Last week, opening day of archery season, I headed out at my usual 3:45 am departure time. It took me over an hour to go a half mile. I was painfully stealth, quiet and slow moving. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after all these years is that opening day of archery is when I will have the best chance to get a shot.
It never fails, I always see that big buck. And for the last couple of years, he winded me and stayed just out of range, mocking me with grunts, stomps and loud breaths. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he did it to me again last week.
Scent control is a popular subject amongst deer hunters, especially blacktail hunters. The big bucks are big because they know exactly what’s coming up the trail. It seems that no matter how de-scented we are, they always seem to wind us. Here’s a few things I’ve learned:
First, we need to remember that a deer’s sense of smell is its number one defense mechanism against predators. Studies have shown that deer actually communicate by using scent. They leave their own scent, and pick up on scents left by other deer. They keep plugged in at all times to the goings on in the woods. As hunters, we need to always remember what we are up against.
There are tons of scent eliminators on the market, and charcoal-activated clothing that cost a pretty penny. While I think it’s alright to spray our clothing, boots, hats and our accessories before we head out, we need to remember a few other things. Did we put gas in the truck before we hit the dirt road? Did we spill coffee on our cammo? Did we eat garlic the night before? There’s a million variables to think about, but one single mistake might be the difference between opportunity and disappointment.
Most hunters agree on a few key points when it comes to scent, and most are easy to remember. Airing out your gear for a day or two is an excellent idea. The other is having a big Tupperware with pine boughs in it that you can keep your gear air-tight. Many hunters prefer rubber boots (they drive me crazy), because they don’t let out scents. Brushing your teeth with baking soda and salt works wonders for your breath. It’s amazing to me that I see these guys riding along on their quads smoking a cigarette and they don’t have a clue. This is a tough one for tobacco users. Some guys chew up a few fir tips after a smoke or a chew.
Another thing that I swear by is a head cover. I like it because it hides my face, keeps the bugs away, and, after I de-scent it really well, it hides the smell of my hair and keeps scent from coming out under my collar.
One other thing that’s gained a bit of popularity (couldn’t attest to this personally) is taking chlorophyllin copper complex tablets. You can get them at the drug store and I hear they do a great job of eliminating internal human odors (perspiration, breath and underarm odors). I’m going to give this one a try.
The last couple of tips are great for the day of the hunt. Make sure you took a shower the night before using any scent-free soaps and shampoos. Be careful you don’t use a towel your wife dried with dryer sheets or washed in scented soap (I have a towel I hang out on the line for that).
It’s really important to dress in the field. You’d be amazed at what you pick up at the mini-mart. Also, use common sense when you dress (don’t get dressed while someone’s truck is running or near someone smoking). On your way to your stand or blind, try to dress so you don’t sweat like a pig on the way there (this happens more often than you think). Bring a pack (de-scented with the rest of your gear) and have a few layers handy.
It’s mostly common sense but as I look back, I definitely get closer to deer when I am super anal about scent. It gets old after a few days and we all get sloppy. My experience says it’s worth all the extra effort. Soon it becomes a as natural an obsession as the actual hunt.
And, the best tip of all concerning scent is to always make the wind the most vital concern of your hunt. If you hunt with the wind in your face, you will have opportunities. If you get winded, you’re through.