Scent-control Regimen: A system to help fool whitetail noses


Hunters stink—to deer anyway—so we must do all we can to increase our chances of bagging that trophy buck, or venison for the freezer. Hunters can occasionally fool deer’s sight or hearing by being quiet and still, but when they catch your wind, it’s game over.

Hunters can never be totally scent free, and there’s no single trick or secret that will fool the nose of whitetails, no matter what you read or what anybody tells you. It takes more than a single practice or habit to become as scent free as possible.

Scent control is basically the same in early season, when it’s warmer, as it is during the late season as temps drop. There are just a few extra things that you might want to consider as the season progresses. We will start with the basics first.

The first place to start is with your clothing. All hunting clothes should be washed in scent-free laundry detergent. There are many good scent-eliminating products that will get the job done. I recommend buying a name brand that’s been on the market for a while.

Hunters should wash all clothing. This would include base layers, mid layers, outer shells, coveralls, jackets, pants, shirts, headwear, gloves, socks, and even underwear. The bottom line—if you wear it into whitetail country, you need to wash it. Hand wash items that are too big for the washer.

After the wash, care should be taken when drying hunting clothing. When using a dryer, throw in scent-free dryer sheets, this helps cut down on any odors that could come from the dryer itself. If the clothing is too bulky for the dryer and must be hung up and air-dried, be mindful of the surroundings and keep the clothing away from anything indoors or outdoors that would infect it with foreign scent.

Wash and dry a load of towels that you can designate for hunting purposes only. We will mention this again when we discuss bathing. It’s also a good idea to wash and dry the towels before any hunting clothing loads to ‘prime’ your washer and dryer, reducing scents left from previous everyday clothing.

Take your clothing and towels when dry and immediately store them in something that is air-tight. This will keep everything from being contaminated with household scents. Extra large and jumbo Ziploc-type plastic bags work great for almost any clothing and layers. Air-tight plastic totes work well for coveralls or bulky outer layers—and for storing hunting boots.

(Cold weather tip: If you hunt in bitter cold and have a heater body suit, or something similar, you should wash this as well. Spray it down with scent-killing spray, let it dry, and store in an airtight bag or container.)

There are several things to think about when it comes to cleaning up before a hunt. Bathe or shower with scent-free soap, body wash, and shampoo. Dry off with the designated towels you have washed and stored for hunting—smell a regular towel and you’ll realize that it could leave you smelling like laundry detergent after you’ve taken the time to bathe scent-free.

Use an odorless deodorant after washing, some hunters will spray down with scent free sprays before dressing. Try a combination of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide for brushing teeth, which help to eliminate bad breath.

(Cold weather tip: Lots of hunters carry coffee to the stand or blinds, especially when it’s cold. To get rid of ‘coffee breath,’ carry a small mouthwash container with a hydrogen peroxide and baking soda mixture—swish as needed.)

If you suffer from sweaty feet associated with insulated boots, try spraying down bare feet with an aerosol scent-free antiperspirant deodorant. This has helped me on some bitter cold Iowa hunts.

Dressing for the hunt
Dress in your underwear that you’ve prepared and stored for the hunt. Then dress in a layer that’s kept relatively scent free for traveling to your destination—lightweight coveralls work well, but this should not be your hunting attire. Carry your hunting clothes with you in scent free bags and containers. Once you arrive at your hunting spot, strip down to your undergarments, and dress for the hunt.

During late season as the weather turns colder, you might have to dress in a base layer and even a mid-layer depending on your tolerance of the cold before heading out. Still use the relatively scent-free outer layer for traveling.

Throw on shoes that won’t be worn hunting for getting to where you’re going. Your hunting boots, which are kept in an air-tight container as we mentioned earlier, should not be put on until leaving for your deer stand. Spray them down with scent-free spray, especially the bottoms.

(Cold weather tip: When the weather turns to freezing temperatures, only mist with scent reduction sprays, don’t overspray or saturate. Pack and carry outer shells or coveralls to the stand. This helps you avoid getting too hot while walking and working up a sweat.)

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Plan ahead and fill your vehicle with gas prior to heading out for a hunt. Nothing can spoil your preparations for scent control more than a little gas splashed on your hands or clothing. Keep a few pair of latex gloves tucked away somewhere in case you have to stop and fill up with gas—you should have the lightweight coveralls on for travel as well.

Try to eat at home before heading out to hunt, avoid going into restaurants prior to hunts. Whether it’s bacon in the mornings or burgers at lunch, these smells will cling to you, contaminating clothing, hair, and headwear. It would be better to take the drive through, or better still, pack a meal.

Cold weather tip: On frigid days heading to the deer woods, run as little heat as possible in your vehicle. Set the heat on defrost, this will keep your windshield clear and the heat will be up high. Your feet and legs will be cooler and you’ll acclimate to cold temps quicker.

Keep your hunting gear such as boots, backpacks, safety harnesses, seat cushions, and rain gear in air-tight containers. It is a good idea to leave these in the containers inside your vehicles, not bringing them inside. Spray them down before heading to the deer stand.

Bows and guns should also be kept in some type of case. Clean them as little as possible, but if cleaning or wiping down is necessary, some companies such as Dead Down Wind are making scent-free gun oil. Bows can be misted with scent-killing sprays.

(Cold weather tip: In most states, December and January brings late muzzleloader seasons. Keep powder and pellets inside small Ziploc sandwich-size bags—this will help eliminate scents, and keep your supplies free of moisture.)

Ozone Generators
Hot this year for scent control are ozone generators. The concept: a battery-powered generator converts oxygen to ozone by corona discharge through induction of electricity. Ozone gas is a very strong oxidizing agent that’s used to destroy odors commercially, and now, for hunting.

Ozonics and Scent Crusher are leading brands on the market. Hunters can purchase ozone units separately or duffle bags, roller bags, totes, and portable closets equipped with small ozone generators. There is even a small unit (Ozone Go) that plugs into the 12-volt outlet of vehicles that sells for around 50 dollars—a definite help while traveling.

I personally have an Ozonics unit that I purchased last season. It works well in blinds and enclosed stands, and seems to do the job in climbers and ladder stands. I fully intend on purchasing one of the duffle bags soon.

If you decide to purchase some type of ozone generator, follow the instructions precisely and understand the concept.

(Cold weather tip: If you go with an Ozonics unit, purchase the XL high-capacity battery in addition to the one that comes with the unit. You’ll be good from daylight until dark, even in cold temps.)

Hunters should never “forget the wind” as I’ve read some products advertise. Always play the wind when hunting, parking and approaching your hunting destination.

No single thing mentioned here will fool the nose of a whitetail deer. But, combining most or all things will move you in the direction of becoming as scent free as possible. A scent-control regimen takes time to figure out, for your logistics and hunting style. Done right and consistently, it becomes a habit—quite possibly the best habit you’ve ever picked up.


One man’s scent-control deer hunting program

I like to hunt scent-free, as much as humanly possible. I tend to go to the conservative extreme when it comes to scent control. All clothing is washed with a quality scent-free detergent—this is all clothing, including underwear, socks, gloves, and headwear. Before any clothing is washed, I run a load of towels and wash cloths through the washer to get rid of any previous washer scents. After washing, clothing is placed into the dryer along with scent-free dryer sheets. When drying is complete, my clothing is placed into large sealable plastic storage bags and all the air is compressed out. I completely shower with scent eliminating soaps and use the washed towels to dry. I dress before the hunt in an environment as free of human-created scents as possible.

My outer shell and boots are carried in the truck in sealed bags. I completely spray down with a good scent-killing spray before the outer shell is put on—and afterwards. I always hunt where the wind is to my benefit. I hunt stands when the wind is in my favor and travel to and from the stand location with the wind to my advantage.
—Andy Douglas