Deer have an uncanny ability to detect danger a mile away! This is in part to their heightened sense of smell. So, how important is scent control for deer hunting? It’s extremely important! In this article, we’ll talk about how deer are able to smell hunters well before they’re a threat and how you as a hunter can overcome their sense of smell with proper scent control.
To give you an idea of how important scent control is when hunting deer, here are a few scientific statistics. Humans have roughly 5 million olfactory (scent) receptors in our noses. Dogs have about 220 million. Deer on the other hand have almost 300 million scent receptors in their noses. This alone should tell you how important controlling your scent is.
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While it’s pretty clear that scent control is extremely important when hunting deer, just knowing is not enough! In this article, I’m going to give you a few pointers and best practices for dramatically reducing your scent footprint, so that you’ll have a better chance at sneaking up on your next big buck.
5 Tips for Limiting Your Scent Footprint
Have a Game Plan and Routine in Place
If you think that you are going to completely fool a deer by totally eliminating your scent, then think again. I don’t care how prepared you think you are, you’re going to miss something. The trick is to learn how to limit these mistakes. One way of doing this is being prepared.
This actually starts well before hunting season even begins!
Before you even set foot in the woods to do your preseason scouting, you should already have a game plan and routine in place. The last thing that you want to do is spook the deer before the season even starts.
I plan everything I do, so planning my preseason routine is second nature to me. However, I know many hunters who are not planners and it shows. Year after year, day after day, they come back to the camp empty handed and wonder why.
This should include a routine for washing and storing all of your hunting gear and not just your clothes.
It should also include a scouting plan for entering and leaving the area that you plan on hunting. This means, knowing the terrain like the back of your hand.
If you are not aware of that low hanging limb or tree stump in your path before the season begins, chances are you’re not going to see it at 4am in the morning while walking to your tree stand.
This is important because if you fall, or knock yourself silly from that low hanging branch, there is a very good chance that you’re going to leave some of your scent behind.
It’s also a very good idea to have your tree stand in place at least a few weeks before the season starts. This will allow for any scent to get absorbed by the weather, hopefully making the stand virtually invisible to unsuspecting deer.
Are Scent Control Sprays Worth The Money
I know some hunters will tell you that they are a waste of money and to that I say “to each his own.”
Here’s how I look at scent control sprays…they’re not going to hurt you! I always use scent control sprays and odor reducing washing detergents.
I feel that I need every advantage I can get when going up against a whitetail deer and spending a few extra dollars to give me that added advantage is well worth the money in my opinion.
With that being said, scent control sprays and washes are not the total answer when it comes to scent control.
You can’t just wake up the morning of the hunt and go about your normal day to day routine, pet the dog before you leave the house, then hop in your truck and have a cigarette before you reach your destination, then jump out and douse yourself with scent control spray and expect to fool a savvy buck.
It just doesn’t work that way!
Odor reducing sprays are just a piece of a larger puzzle when it comes to proper scent control for hunting deer.
I’ve seen too many hunters depend on this stuff and totally ignore everything else that comes into play, including knowing the wind direction, which in my opinion is much more important than any spray.
Don’t be that guy!
Do Homemade Scent Control Sprays Work
A lot of hunters use homemade sprays instead of the store bought stuff in hopes of saving a little money during the season. I have personally never used the stuff, but hear lots of guys using a mixture of peroxide, distilled water, baking soda, and unscented shampoo.
Most everyone that I’ve talked to who uses it swears by it!
Here’s the recipe:
- 16 oz (3%) Peroxide
- 16oz Distilled Water
- ¼ cup Baking Soda
- 1oz Unscented Shampoo
Mixing it is pretty simple too!
Just mix all ingredients in a large bowl, making sure the baking soda dissolves. Next, pour the mixture into an empty gallon water jug and let it sit for a few days until the chemical reaction has settled down. During this period make sure not too tighten the lid on the jug or shake it as this could cause the mixture to explode.
Once it’s done settling, just pour it into an empty spray bottle. Keep in mind though that it will leave a white residue on your clothing once it dries.
Do You Really Need Scent Control Clothing
Another piece of the scent control puzzle that you may want to think about is whether or not to invest in scent control clothing specifically designed for hunters.
These things are not cheap! A good suit can cost you in upwards of $400.
The big question is, are they worth it?
Just like the scent spray, you’re going to find that 45% of hunters will say “heck no”, while another 45% will swear by them. The remaining 10% such as myself will say “I’m not really sure, but I need all the help I can get.”
Despite me trying to find some hard scientific evidence that backs the claims that some of the more well known scent control clothing manufacturers make, I have yet to find anything.
With that being said, you may be wondering if I wear scent control clothing. The answer is yes, I do!
The brand that I wear is SCENTLOK.
As I said before, I’m not totally convinced that this stuff works, but I need every advantage that I can get. There is one thing that I know 100% and that is that it’s not going to scare the deer away!
Again, let me just over emphasize that if you don’t practice good overall scent control, including managing the wind, it won’t matter what you wear.
Does The Weather Affect a Deer’s Sense of Smell
Out of all the best scent control techniques that you will ever hear about, there is nothing more critical when it comes to fooling a deer’s sense of smell than know the weather and that includes wind direction.
If you place your tree stand upwind of where you think the deer will be traveling to and from, you may as well take a nap, read a book, or just sit back and enjoy the sounds of nature, because you sure as heck are not going to be shooting any deer.
Also, just because the weather report says that the wind will be blowing in a certain direction, isn’t necessarily always the case. In many areas of the country, especially those with mountainous regions, the wind can be swirling in all sorts of directions.
While you could be downwind of where the deer will be coming from while on the ground, once you get up in your tree stand, you may be upwind and your scent is being blown all along the face of the mountain or hill.
You really need to have a good understanding of the weather conditions for your neck of the woods, especially how the wind behaves.
Wind direction is by far the most important factor when it comes to scent control and mastering how to use it in your advantage will make all the difference in whether or not you bag the buck of a lifetime.
Do’s and Don’ts For Scent Control
- Start your pre-hunting routine even before the season starts
- Know the area that you’ll be hunting, including the wind patterns
- Hang your tree stand well before the season begins
- Make sure the path to your tree stand is clear of low hanging branches and shrubs
- Avoid highly seasoned foods the night before and the morning of the hunt
- Make sure your clothes have been washed with a scent control laundry detergent
- Replace your normal hygiene items with odor free versions, including your soap
- Properly store your clothes before and after each hunt
- If possible, don’t put your hunting clothes on until you reach your hunting destination
- Don’t pet the dog before you leave the house
- Avoid coffee the morning of the hunt
- Avoid smoking cigarettes, dip, or chewing tobacco
- Dry off with a towel that’s been washed and dried with regular soaps
Learning how to control and limit your scent footprint is extremely important when hunting deer or any other game for that matter. However, having a game plan and routine ahead of time will greatly increase your chances of not having a big buck sniff you out before you can get a shot off.
Just remember that nothing will make you 100% scent free! The best that you can do is know the wind, use common sense scent control and hope for the best.