Scent Control - It's All About the Details!

Steve Johnson

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  • Prostaff Member Steve Johnson

11 Point Whitetail Deer

As a human it's hard to fully understand how a whitetail deer could live by its nose. Humans do not function this way, and if we had to survive simply through the use of our noses, we probably wouldn't make it very long. On the other hand, whitetail deer live by their noses, and mature whitetails learn to rely on their noses more than any other sense. A whitetail deer's nose is to him what eyes are to humans; he trusts what he smells more than any of his other senses. The cliché, “I have to see it to believe it,” represents humans’ heavily reliance on eyesight.

With this in mind, let's talk about the importance of scent control. I firmly believe that it is impossible to go totally undetected by a whitetail's nose. So what we must do if we want to consistently score on mature whitetail deer is practice scent control. This means minimizing the amount of foreign odors we take into the woods with us. I see people make mistakes all the time that may ruin their hunt before they even step foot in the woods, most without even knowing it.

Some of these things include wearing your hunting boots while you are pumping gas or wearing your hunting clothes to do anything other than go into the woods. Certain things may never cross your mind, or seem harmless, such as warming up your truck while it is backed up to an open garage door. While you are inside waiting for a warm truck, exhaust fumes are steadily pumping into the garage, either absorbing into the hunting clothes you’re wearing as you walk through, or into the clothes and accessories you have laying around. These are some of the mistakes that allow foreign odors to tag along with you on your hunt. These odors will serve as major alarms to a whitetail deer, especially a mature whitetail deer. A mature deer will detect these foreign odors much further away than you can imagine and slip away in the other direction without you ever laying eyes on him.

Scent control isn't a new concept. There are thousands of articles written about scent elimination and scent control. I would like to share the ritual I follow to help guarantee I enter the woods as scent-free as possible. This may seem a little extreme, but it doesn't take much more time to take care of the “details”. After all, if you are going to get up at 4:00 in the morning and sit in the freezing cold, you should take every step possible to help ensure that all your efforts aren't wasted by a few missed details.

1) Take a scent free shower before each trip to the woods, including scouting. Use scent-free soap, shampoo and deodorant.
2) Wash all hunting clothes, bags and undergarments in scent-free detergent. I also use fresh earth dryer sheets, which work wonders (do not use with carbon clothes)! Take your clothes out of the dryer and directly into the scent-safe bag.
3) Knee-high rubber boots are a MUST for scent control.
4) Keep all clothing in scent-safe bags, including undergarments, boots, hats, and packs. Only remove them when you are ready to put them on to go into the woods. If it's hot, I will carry them in the scent-safe bag to the stand (or close to the stand), so as not to get them sweaty (be mindful of scent on the outside of the bag and be sure to leave it out of sight).
5) Never wear any hunting clothes, undergarments, boots, etc, while driving to your hunting property, including while on an ATV. Use your bags to get your clothes there as scent-free as possible, then dress when you get to where you are leaving the truck or ATV.
6) Once dressed, be sure to spray yourself thoroughly with a scent-eliminating spray, heavily coating your boots. Don't forget to spray your pack. I also spray anything inside the pack and all my equipment including my bow or gun.
7) I use cover scents on the bottom of my boots, but you must match the scent to your environment. For example, if you don't have red foxes where you are hunting, you shouldn't use red fox urine as a cover scent.
8) Be mindful of things you are bringing into the woods. If you bring a snack, make sure it doesn't have a strong foreign odor. Apples are great hunting snacks!

All of this may seem a little over the top, especially if you just hunt casually, but to me it's always more exciting to see deer during my time in the field, and these steps should allow that to happen a lot more often. Once I became what my wife calls “obsessive about whitetails,” I grew to realize that the more time I spend on scent control, the more whitetail deer I see in the woods. A whitetail's nose is a phenomenal weapon in their arsenal of survival tools, and if you expect to beat it on any kind of consistent basis, you need to practice “scent control” and practice it well.

Once you arrange your scent control ritual and learn to live by it for all your hunting, I am sure that you will have more success in the woods. It isn't much, in my opinion, to do all your homework and buy all the latest gadgets to help you get closer to whitetails if you aren't going to take care of the “details”. When hunting whitetail deer, it's the little things that seem to have the biggest effect on success or failure in the woods.

Posted by Steve Johnson under Bowhunting on July 22, 06 12:00 PM | Permalink

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