When hunting whitetail scent control is a top priority. In this article I will go through a basic process I use and a few tips you may not have tried to help control your scent.
A whitetail’s sense of smell is their main defense. I have read that a whitetail’s sense of smell is nearly 33% greater than that of a hunting dog. If you have hunted over a dog you know they follow their prey with their nose. A dog hunting into the wind can smell game at very impressive distances. Dogs chasing birds, coon, rabbit, bear, cougar, etc., follow tracks and areas that the body of their prey touched brush, weeds, anything. And they do it with unbelievable accuracy. Now, increase the effectiveness of their nose by nearly 1/3rd and you have the whitetail. Deer can smell where you nicked a branch with your sleeve, where you stepped, where a drop of sweat hit the ground.
Though I do not believe anything on the market can completely eliminate human scent or the need for “playing the wind”, I do everything I can to cut down on my stink! The way I think about it is this, maybe doing this allows me to see more deer, or maybe it helps to cover my entry and exit to and from my stands. Here is my process with a few tips thrown in.
I start with the basics: wash my clothes, put them in air tight containers and a quality “scent free” or “scent destroying” spray. However, before I even wash my clothes I run my washing machine through a cycle without clothes and with scent free detergent. My hopes are that this “cleans out” the washing machine from its normal use. I then wipe down the dryer with scent free towels. If you live in an area that you can dry your clothes outside without it smelling like exhaust, a grill, anything un-natural, that is probably a better route to take. But most “scent” clothing needs to be dried at a certain temperature to activate.
I never wear my hunting clothes in my truck. I’m not just talking about the outer layer, the only thing I wear in my truck that I will wear in the field are my boxers. No, I’m not sitting in my truck in just my boxers, I do wear pants and a t-shirt. When I park my vehicle I strip down and put the first layer on followed by outer layers of camo, depending on the weather. I do love the looks I get when someone drives by and sees me before an afternoon hunt! If it is really warm, I carry my clothes in a “scent free bag” and change in the woods.
I always wear rubber boots, even when it is really cold. I have warm and cold weather rubber boots. Over the years I have tested the different types of boots I wear. Deer still smell my footprints with rubber boots on, but it is nothing compared to a deer’s reaction I have seen when I wear leather boots to stand. I have watched curious deer follow the steps I took right to the base of my stand when wearing rubber boots. These are usually young deer but imagine what a mature buck would do.
- Storing Clothing
I have two air tight totes for storing my clothing. Before the season I cut branches and lay them on the bottom of the tote. If it’s mainly oaks where I hunt, I cut a few oak tree branches and lay them in the tote. I also gather some leaves and lay them with the branches. I can smell the branches/leaves when I open the tote and smell them on my clothing.
The second thing I do is to put a bit of baking soda along the bottom. You know the trick of putting baking soda in your fridge to get rid of unwanted odors, same concept. The other thing I do with baking soda is put a bit in my boots. I am not sure how well this works but when I take my boots off often times my socks have little to no noticeable scent.
- Outside Influences on Scent Control
One thing many do not think about is their drive to the woods. I do not get gas or stop at a store if I can help it. I may be going overboard with precautions but feel stopping at a gas station, or store, can add scents to me that a deer can smell. Sometimes I can smell the food they are offering for breakfast, or lunch or dinner, on my clothes when I walk out of a gas station. If I can smell it, everything else can too.
In the Field Tips
Every year I buy a box of powder free latex gloves. I use them when I check trail cameras. About 4 years ago I was headed to a stand and decided to check a trail camera on the way in. It was on a trail about 75 yards from my stand. I was heading in 5 hours before dark and knew the deer were normally in the area the last half hour of light. So I thought it was no big deal checking the camera. Well, a year and a half old doe decided she wanted to browse a bit earlier in the day. About 2 hours after I sat down she showed up on the trail I had walked in on. She was walking along until she got to my camera. She turned, obviously smelled the camera, and took off like she was shot out of a cannon. She “blew” and alerted the entire woods that something was wrong. I learned not to check cameras on the way in and also learned to wear gloves.
The second point on checking cameras is to dress knowing that anything you brush up against will leave scent. Wear rubber boots, hip waders, anything to leave less scent. The deer where I hunt are used to 4 wheelers being in the area, so I use that when I am checking any cameras back further in the woods.
One more “In the field tip” and it has to do with food. I usually eat enough before I leave that if I am sitting for a morning or evening hunt I don’t have to eat on stand. But I sit all day long during the rut so I have to pack a lunch and snacks. My go-to was a nice venison sausage sandwich. I loved it, sitting out there eating venison and waiting for more for the table. Well, one day it was pretty warm and I started smelling sausage. Makes sense, right? It’s sausage, duh! I switched to a pb&j and double bag it now. I take a piece of fruit or trail mix for a snack and some bottled water.
My process and tips seem to work well for me. I see more deer now than I had in the past and believe at least part of it is the scent control process. If you have the wind figured out and have good stand placement, then adding good scent control habits will increase the odds of harvesting the deer you are after.
Have fun and be safe!