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A Practical Approach to Scent Control

By Scott Stankowski - September 1, 2012
Understanding how a deer's nose works in its environment is important. I try to tackle the scent problem in four ways: breath, body odor, clothing and filler.

A whitetail deer utilizes its nose probably more than any other sense. It uses it to detect food, mates, danger and everything inbetween. There sense of smell is not that much different than ours, it is, however, more precise and more fine tuned. With that being said, the demeanor of the deer, time of the year and weather all play a role in how a deer will react when presented with different types of scents. We also must realize that the bacteria that reside on us are our enemy, as they produce the gas that makes us stink as they eat our sweat, dirt and food.

We can focus on a few key items and try and sway the nose of the deer into our favor.

First and probably foremost is our breath. You are constantly exhaling air. This air is combined with whatever is in your lungs, mouth and, for the most part, your gut. Morning breath is the product of you not swallowing all night long. Don't worry, you are not supposed to salivate at night, or swallow for that matter, it is just the way it is. Normally you produce saliva and swallow it to help expel bacteria.

I prefer to eat something as natural as possible a half hour or so before I head out into the woods. This would include, fruit, especially apples. Granola is alos a good choice. Second, and most important, is that I never go into the woods without my gum-o-flauge. There are a variety of flavors on the market and they all seem to work. You should go with what you prefer. I like pine and one of my boys likes the apple. If you are on a long sit, you should replace it every so often as well.

Next, is sweat. Our sweat for the most part does not smell. There are a few things that will make it worse, garlic is for sure to be avoided and if you drink, rum is the worst. What does smell is the bacteria that cling to your hair, and your body. These bacteria eat your sweat, digest it and provide the foul smell of rotten feet, b.o. and stinky gloves. Put your clothes back on after washing up and you may not have bacteria on you but they are still present in the clothes.

I will admit I am pretty picky about this and am free to admit that I cut back my body hair to prevent bacteria from hitching a free ride. I also shower utilizing the primary scent free soaps on the market as well. I use a scent free deodorant and as well. I also believe facial hair has its downside. Most guys think it is a good thing to grow a beard for hunting. It may provide warmth and some camouflage. Keep in mind that you have unique scent glands in the facial area, and that the beard only accentuates them.

I usually wear my regular clothes as undergarments that I could wear driving around: shorts, t-shirt etc. I do not use perfume type detergents and try to use scent free washes. More importantly, I use my Scent-Lok suit. The only time I have it on is when I leave my vehicle to go hunting and when I come back I take it off and store it in a Scent-Lok bag. I love the full suit because it eliminates the possibility of scent leaving from my waistband. About once a week or every two I throw my suit, gloves and hat in the dryer and reprime them. I wear fresh socks every time I cannot emphasize enough how equally important those items are, remember those are the items located in the areas of the body with the highest concentration of sweat glands. Finally I usually spray down with some sort of scent eliminator before heading into the field.

Last but not least, I believe a deer expects smell. If you leave a void, they may become nervous. Some people claim their scent suits do not work. I argue that it is the opposite, the suit works so well that it is leaving a void. To avoid this void I like to use natural fillers, curiosity lures or overwhelming lures. Natural fillers are items that are earth, or pine scented much like my gum-o-flauge. Curiosity lures are things that the deer may be interested in but do not alarm them. There are a few scents on the market, as well as peanut butter and vanilla. I also may overwhelm the area with scent, doe in estrous, vanilla again or earth scent can all overload a deer's sense of smell. To understand this last point, think about why we spray after using the bathroom. The reason is to not eliminate the scent but rather to overwhelm our noses with the potpourri from the spray rather than the one from the bowl. The same can work with any animals nose.

There is a lot to worry about when it comes down to scent, and if the wind is in your favor and the stars align, you may need none of the aforementioned techniques. But if you don't want to take your chances on a wall dandy, you will think about what the nose knows.

Until next time. Shoot straight.

Author Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski is the senior outdoor writer for and produces weekly articles, typically highlighting getting kids active in the outdoors. His family prides itself on living off of the land. Scott also takes the mantra into the classroom where he teaches environmental science at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School. Scott and his sons have won numerous titles in turkey and deer calling at the state level. Scott and his sons have a national outdoor television show titled Growin' Up Wild and can be found on Facebook.
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