Being human has lots of advantages: opposable thumbs, excellent color vision, and intelligence. What we’re missing, unfortunately, is much of a sense of smell—something that just about every game animal has in spades. To your buddies, you don’t smell like much at all, but to a deer? You might as well have jumped in a tire fire and put yourself out by rolling in dirty diapers. What they’re reacting to isn’t whether the deodorant you put on this morning is failing or not; it’s every one of your metabolic byproducts and every chemical smell you accumulate living a modern life. It’s your breath, your sweat, the odor of detergent in your clothes. Short of setting up a situation in which the wind is always blowing in your face (a legitimate but difficult-to-execute strategy), what can you do to kill your B.O.—and more deer? Here are three strategies that just might help you come Opening Day.
1. Scent Killer soaps, sprays, and detergents
The first and most obvious scent-killing strategy is to employ the many scent-killing soaps, sprays, and laundry detergents on the market. The concept is as follows: First, you wash all of your hunting clothing, including base layers, in a specialized scent-neutralizing detergent. Once it’s dry, you immediately take it outside and leave it there until it’s time to put it all on. Then you bathe and shampoo using scent-killing products. Once you’ve donned your hunting duds, you then spritz yourself and your boots with scent-killing spray.
Does it work? Well, some hunters do swear by it—and it certainly doesn’t hurt. But I challenge anyone who cares to try to avoid breaking a sweat when hauling their hunting gear and gun through the backcountry while dressed in cold-weather gear…and as soon as you do break a sweat, your scent will start to override all of those layers of scent-killer.
2. Cover scents
Some hunters like to bolster their scent-killing strategy by employing a cover scent—something that’s strong enough to overwhelm the human stink we can’t help emitting like live-action Pigpens. There are some relatively pleasant ones, like acorn cover scents. Then there are the…earthier ones. Specifically, urine scents. And if what you’re after is rutting bucks, it’ll be a doe-in-heat urine scent. And for it to really work, you’ll be applying it directly to the hunter. Your clothes, your exposed skin, your hair. (Mmm, there’s nothing like the smell of doe pee in the morning! Smells like victory.)
Does it work? Yes, it does—especially on rutting bucks who aren’t exactly thinking with their “big heads” anyway. But it is every bit as offensive to human noses as it is attractive to a deer’s. (You’d think after an hour or so you’d go noseblind to it, but I personally have had no such luck.)
This one is for those hunters lucky enough to either own or have rights to their hunting plot. The idea here isn’t to even bother covering up your scent—it’s to get the deer that live in that area used to it. You want them to think of your aroma as part of the ambiance. The easiest way to do that, for some savvy landowners, is to make occasional trips to their plots with a basketful of dirty laundry. One takes the dirty socks, chonies, and undershirts and just sort of festoons them about—particularly near feeding areas, game trails, and bedding areas. After several months of smelling you and coming to no harm, the idea is that you’ll have trained them to ignore your personal scent.
Does it work? Well, all we have is anecdotal evidence that’s complicated by the fact that landowners do have a pretty significant advantage to start with—but the answer seems to be a resounding “yes.” (Although in my case, I can’t be sure whether smelling my dirty socks all summer just rid the deer of their will to live.)
What are your scent-killing secrets? Tell us in the comments!
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