How To

Defeating a Deer’s Nose

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Controlling scent is important for deer hunters. Wipe down your bow, crossbow, rifle, shotgun, spear---whatever you’re hunting with---before you get to your stand. Image by Brandie Sigler.

Controlling scent is important for deer hunters. Wipe down your bow, crossbow, rifle, shotgun, spear---whatever you’re hunting with---before you get to your stand. Image by Brandie Sigler.

You stink. No, really, you stink. It’s not an insult for most of us because we can’t help it. You’re going to give off an odor no matter how hard you try. The problem for us deer hunters is trying to overcome that fact when we go hunting. There are ways to go about covering your scent and eliminating some of it.

The nose knows

When you communicate with others, it is usually through talking or some other kind of gesture. Deer use smell to communicate. Deer have scent glands, make scrapes and rubs and generally greet each other by sniffing. Through smell, deer recognize other deer, learn about the other deer’s sex, dominance status, reproductive state, and so much more.

How can you defeat such a powerful organ as a deer’s nose? It is a long and careful process. Let’s look from the inside out, shall we?

Stand naked in front of a mirror. What do you see? Ok, stop laughing. If you really stood naked in front of a mirror because I told you to, you have bigger issues than smelling bad. Your skin releases scent and your hair holds scent. Every bit of you has some kind of scent, even though you can’t detect it. So to start the scent-reduction process, you need to take a shower. Use a good scent-eliminating soap to clean your body and hair. But know this, you still stink. Nothing can eliminate your scent. It will for a moment, but it’ll come back.

You also need to look at your breath. Scent-reducing toothpaste, mouthwash, or gum is a great idea to help in this area, but you’re still going to have some odor. I tried something new this year, the RZ Hunting Mask. It has a carbon filter that helps reduce some of the smells from your breath. It was pretty comfortable, but like with any facemask, if you wear glasses, it can get tricky to keep them from fogging up.

While the rubberized outer coating on your binoculars and rangefiner will not technically hold smells, you really need to wipe them down with a scent-free wipe. Image courtesy Derrek Sigler.

While the rubberized outer coating on your binoculars and rangefiner will not technically hold smells, you really need to wipe them down with a scent-free wipe. Image courtesy Derrek Sigler.

There are scent-reducing vitamins and, of course, you can always look at your diet. Being gassy in the stand is not going to help your hunting, but hey, we’re all human and we all fart.

One other thing I do is to keep a couple of towels that are washed with my hunting clothing. I only use these towels to dry off after showering with the scent-free soaps. There is no sense showering and then drying off with a towel that smells like mountain lilies, or some other fake-smelling pseudo-scent. Plus it is a really good excuse to buy some cool camo towels.

Scent-reducing clothing

Ok, so your body is clean and as scent-free as you can make it. Now you need to get dressed. There are a couple of ways to approach this. There are scent-reducing clothing lines that specialize in helping you not to stink. Or, you can use scent-reducing detergents and other products to help your hunting clothes not stink. Either way, there are some basic steps that are the same for both.

First, ScentBlocker’s Jason Herbert recommends doing a quick empty load in your washing machine and dryer so that there is no leftover smell from your regular detergent. That stuff leaves a residue on your washer and dryer, so doing a “cleanse” makes a ton of sense (but not scents), and it only costs a few cents.

After washing your hunting clothing, you need to be careful what you do. Regardless of what kind of gear you use, be it a scent-free specialty cloth, or even just plain old cotton, you should make sure you follow the maker’s instructions to optimize the longevity of your clothing. This also helps keep the scent down. As fabric breaks down and gets thinner, it allows more of your scent to flow through it. In addition, scent-reducing materials in clothing like ScentBlocker’s Trinity line need specific care to work effectively.

Once clean and dry, immediately place the clothing in a plastic bag, tub, or something similar. Wipe down the inside of the container first. There is no sense going through all of those cleaning steps to remove the scent from your clothes, only to let it sit around loading up on all the smells around your house.

Spray scent killers comes in several different forms. Some use baking soda as a base. Other, Like Scentblocker’s new Trinity Blast, uses the same chemicals that are in the fabrics they use. Image courtesy Robinson Outdoor Products.

Spray scent killers comes in several different forms. Some use baking soda as a base. Other, Like Scentblocker’s new Trinity Blast, uses the same chemicals that are in the fabrics they use. Image courtesy Robinson Outdoor Products.

Years ago, I was working in a sporting goods retail store and we had a decent selection of scent-absorbing hunting clothes. We had rack after rack of the stuff on display and all kinds of people pawed through it, trying to decide if they wanted to shell out the money for it. One guy bought the whole outfit, head-to-toe. He came back two days later to return it, saying that it was defective. The deer winded him and ran off, after all! It had to be the fault of that “junk that doesn’t work.” It couldn’t possible be because he bought stuff that had been sitting on a rack in a store for a couple of weeks, having hundreds of sweaty shoppers and snot-nosed kids running their greasy hands over it. Yeah, he wore it without washing it first. Like Ron White said, folks—you can’t fix stupid.

Suit up

So you’re washed. Your gear is washed. You’re ready to go. When you get out of the shower, Herbert suggests putting on clean clothing washed with the same scent-free detergent your hunting cloths are washed in. You don’t get dressed in your hunting clothes until you’re at your spot. I get dressed in the basement of an old barn on my property, using a plastic tarp as a floor mat.

I don’t wear all my stuff, either. Walking back into your stand will cause you to sweat some. You can’t help it. Your body will produce some kind of odor. Not wearing all your gear will help reduce the chance of stinking the place up.

I wear a base layer, and my outer layer this season has been ScentBlocker’s Super Freak jacket and pants, along with the insanely comfortable Knock Out pants. I’m not trying to sound like a ScentBlocker plug, it’s just that I’m really happy with the fit and feel of their clothing and it sure seems to work.

Odds and ends

A few other tips on reducing scent.

  • Spray your stuff down when you’re safely in your stand with a scent-killing spray
  • If you’re in a ground blind, spray the inside of the blind
  • Spray the insides of your boots before you wear them and let them dry
  • Spray your trail cameras when you check the cards
  • If you’re gun hunting, watch the oil and solvents—they stink
  • Have several routes to walk into your stand so as to keep with the wind

If you do everything you can to reduce your scent signature, you’re going to have a better chance to bring home a big buck, or even more tricky, a mature doe. Try fooling an old dry doe. Now that is a challenge!

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of OutdoorHub. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.
  • Hopalong

    You don’t need to buy all the stuff, but scent is a problem for every hunter. Here is a tip folks.
    Do your laundry with 3 tbl. Spoons of backing soda. And then carry a small spray bottle of Baking soda and water 50/50 in your pack. When you get set up, spray a light mist on your clothes and hat and your good to go.

    Also have a hunting set of clothes and a set of clothes you cook in around camp. Just smoke from camp fires will keep the cooler empty. And don’t forget that baking soda spray.

    • Terri T.

      Might do well to make the mixure of H2O and white vinegar, to skip any dried residue from the soda on the clothing. Spray soon enough for the vinegar odor to dissipate… 25 – 40% vinegar to water, works to deodorize a room. By the way, other than the mindset of “if it costs more, it must be better”, what became of storing your garb in a sack with some vegetation from the hunting area?

      • MIbuckSLAYER

        When you put your hunting clothes in a sack with “local vegetation” such as pine boughs or leaves of some kind, the moisture from the vegetation is trapped inside that bag. As the moisture comes out of the vegetation it is naturally absorbed by your clothing, once the clothing absorbs the moisture its starts to mold and instantly starts to produce bacteria, which then produces that nasty moldy smell.

  • Peter Wood – Hunt Talk

    Hey Derrek their all great scent reducing tips to defeat a deer awesome sense of smell. I practice safe scent control long before hunting season begins. Hunting coyotes in the winter tends to keep you on your toes when scent is involved even in freezing temperatures. Long before deer season begins I will be hanging tree stands in late August or September that may also alert local deer if you leave a trail of stinky human scent everywhere. I would think one of the biggest offenders would be hunting boots not being kept scent free. Wear them in your truck and they will pick up all sorts of unfavourable odours like gasoline from floor matts. I keep both pair of hunting boots (insulated and rubber) stored in a separate air tight container with deodorizers. While my outfits are in another one.Cedar branches also work to some degree but do dry out and leave a mess. My sealed hunting closet has Ever Bamboo deodorizers to work year round. Trail cameras, straps and security boxes are kept as scent free as possible with scent eliminating wipes & spray ( I use Buck Fever ) .Wearing latex gloves helps if you touch any branches. Naturally showering before a hunt is critical but just as important is preventing human scent contamination in the field long before your season begins. Good hunting. Peter