals.

Remember that while some products might be more hype than help, big game animals will often take off when they smell you, long before they see or hear you.

So, if you want to increase your chances of success, you will need to consider scent control measures. 

Hopefully, this article helps you figure out your own scent control system and you add another trick to your arsenal that makes you that much more successful.   

 

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Erik Jutila
Erik is a native of the Pacific Northwest and loves spending time in the woods and on the water. At a young age, his dad introduced him to hunting and fishing. Since he caught his first trout as a toddler, he has grown into a full-fledged angler who pursues salmon and steelhead in rivers and streams. His summertime passion is chasing albacore tuna 50 miles off the Oregon and Washington coast. He also enjoys hunting for deer, elk, and waterfowl. He has spent the last seven years working in the outdoor/sporting goods industry.

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