When it comes to scent control hunting tactics, we’ve heard it all. There are folks who will rub deer droppings on their clothes or cover themselves with skunk scent to attempt to fool a whitetail’s nose. Sure, those avenues can certainly mask human odor and has led to many successful harvests, but there are a few simple steps you can follow that won’t leave you smelling foul all season long.
It starts with a combination of factors: odor control, scent masking and wind direction. The first begins before you ever leave home, and requires you to take care to keep your clothes and body free of odor. In the woods is where scent masking and wind direction come into play. During the rut, doe estrous can work to mask your scent and act as an attractant. No matter the time of year, or time of day for that matter, ensuring you’re downwind from a deer is the only surefire way to reduce your chances of being detected.
To deer, the deodorants, washing detergents and colognes that we cover ourselves in are a red flag, alerting them to our presence. Even our natural smells, such as the bacteria growth that results from sweating, is enough to ward off a buck. Try to limit those smells as much as possible, starting with your body. Before a hunt, scrub down with odorless shampoo and soap then either dry yourself with a hair dryer or towel that’s been cleansed with odor free detergent. This’ll remove any odor causing bacteria but won’t leave you smelling fragrant. Baking soda is another good option to wash with, as it acts as a natural scent killer. Use an odorless anti-perspirant, too, and consider keeping it in your hunting pack to freshen up while you’re in the woods.
Scent control hunting tactics start with your clothes, ensuring they are odor free.
Wash your hunting clothes in odorless detergent, then hang them outside. Spray them with a scent killing spray and let them dry completely. Once dry, store your clothes in an airtight bag until you’re ready to hit the woods. Also, spray any gear you’ll be carrying in the woods, including your safety harness, gloves, hat, hunting pack and treestand seat.
Before you enter the woods, spray yourself and your gear with scent killing spray again. Avoid touching any branches with your bare hands, and wear rubber boots, which are naturally scent free. Grab a handful of fresh, fragrant vegetation, wet it, mash it up and then rub it on your clothes before you begin trekking.
A mock scrape is a great way to not only mask your scent, but work as an attractant. Create one 20 to 30 yards from your stand. Once in the tree, consider using scent wafers, such as “fresh earth,” that will mask any residual human odor.
A whitetail has millions of scent receptors in its nose, capable of picking up subtle odors and even deciphering what they are. For instance, if a deer picks up a smell from a predator upwind, it can determine if it’s a coyote or a human. So, all of the preparation in the world won’t help you if the wind is blowing straight toward the deer you’re hunting. Always, and we mean always, consider the wind direction while hunting. You can keep a wind indicator in your pack to check, which can be as simple as a flag near your stand, or a bottle full of white powder.
As a general rule of thumb, you want the wind to blow your scent away from where you anticipate the deer approaching. Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate, so have back up spots that you can hunt in varying conditions. A big buck getting a whiff of your scent consistently can be enough to push him out of the area or become nocturnal all season long.