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A Step-By-Step Guide to Effective Scent Control

Paul Smiley -PHJ ProStaff -Cincinnati, OH

Big buck up closeA whitetail’s sense of smell is their number one defense against predators — including their natural predators in the wild, AND hunters like us. Their sense of smell is so strong in fact, that it is actually a major part of their communication system with other deer. By leaving scent from their own scent glands behind, and by sniffing out the unique scents of other members of the herd, deer develop a powerful communication system that adds to their ability to thrive and survive in the wild.

To beat a whitetail’s keen sense of smell, the most successful hunters develop a scent control “system” or regimen that helps them minimize their scent as much as humanly possible before they enter the whitetail woods. In this article we will provide some simple tips and techniques that can help you develop your own scent elimination system, and just might help you harvest that wary trophy buck this season.

Pre-Season Preparation Tips:

Clean & “Air Out” Your Equipment: If you have limited storage space like me, you may be forced to store your tree-stand or other gear in a place where it can pick up odors during the off-season. For example, I have to keep my stand in the garage during the off-season, which is also where I keep my lawn mower, gas cans, fertilizer, etc. All these things give off odors, which can attach themselves to your hunting gear. So, before you take that stand and climbing sticks into the woods, make sure you clean them with a scent free soap or a baking soda and water mixture. You would also be wise to let them “air out” on your porch or deck for a few days before taking them into the woods. For clothing items and cloth packs, you can put them in a sealed container after washing, and allow them to sit outside as well. Keep your bow or firearm in a clean, airtight case, and wipe it down with a scent-eliminating wipe before heading into the field.

Gear up your glove box: During the hunting season, carry rubber gloves in your vehicle’s glove compartment to use when filling up with gas, eating in the car or anything else that might leave residual scent on your hands, steering wheel, etc.

Make sure you have clean rubber boots: Most deer hunters know that rubber boots are better than leather, because they’re air-tight and don’t hold scent like leather and canvas boots can. But even if you are using rubber boots, they are not scent free unless they are clean. Make sure you clean them with a scent-free hunting soap or a baking soda and water mixture. Also, spray them down inside and out occasionally with an effective scent elimination spray.

Consider Internal Scent Control: You can actually reduce your scent from the inside by taking chlorophyllin copper complex tablets. Testing has shown that taking a dosage of 100-200 mg per day of this over-the-counter supplement helps control internal human odors, including bad breath, perspiration, foot and underarm odor. I know this may sound crazy to some of you, but it will even help eliminate the smell from your poop. Now that’s a benefit everyone in deer camp will be happy about! (except the deer). Ask about chlorophyllin copper complex tablets at your local drug store or browse the web and buy them online. I recently bought them for a decent price at

Keep a Clean Mouth: Try brushing your teeth with backing soda and gargle with a baking soda and water mouthwash for a couple of weeks prior to the season. Also, pick up a tongue scraper at the drug store and start using that. This regimen along with your regular brushing and flossing should help you cut down of some of the scent coming from your breath.

Scent Elimination Clothing: If you don’t have any scent elimination clothing already, you consider investing in some. It can be expensive, but I believe it helps. If you cannot afford to buy a full scent elimination suit, do what I did and invest first in a scent control base layer. This will give you added scent control protection next to your skin and will provide an effective “first line of defense” against game alerting odors.

The next most important scent-control clothing item is some kind of head cover. If you get one, make sure you find one that covers your head, neck and mouth — and try to keep it on as much as possible while you’re on stand. Also, try to tuck the neck into your shirt or jacket collar to help prevent any air and odor from escaping without passing through the scent control fabric. Remember, every little thing you can do to eliminate your scent improves your odds of seeing mature bucks. It is worth the effort.

If you get just these two basic items (a scent controlling base layer and a head cover) and some rubber boots, you’ll make a big improvement in eliminating your scent. Then, over time you can purchase outer scent control layers as you can afford them, to add an additional layer of scent contol.

Day of the Hunt Preparation:

Get Clean: The day of the hunt get up early enough to take a shower. Make sure you use a scent-free soap and shampoo. There are several brands on the market made just for hunters and work as both a body soap and a shampoo. Also, make sure the towel you use to dry off was washed in a scent free soap and dried either outside or in a clean dryer that doesn’t smell like fabric softener. It negates the benefit if you take a shower and then dry off with a towel that smells “Downy Fresh”.

After your shower, use a scent free deodorant. You can buy these from hunting product manufacturers, but the scent free grocery store brands can work just as well if they truly are scent free.

Also, If the temperature is warm enough, consider wetting or spraying your hair with scent eliminator or a baking soda and water mixture. (Don’t do this on a cold day. A wet head and cold weather are a bad combination)

Dress In The Field: After your shower, only put on your base layer, or a scent-free temporary garment that will get you to the field. Don’t get dressed in your hunting clothes until you’re out at your hunting area, and make sure you keep them sealed in a scent free, airtight container during transport. You’d be surprised how easily they can pick up scent from residual odors that are lingering in your vehicle. It is also smart to make sure your vehicle is turned off before standing near the exhaust pipe, or you will pick up scent from the exhaust fumes.

At Your Hunting Area:

Once you’re at your parking area, spray down your gear before heading into the field. Also, throw your top layers in a pack and wear light clothing to your stand, to prevent yourself from perspiring during the hike in. If you’re planning to carry any scents or food in your pack, make sure they’re well sealed also. Once you reach your stand, you may want to spray down your gear one more time — to remove any foreign odors they may have picked up.

During The Hunt:

Some hunters like to spray down with scent elimination spray every couple of hours when they’re on stand. This is probably a good strategy on a warm day, when you’re more likely to perspire and give off odor.

If you leave your stand for lunch or any other reason, make sure you remove your hunting clothes and seal them in an airtight container again before your get back in your vehicle or head indoors.

Don’t forget the wind: All the scent control measures in the world still won’t beat a trophy buck’s nose in most cases. Following a strict scent elimination regimen like we’ve discussed here will dramatically decrease the number of scent molecules you release into the hunting environment and can increase your odds of success. However, a mature bucks sense of smell is so powerful that it doesn’t take many scent molecules floating around to put him on edge. I’ve see big bucks put their nose up in the air when the wind is swirling and scent bust me at 150 yards — and that’s after taking all the precautions listed above and wearing special scent blocking clothing. Your number one source of scent elimination is a steady, predictable wind that you can use to your advantage. Always hunt down wind.

The Payoff: I know this may sound like a rigorous process, but once you set up your scent control system and get used to following it, it will become second nature and a fun part of the overall hunting experience. Plus, if you can stay scent free and undetected, you will dramatically increase your odds of taking a mature buck this season.

What steps do you take to help you manage scent? Please share your tips, tactics and ideas in the comments section below, and help somebody else learn to be a better hunter.



Posted 9/12/2009
Great article. I`ve used a system very much like this for years now, and it`s been amazing at times, how close deer have gotten to me with no clue I was there. Years ago, I actually killed a basket-8 from the ground at a distance of less that 6 feet. I was sitting on the ground, and he smelled the doe-in-heat pee I`d set out, meaing the wind was blowing directly from me to him.
It`s a bit of work, bit it makes all the difference going to your stand knowing you`ve done everything possible to control your scent, and seeing the benefits of that work. Just wait until you`re standing over an 8-pointer that field dresss at over 200 lbs like I did.
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Joined: 7/8/2009
Posted 10/20/2010
I also use a system very much the same and took a nice 9 pointer last year down wind at 12 yards
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Joined: 10/19/2010
Posted 11/2/2010
If you can get your hands on military chemical protective gear that assists to block scents from leaving your body due to the charcoal liner. I am referring to the new J-List suits. You can pick them up at a military surplus store. Or call me 260-639-2172. They keep you warm as well.
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Joined: 11/2/2010
Posted 12/7/2011
Great article. One of the things that I also do that isn’t mentioned in the article is to ensure that I wear scent free gloves and pay special attention not to touch shrubs or brush when walking to and from my stand. I also try to take care when putting up my trail cameras. I noticed last year that I began to get pictures of deer with their nose almost touching the camera lens. I’m convinced that it wasn’t my brilliant camera placement but the curiosity of the human sent left on the cameras by me not properly handling and spraying down the cameras to eliminate scent.
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Joined: 12/4/2011
Posted 10/20/2012
I also have a very similar scent system. The one thing I do not mentioned here is I wash my regular clothes in scent free soap prior to washing my hunting clothes. I believe this help to rid the washer and dryer of the scented soaps.
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