Brad Harvey: Squashing the stench to fool the buck’s nose

November 5, 2013 

For years, deer hunters have known that deer can smell you a mile away and placing your set-ups to “play the wind” is the vital to deer hunting success.

When I was coming up, however, that was the extent of it and you were on your own to make it work.

Things have changed during the past 25 years. These days we not only have specialized, scent-eliminating detergents for our hunting clothes but also scent-free soaps and shampoos for our bodies. There are hunting clothes that actually absorb odor and sprays to use as we enter the field that can mask odor or eradicate it.

It has even gone so far that we are able to make use of ozone to kill just about any type of smell that you can imagine both at home and in the tree.

With all of this technology, and the products that are out there today, let’s take a look at how best to put them to use to increase our odds.

The laundry room

I’ll admit to having been a major skeptic in regards to all of the scent robbing products back when they first hit the market. It all seemed like nothing more than a gimmick to sell a bunch of things to outdoorsmen. Taking proper care of the clothes that you hunt in is the one place that it all made sense to me and this was the first aspect of scent elimination that I embraced.

The laundry room is where it all starts. Whether it’s your favorite camo or jeans, the moment you put them on, they begin to collect odors.

By using one of the many unscented, hunter-specific detergents that feature enzymes to eat up the stink, you’re guaranteed to get rid of the problem and truly start fresh each time you pull on your clothes to head to the woods.

A major plus to using these detergents is that they don’t include the UV brighteners and perfumes found in most common grocery store brand.

Once your camo is clean, you’ll likely be tossing it in the dryer. Be sure to pick up some unscented dryer sheets for this purpose.

If you do nothing else, properly laundering your hunting clothes is important. Keep in mind that your clothes will need to go straight from the dryer into a some sort of container or bag that will keep them away from and smells.

For this, I use a large plastic tote with a lid that allows me to transport my garb in it as well and I never carry anything inside but the things I’ll wear in the field.

In the shower

Correctly preparing your body is a huge issue. Most all of the same makers of the scent eliminating detergents also offer body soaps and shampoos that will help you get the stink off of yourself. This is one area where it pays to take a hard look at what you’re buying.

Some of these body soaps are nothing more than regular soap without any added scent that carry a big price tag while others include enzymes, silver and various other odor eaters that will go much further in your pursuit to be scentless. The ones that include all of the “good stuff” are definitely worth the money.

The old adage of “spitting into the wind” definitely comes into play if you’re only using these products to shower before a hunt.

The residues of normal branded shampoos and soaps simply can’t be washed off in one trip through the shower.

Since I’m heading out on my annual trip to Kansas this week, I’ve been using my hunting body soap and shampoo for days in advance and, even if you’re not going anywhere but the backyard, it pays to use nothing but these products during the season if you’re hunting a lot.

Spray it down

Remember when I mentioned being a skeptic in the early days of scent elimination? Back then I used to get the biggest laugh out of folks who incorporated spraying themselves down with a bottle full of black carbon liquid that was supposed to absorb scent.

I knew that carbon would help to reduce odors, but there was no way I was going to be squirting myself with that nasty looking stuff. Fast forward to today and the game, as it relates to killing odors with spray, has seriously changed.

Hunter’s Specialties’ “Scent-A-Way” was the first to hit the market that actually accomplished what it said it would do and it’s still a good one today.

Others have joined them on the shelves that include other things like silver that attack smells on the molecular level and I can assure you that they work.

Several years ago, Primos ran a commercial where they used their spray that incorporates silver and sprayed down a cotton ball soaked with doe estrus urine to prove the product’s effectiveness.

Knowing just how badly that stuff smells I thought that surely it couldn’t work that well. Well, of course, I had to try it myself.

What I found was that the Primos spray immediately removed all of the smell of the deer urine. I let it sit for several days and checked back occasionally only to find that it was still working well with only the slightest aroma after three days.

That little test was enough to convince me that they had a great product and I’ve been a firm believer ever since. After all, if it can eradicate the stench of that stuff it would have no problem getting rid of any normal smells that I might pick up on me, my clothes, my boots or anything else that I carry into the woods.

Next week, we’ll take a hard look at the rest of the equation in regards to scent elimination and take the process all the way to the treestand.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors

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