As many of you know, deer hunting presents many challenges, and one of those challenges is staying scent-free so that we don’t get spotted. In the bowhunting community, going for a trip smelling like everything you’ve come in contact with that day is a big no-no and should be avoided if you want a successful hunting trip.
Although staying completely scent-free is challenging, it can be done, for the most part. From natural to store-bought scents, there are many ways to conceal and eliminate our odor and it is important you do so, or else you will find out quickly that you won’t be catching any deer on your trip, or at least not easily.
Many hunters like to argue that hunting the wind is the best and only tactic to use when hunting, but for others, this answer will differ. Each hunter has a different experience with each scent-covering tactic and I say if it works, use it.
Yes, hunting the wind is very effective and has been one of the number one ways of keeping your scent from under the noses of deer, but as times have changed, there are more and more ways that we can utilize to add to the effectiveness of this strategy. Check out these tips and methods and you’ll be well on your way to bagging your next buck in no time.
Covering Your Scent
I know you may be thinking about how deer poop can help cover your scent and I realize it sounds weird, but hear me out. Deer will be most attracted and used to smells that they are familiar with, so getting a little deer poop on yourself will definitely help cover your scent.
Does this mean to rub it all over your body? No. But, it can be stepped on and applied to the bottom of your boots. A little deer poop can go a long way, so keep your eye out for it on your next hunt to instantly step your game up.
Not a very popular method as having some of this stuff on you can call for a smelly hunt and smelly ride home, but it has been said to be effective. Some hunters, find it most effective to spray a little on their hunting clothes and on any gear they may have brought along, but others, they won’t even get close to it, and I don’t blame them.
If you want to use doe urine to hide your scent from deer, though, then it is recommended to get an old scent-free pair of cloth and spray it on that. Doing it this way will prevent you from smelling like pee and will make getting rid of the smell after the hunt that much easier.
There are two ways to cover your scent with pine and that is by using the actual pine tree leaves and then also the sap from it. As far as the leaves go, you can simply use it by rubbing your clothes up against them, on or off, and putting a little of it in a tote with your hunting gear so that it has time for the smell to really stick to the clothes while you are not hunting.
Another way is by using the actual sap. Usually, when you see a pine tree, there will be sap oozing out of it. You can find this either where a branch has been cut off or on the side of the tree. It is thick, and sticky and will sometimes even be hard if it has had time to dry. But that’s okay because we’ll want it like that so that it is easier to collect.
After finding a tree with some sap on it, you’ll want to pick it or scoop it off and then put it in a container, such as an empty tin can. After you’ve collected about a can’s worth of it, you’ll want to put it over a stove and melt it until it is nice and runny. After you get it to this consistency, take a spoon or anything else you can use to scoop it up with and apply about a teaspoon’s worth of it on all your outside hunting gear.
Be careful though, as it will be very hot.
Keep in mind that pine carries a very strong odor, so you will not need much more than that to get the job done.
When I say dirt spray I don’t exactly mean get a pile of dirt, put it in a bottle, and mix it with some water(although that might work), but instead, use a store-bought scent that imitates the smell of fresh dirt.
This particular spray has not only helped many hunters stay hidden from deer but has also done a great job at pleasing their noses as well. To me and other hunters, there’s nothing that smells better than the fresh aroma of the outdoors during the early hours of a hunt, so what better way to recreate this smell than by picking up a bottle of it?
Apply some of this all over your clothes as directed on the bottle right before a hunt to get the most out of it.
Yes, I do sometimes recommend store-bought odor blockers for hunting when I feel a product is really good, but as a true advocate of using natural scents to block out smells, that’ll always be my first choice.
With that said, I always recommend going with what I call the “vegetation spray”. This spray consists of pretty much anything you can pick up off the hunting grounds such as leaves, pine needles, dirt, and acorns.
This method of covering your scent can be done in a few easy steps and will require little effort to make it.
Step 1 – Go out to where you plan on hunting and gather what you can see on the ground and throw it in a bag. As stated above, this will include anything from leaves to acorns, so get about a pound’s worth and then head back to either your home, portable stove or fireplace.
Step 2 – After picking out any pollution such as plastic or poop that you may have picked up when grabbing your vegetation, dump the bag of what you collected into a large pot and then add water. After you’ve done this, set your pot on the stove and then turn it to high heat. Let it come to a boil so that the vegetation breaks down into the water.
Step 3 – After it’s done boiling, take it off the stove and let it cool down for about 20-25 minutes. After it’s cooled down, drain the water from the pot into a large bowl and then carefully pour that same bowl into a spray bottle. This step can be difficult, so I recommend bringing a funnel along.
Step 4 – Once you’ve transferred the water to the spray bottle, generously spray the liquid onto your hunting equipment from head to toe. After that, you’re done.
This method is easy, fairly quick, and doesn’t cost a dime.
Preventing Your Scent
Cover scents are amazing at hiding your scent from the keen senses of a deer’s nose, but if we don’t take the right steps before and during the hunt, we could still blow our chances at staying hidden from them.
Take a look at some of these tips and incorporate them into your life during deer hunting season so that you’ll always have one over on the deer.
Avoid Excessive Sweating
Not only will excessive sweating make you colder in the winter and smelly in the summer, but it can also greatly increase your chances of spooking a deer away. Deer are great at picking up multiple smells at once, so if you are using a cover scent while also sweating excessively, the deer will likely smell the cover scent and you at the same time.
To avoid sweating too much, try keeping movement in the field to a minimum. I know it can be tempting to go out there and track your next deer down by foot when you have enough adrenaline pumping through your body, but if you want to do more good than harm, then it is best to wait it out a while and see if they’ll come to you before moving to a different location.
Another great way to avoid sweating profusely is to simply stay out of the sun on hotter days.
Don’t Create A Smell
Doing things such as smoking, drinking, or dipping during a hunt can create a ton of smell around you and should absolutely be avoided when hunting. After doing a little research, I found that
some hunters have been able to get away with some of these things without having much consequence to it, but more times than not, this will likely get you spotted fairly quickly.
As a bowhunter, I like to take my chances when tracking down a deer, but when it comes to tobacco use in the field, I simply wouldn’t risk it. Preparation takes a lot of time before a hunt and to blow it because of the smell of tobacco or any other item that might create a large scent is simply not worth it.
You can try hunting while doing this if you want to, but I strongly advise you not to. This could get you in trouble with the deer and other fellow hunters who might be hunting in your area as well.
Tobacco and food can be a great way to get you busted, but here are some other ways as well …
Urinating By Your Hunting Location
Opening Bags That Were Brought From Home
Play The Wind
One of the oldest tricks when it comes to masking your scent from deer, playing with the wind. Using the wind to effectively hunt deer has been one of the most effective techniques for keeping your scent away from them and is the method that is commonly recommended by almost any and all hunters.
To put it simply, you’ll want to avoid hunting the wind if it is blowing in the direction that the deer are coming from. If you don’t avoid this, you’ll likely blow your scent right into them and ruin your chances of shooting one before you even see them.
Hunt the wind effectively and you’ll be surprised at how differently your hunting trip turns out compared to other trips where you haven’t.
Eliminate Fragrance-Heavy Detergents
Fragrance-heavy detergents such as Tide and Bounty are great for washing your personal clothes in, but when it comes to your hunting clothes, this is a huge mistake. The smell of leaves on my personal clothes is so strong that it would take a few washes to get out, so if it’s that hard to come out of thin clothes, imagine how hard it will be to come out of clothes that are thicker.
Showing up to the field smelling like a large bottle of laundry soap will make the deer smell you before you even get out of the car and will have you hunting the land for hours with little to no luck. To make sure this doesn’t happen, purchase a separate bottle of soap specifically for your hunting clothes that don’t carry any scent to them.
Here are a few trustworthy brands that carry scent-free laundry detergents …
Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin
Dead Down Wind
Code Blue D/Code
No Scented Softeners
Okay, now that we know that we shouldn’t use a detergent that contains any fragrance, we should also know that we shouldn’t use any scented fabric softeners as well. Like laundry soap, fabric softeners are great for making your clothes smell good and also keeping your clothes really soft, but for your hunting clothes, this is the opposite of what you want.
So, with that said, it is recommended to use fabric softeners that are completely scent free or skip out on using them at all. They are just as harmful as detergent and should be avoided like the plague.
Wipe the dryer out beforehand to get any smells out that may have been left in there from previous loads of laundry and carefully toss your hunting gear in. These little sheets can be strong, so it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to them.
Wash Clothes Frequently
Between hunting in the hot summer sun and field dressing wild game after a day’s long pursuit, your hunting clothes will oftentimes get exposed to all the dirtiness that comes along with it. Body odor, feces, dirt, and blood are some of these things, just to name a few.
If you want to avoid completely scaring the game away, you’ll want to wash your clothes out thoroughly afterward. Refusing to do so will not only scare away the deer. but maybe even the hunters’ too.
If paired with other items in your bag or tote, smelly hunting clothes can taint other gear and therefore cause you to do triple the work trying to get the smell out of those as well. So, as soon as you get home from a hunt, throw your gear in the washer and store them away in a scent-free tote or bag afterward.
Although we may not be able to smell ourselves at all times, that doesn’t mean that deer can’t. Humans carry a very distinct smell that deer recognize and will automatically be afraid of if picked up. And although there is no real way to get rid of it, there is a way to reduce it.
Right before your hunt, take a nice, hot shower to wash away all the sweat, grime, and a lot of the natural scent that you carry. The body naturally produces oil, and when the skin is oily, it is likely to radiate more of a smell as opposed to if it weren’t.
I’m not saying crank the heat up and scald yourself just to get all the oils off of you because that could cause extreme itchiness and cracked skin, but thoroughly scrub your body with a scent-free soap to get as much of your natural scent off as possible.
Keep Your Breath Fresh
Who knew it’d be so important to practice good dental hygiene before a hunt?
Many people may not know this, but bad breath can, in fact, scare deer away. Whether your breath smells like a large sub sandwich packed with onions or tobacco from a container of dip, you will be spotted.
Coughing or sneezing can put this smell in the air and although it may sound crazy, will travel to where the deer are depending on what direction the wind is blowing in. So, although it’s okay to dip while hunting or even chow down on a sandwich after being out in the field for a few hours, it is not recommended.
If possible, try to leave any tobacco at home and brush your teeth thoroughly before you head out. When bringing food, try to eat it in the car and bring some water, a toothbrush, and scent-free toothpaste to wash your mouth out afterward.
During the winter seasons, it is great to bundle up and dress as heavy as possible to make sure you stay warm. But, in the summer, this will obviously want to be avoided. Wearing heavy clothing can make hunting difficult by causing you to overheat and sweat heavily while doing so.
In colder weather conditions, you will want to dress heavy, but when it’s hot you’ll want to keep your gear light. Wear breathable clothes such as shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, and loose undergarments to allow air to flow through more easily.
You will still be sweating as it is impossible to stop completely, but after replacing your clothes with lighter ones you’ll at least be sweating a lot less.
Hunting is a messy sport at times and some things are simply out of our control when it comes to staying clean, so in the case that you do get too dirty despite all your efforts in trying not to, it is good to have a backup pair of hunting clothes.
Sweating can be extremely hard to avoid when temperatures reach 80 degrees or higher regardless of if you’re staying out of the sun or not, so having that quick change of clothes readily available to you when you have to change will quickly eliminate a lot of the smell from natural body odor and allow you to get back out there in the field.
It is recommended to spray your secondary pair of clothes as well to give you that extra layer of concealment and to eliminate a lot of the extra odor that may still be lingering on your body from the previous pair of clothes.
Keep Everything Sealed
There are tons of things that could cause your hunting clothes to smell funny. Cigarette smoke, candles, air fresheners, you name it. And although you may think to tuck your gear in your dresser
or in the closet, this will likely not be enough to keep the smell off of them.
If you really want to keep them fresh and scent-free, get your hands on some vacuum bags. These bags will keep the air out and ensure that your gear smells just how it did after running it through the washer.
Make sure to put your clothes directly into the vacuum bags as soon as they are done drying. If you dried your clothes outside, just seal them up where you hung them before even bringing them back into the house. You don’t want to chance to contaminate them with the natural smell of your home
Store Your Hunting Clothes
After sealing your clothes up, put them in a place where they will be out of reach from animals and children. Animals could tear holes in your bags with their teeth and claws and children are curious and sometimes like to get into things they aren’t supposed to.
So, put them up somewhere safe such as a shelf in your closet or in the back of your truck or car. Doing so will keep your clothes untouched and will make sure that they stay scent-free until it’s time to take them out and hunt again.
Fuel Up The Day Before
You may have plans to get up in the morning, eat a nice, hearty breakfast and then head to the gas station to fill the tank up full of gas, but you shouldn’t. As you know, gas carries a VERY strong smell to it, and it will no doubt stick to your clothes before, during, and after the hunt.
If you want to avoid this problem, which you probably should, I recommend heading to the gas station the day before or any day before to get gas for that matter. This will save you from going back home and skipping your hunt because you had to rewash your gear.
Yes, I said passing gas. It’s natural to fart and sometimes when you have to let one out, you just have to let it out, but just like the odor that comes from our mouth, the odor that comes from down there will spook deer away as well.
Make sure to keep breakfast fairly light and avoid anything that might upset the stomach or produce a lot of gas in your system.
Keep A Pair Of Gloves On your Hand
For many hunters, they don’t dress in their hunting gear until after they’ve arrived at their location. And although you may not believe it, the hands carry a ton of scent and bacteria. With that said, handling them after touching dozens of things will definitely make your scent stick to them.
Latex gloves are known to carry a pretty strong rubber smell, so instead of using those, get a pair of regular hunting gloves and throw them in a vacuum bag to keep them fresh for when you have to handle your hunting gear.
You can wash your clothes, seal your clothes, and take the proper steps to make sure your clothes stay scent-free until you get to the field, but as soon as you hug someone, all that goes out the window.
I know there’s no harm in giving your children or wife a hug before leaving the house, especially when you’re getting ready to go on a long hunt, but this simple act can actually hurt you. Your loved ones can carry anything from perfume scents to food scents and should definitely be avoided before hunting.
So, unfortunately, you’ll have to let them know that you won’t be able to give any hugs until you get back home. Hopefully, they understand.
I know one might naturally think that the more you have, the better, but in the case of neutralizing scents, this is not true. Applying too much scent cover onto your clothes can make for an extremely strong smell and will also cause you to run out too quickly.
A little bit of pine cover scent will go a long way because of its strong odor and will usually not need to be applied more than once during a trip. Name-brand scents have instructions on the back of the bottle and will guide you on what to do to get the most out of it without dousing your clothes with the whole bottle.
There are many things we can do to try and keep our natural odor and other odors at bay, but the truth is that it’s impossible to get rid of them completely. Keeping scents that are created from outside our bodies can be managed in many ways, but when it comes to eliminating the natural scent of a human, it cannot fully be done.
With these tips, though, we can cut back on it, a lot. Between touching other people, smoking cigarettes, or even drinking a cup of coffee, staying scent-free can be extremely challenging, but with enough practice, it’ll become easier and easier.
Keep this article in mind next time you prepare for a hunt so that you can take all the necessary steps for eliminating odor and staying odorless as much as you possibly can.