As a bow hunter, your success largely depends on your ability to get within close range of your prey without being detected. This is especially true when hunting skittish animals like deer that have an incredibly acute sense of smell. One whiff of human scent can send them bounding away, so utilizing scent control strategies is absolutely crucial.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know as a bow hunter to effectively control your scent in the field. We’ll explore scent control products, field tactics, gear, pre-hunt preparations, and more. While mastering scent control takes time and experience, following these tips and techniques will give you a major edge. Let’s get started!
- Controlling scent is crucial for getting close to deer as bow hunters. Deer have an incredibly acute sense of smell.
- Effective strategies include scent elimination, scent masking, odor absorption, dispersion tools, specialized gear/clothing, and more.
- Properly preparing before the hunt is just as important as implementing field tactics. Maintain consistent hygiene routines and scent-free gear storage.
- Position yourself downwind, utilize cover scents, and remain still/quiet when on stand. Be mindful of your movements walking in and out.
- After the hunt, immediately seal gear in bags, wash clothes, fully dry, and maintain storage containers.
- Avoid common mistakes like using scented products, improper storage, disregard for wind, and touching vegetation unnecessarily.
An Introduction to Scent Control
Before diving into strategies, let’s cover the basics of understanding and controlling human scent. As bow hunters, we need to remember that animals like deer can detect odors we don’t even notice. Their sense of smell is exponentially more powerful than ours. Deer in particular have up to 297 million olfactory receptors in their nostrils, compared to only 5 million for humans. Their ability to detect even minute amounts of odor in the air is incredible.
Additionally, deer associate any foreign smells with danger. Smells like human scent, vehicle exhaust, fuel, cosmetics, or scented detergents will immediately put deer on high alert. They may even abandon areas with unnatural smells altogether. This highlights why managing scent is so critical for hunters.
So what exactly are we trying to control? There are three main types of scent we emit:
- Skin Odors: Odors emitted from gland secretions in our skin. These include oils, sweat, and waste products.
- Breath Odors: Smells emitted when we exhale air, like food we’ve eaten.
- Bacterial Odors: Smells produced by bacteria on our body, clothes, gear, etc.
The goal is to eliminate or mask these odors so deer simply think you’re part of the natural landscape. Easier said than done, but very possible with dedication to scent control.
Implementing scent control strategies takes effort, but the benefits make it more than worthwhile. Here are some of the biggest perks:
- Get Closer to Deer: Masking your odor allows you to hunt undetected, getting within ideal archery range of deer.
- Increase Shooting Opportunities: With deer unaware of your presence, you’ll get more chances to take ethical shots.
- Hunt Any Wind Direction: If you eliminate scent, you can hunt no matter which way the wind blows.
- Hunt Pressured Areas: Scent control allows you to keep hunting public lands and other pressured areas.
- All Day Hunts: You can stay on stand all day without alerting deer by midday.
- Better Behaviors: Deer will exhibit relaxed, natural behaviors since they don’t smell danger.
- Higher Success Rates: More shot opportunities means higher odds of bringing home a deer.
The difference between hunting “scent aware” versus “scent ignorant” is enormous. Don’t handicap yourself by ignoring odor control.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore the main types of scent control strategies used by bow hunters:
The goal here is to completely eradicate human odors from your body, clothes, gear and anything else you bring hunting. This involves diligent use of specialized scent-free soaps, detergents, deodorants, sprays, and more. The focus is eliminating odor at the source.
Rather than eliminating odors, scent masking aims to conceal human smells with another stronger odor. Common masking scents used by hunters include earth, pine, acorn, deer urine, and other natural cover scents familiar to deer in the area.
Odor absorption tactics aim to trap, absorb, and neutralize odors before they can be emitted. Activated carbon is used extensively for absorption. It’s woven into clothing, used in sprays, or placed in storage containers or ground blinds.
With scent dispersion, you allow odors to release but use air flow to avoid leaving a concentrated trail for deer to follow. Positioning yourself downwind and using thermal air currents is an example. Ozone generators also fall under this category.
As you can see, there are several effective approaches to managing scent. Most bow hunters utilize a combination of these strategies for optimal odor control.
Critical Gear and Clothing for Scent Control
Let’s discuss some of the most important gear and clothing items bow hunters should be using for scent control. Investing in the right equipment makes a major impact.
- Scent-Free Hunting Apparel: Choose clothing made with activated carbon, synthetic materials, and antimicrobial technologies. Avoid cotton, wool, and other fabrics that hold odors.
- Rubber Boots: Rubber/PVC boots prevent odors from your feet spreading to the ground as you walk. Leather boots absorb odors.
- Scent-Proof Storage Bags: Store gear in bags made of materials like GoreTex to seal in odors between hunts.
- Ozone Generators: Portable units that disperse ozone to neutralize odors. Used in storage containers or directly in your treestand.
- Scent-Free Ground Blinds: Blinds made with carbon-infused materials that absorb and contain odors emitted inside.
- Scent-Free Detergent: Wash clothes in special detergents like Wildlife Research Center’s Scent Killer that break down odor.
- Scent-Eliminating Spray: Spray down your body and gear with products like Scent Crusher or Dead Down Wind to remove odors.
- Scent-Proof Rubber Gloves: Prevent skin odors from contaminating your clothes and gear as you handle them.
This covers some of the most vital equipment for keeping human scent under control. Invest in quality odor-eliminating products.
Let’s go over some of the top scent control products available to bow hunters today. Having the right tools makes executing strategies much easier.
- Scent Crusher Lone Wolf Bio-Tech Wash: Contains bio-enzymes that break down odor particles and prevents them from reforming.
- Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer Extreme: Their most powerful formula using proprietary micro-encapsulation technology. Also available as an in-field body wipe.
- Dead Down Wind Kill-to-Thrill Total Odor Elimination Kit: Comes with laundry detergent, bar soap, and deodorant for full-body odor removal.
Scent Eliminating Sprays
- Ozonics HR-200: Uses ozone dispersion to eliminate odors across a 200 yard diameter from your stand. Covers scent as you move.
- Scent Crusher Ozone Go: Portable ozone generator you can wear in the field to create a scent-free bubble as you hunt. Reaches 50 yards.
- Scent Killer Gold With T3: Features odor-grabbing T3 technology. Used for gear, clothes, boots, and to establish a scent-free zone at your stand.
- Code Blue’s Peak Estrus: Mimics the smell of a deer in estrus to cover your scent and attract buck activity.
- Tink’s #69 Doe-in-Rut Buck Lure: Smells like a ready-to-breed doe to bring bucks your way. Apply to boot soles when walking in.
- Hunter’s Specialties Scent Wafers – Forest Floor: All-natural wafer infused with earthy smells of the forest floor. Hang near stand.
Odor Absorbing Clothing and Gear
- Sitka Fanatic Hoody and Bib Pants: Activated carbon woven into fabric absorbs odors emitted by your body.
- Under Armour Scent Control Gloves: Rubber gloves prevent skin oils and odors from getting on your clothes and gear.
- Plano Guide Series Scentsafe Storage Trunk: Keeps gear protected from odors with an airtight Dri-Loc gasket seal.
This just scratches the surface of the many great scent products available. Experiment to find your favorites.
Pre-Hunt Preparations and Strategies
Success in controlling scent starts well before you even step foot in the woods to hunt. Here are some of the most vital pre-hunt preparations bow hunters should be making:
Showering before a hunt should be mandatory, using a soap designed for odor elimination like Dead Down Wind’s Kill-to-Thrill Bar Soap. Be sure to also wash your hair to remove any odors. Consider keeping a bucket in your vehicle for quick wash-ups before climbing into a tree stand.
After the hunt, always spray down your clothes, boots, backpack and gear with an odor eliminator like Scent Killer Gold to destroy any odors absorbed from the field. Store them sealed in scent-proof bags or containers afterwards.
Use scent-free soaps, deodorants, toothpastes and other toiletries year-round, not just during hunting season. Consistency is key so foreign smells don’t contaminate your clothes and gear down the road.
Give the interior of your vehicle a deep clean before hunting season starts, removing all odors. Ozone generators work great for this. Drive with the windows down on the way to your hunting spot to vent residual odors.
Avoid pungent, aromatic foods before a hunt that could get passed through your skin. Garlic, cabbage, onions, heavily spiced cuisine, etc. Eat bland foods to play it safe. Stay hydrated as well.
Wash hunting clothes in unscented detergent occasionally during the season. Line dry outside rather than machine drying whenever possible. The sun’s UV rays help neutralize odors.
Use smartphone apps or weather websites to check the wind speeds and directions in your hunting area. This allows you to plan stand placement accordingly.
As you can see, effective scent control takes dedication across all aspects of your hunting lifestyle. Don’t cut corners on the prep work.
Once you’re finally out in the woods ready to hunt, there are several scent control strategies you should employ:
Right before you begin your walk from the vehicle to your stand, do a full body spray down with odor eliminator. Hit your boots, pants, jacket, hat, bow, backpack, and more.
As you walk in, keep the wind at your face. This pushes your scent away from where you intend to hunt rather than leaving an odor trail behind you.
Be careful not to touch vegetation unnecessarily or lean against trees as you walk. This leaves scent exactly where deer will pass through later. Step on rocks and logs when possible.
If possible, have your treestand positioned so afternoon thermals will carry deer scents to you, but carry your scent away from their trails.
The higher your stand, the more scent dispersion you get. Thermals carry odors upwards, reducing the concentration at deer level. Stay at least 15-20 feet high.
Movement and noise create molecules deer can detect. Avoid fidgeting, turning your head, and making excess noise in the stand.
Lightly mist a cover scent like deer urine or earth scent on the ground around your stand. This provides an odor for deer to associate with rather than your human smell.
It’s easy to go overboard spraying down repeatedly while in the field. Limit additional sprays to only when truly needed. Over-spraying leaves an unnatural odor strength.
Staying scent conscious once you’re hunting is just as important as prep work done beforehand. Get in the habit of implementing field strategies.
Post-Hunt Scent Control Tips
The work isn’t done once you’re out of the woods. Properly taking care of your clothes and gear after the hunt is also important:
Immediately place clothes, boots, and other gear in sealable plastic bags or storage bins for transport back home. This locks in any scents absorbed.
Don’t delay in washing your hunting clothes to prevent odors from setting in. Use scent-free detergent and don’t overload the washer.
If unable to wash clothes right away, at least air them out outside to allow odors to dissipate rather than being confined.
Use hydrogen peroxide wipes or other disinfectants to remove odors from your treestand or ground blind after the hunt. This prevents contamination for next time.
Make sure hunting clothes are completely dry before storing away in a sealable bag or container. Any moisture breeds bacteria and odors.
Frequently air out the plastic containers, Rubbermaid bins, etc. used to store your gear. Wash with scent-free soap as needed.
Being diligent about post-hunt care for equipment ensures odors don’t accumulate hunt after hunt. Don’t store gear away wet or dirty.
To wrap things up, let’s quickly cover some of the biggest mistakes bow hunters make when it comes to scent control:
- Only employing strategies right before a hunt rather than making it a full lifestyle.
- Continuing to use heavily scented soaps, deodorants, detergents, etc.
- Not showering before every hunt or at least washing scent zones like your armpits and hands.
- Using leather boots rather than scent-containment rubber boots.
- Eating pungent or spicy foods near a hunt time.
- Over-spraying scent eliminators to the point it leaves an unnatural odor amount.
- Failing to properly air out and wash gear between hunts.
- Not checking forecasts for wind speed and direction in your hunting area.
- Positioning your stand without regard for wind patterns.
- Touching vegetation and unnecessary movement while walking in and out of your stand.
Avoid these common pitfalls and stay dedicated to odor control from start to finish on every hunt. It will pay dividends in your success rate.
Controlling human scent takes diligence, but is absolutely crucial for bow hunters wanting to get within archery range of pressured, scent-wary deer. Utilize a combination of strategies like thorough odor elimination routines, scent masking products, ozone dispersion tools, odor absorbing fabrics, and smart stand positioning based on winds. Become a student of scent control. It requires a lifelong commitment to achieve mastery, but leads to dramatically higher success rates.
The scent control “line” is delicate and invisible, but you must stay behind it. Don’t cross that boundary between you smelling natural versus foreign to a deer’s nose. With dedication to eliminating odors and smart hunting, you will remain undetected and see those close-range shot opportunities increase. Now get out there, keep the wind in your face, spray down, and enjoy your best season yet!
Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website CaptainHunter.com. When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.