Kill Bigger Deer By Fooling Their Sense of Smell

It was one of the most thrilling hunts I’ve ever experienced. on the way in, I’d laid down a scent trail of Special Golden Estrus. Now, less than an hour later, I could hear the deep grunts of a low 160s Missouri monster following the drag. Spotting him, I was thrilled with what I saw. I wanted him, and I wanted him badly!

Taking as much care as possible to control odors, including using your favorite scent-killing products, can give you an extra advantage when you're in the woods.

Taking as much care as possible to control odors, including using your favorite scent-killing products, can give you an extra advantage when you’re in the woods.

With the buck still out of range, I did a quick check with my breeze detector. He was going to hit my odor stream before giving me the shot, but I had faith in my odor control system. Even back then, I’d had so many deer seemingly downwind without getting busted that I was confident I’d go undetected.

As I watched him come in on a string, nose down, grunting with every step, there was no doubt that the scent drag was do- ing its job. When the buck froze in the exact spot the breeze detector had just told me my odor stream would hit, I now needed my odor control system to hold up its end of the bargain.

Luckily, my stress didn’t last long. I quickly noticed the buck was pausing and testing the wind to check out the doe within the doe bedding area I was hunting. He wasn’t picking me up. He was trying in vain to check her scent. Moments later, he was back to sniffing the Special Golden Estrus trail. Three steps later and my Easton ar- row found its mark. The combo of properly used scent and odor control had done its job to perfection.

There are perhaps no areas that are over hyped and just plain full of empty promises than in the deer scent and odor control areas. That’s very unfortunate, because it turns some hunters off to both. When used properly, both the proper use of scents

and scent control can be huge difference makers. Here’s how to make them live up to the hype.

On Offense: Scent Usage
Getting the most out of deer scents re- ally revolves around using them at the right time and place. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking people or deer in one key regard; both are so much easier to dupe when they are already searching for what you’re selling.

You can see that clearly in scent usage. Picture the same mature buck in two different scenarios. In one, it’s Oct. 5 and he’s heading for an alfalfa field to feed.

WATCH: See this new tool to help you control odors in your hunting gear

On Defense: Odor Control
For as much as proper scent usage can help hunters tag their bucks, effective odor control can do even more. As most any seasoned hunter can tell you, once a mature buck gets a nose full of human odors, the odds of the encounter end- ing well just went to heck. Of all his deer’s senses, none is trusted more than the sense of smell, and none is tougher to beat.

For somewhere around 20 years now, I’ve tested methods of odor control. That includes every major scent fighting clothing, spray, cover scent and odor neutralizer available. Here’s what I’ve learned. You can defeat a whitetail’s sense of smell. However, there just aren’t any ef- fective shortcuts I’ve found for doing so.

My experience is that Mr. Big could care less if he’s smelling your grunt tube, BO, breath, bow or any other item you brought into the woods. If he picks up an alarming odor he isn’t sticking around to ask questions. I also firmly believe that it’s impossible to eliminate all human odors. Our bodies are odor-producing factories that never stop.

The key is cutting odors below the alarm threshold. Do that and one of two things occurs. Either the odor is so faint that it disperses before it reaches Mr. Big’s nose or it tricks him into believing that the source of the odor is too far away to be a concern. Which is the case, I can’t pretend to know.

What I do know is that the only way I’ve found to consistently defeat a whitetail’s sense of smell is to thoroughly treat every item you bring into the woods, including your body, and to strive to keep odor production and contamination to a minimum from the time you step out of the shower until you step out of the deer woods.

Detailing my odor control process took me an entire chapter in a book to cover. There simply isn’t space in an article. However, I can cover the highlights and some very common mistakes.

Taking advantage of odor-reducing apparel and products can be another tool in your deer hunting arsenal.

Taking advantage of odor-reducing apparel and products can be another tool in your deer hunting arsenal.

Before I begin, I should point out that all detergents, sprays, soaps, shampoos and underarm deodorant/antiperspirants that I use are all Wildlife Research Center’s odor-free Scent Killer and Scent Killer Gold products. Make no mistake about it, using top-end products is critical.

I’ve found both its Scent Killer and Scent Killer Gold lines consistently produce the results I’m after. When given an option between the two, I lean toward Scent Killer Gold with its Hunt Dry Technology, because those products generally perform longer in their dried state. For example, Rutgers University found that Scent Killer Gold Spray was 99 percent effective at stopping replicated human odors 10 days after drying. Super Charged Scent Killer also came in at 99 percent. Both are great products, but the Gold line just lasts a bit longer.

With that in mind, it all begins with treating your clothing. I have two groups of hunting clothes. There are the items I wear into the woods and those worn when I must drive, after showering, to my hunting location. Both groups of clothing are used exclusively for their one purpose, and both sets are treated with equal importance.

When not in use, they are all stored in their appropriate ScenTotes with carbon liners, helping to ensure foreign odors don’t contaminate the clothing. A week before their first use of the season, I wash all of my hunting clothing, including Scent-Lok suits. Before use, I give the drier a thorough cleaning. I also always run a load of Scent-Lok through it before any other hunting-related clothing, because the carbon further helps suck any odors from the drier.

Once dry, my Scent-Lok goes directly into ScenTotes. Carbon doesn’t know the difference between good and bad odors. Its surface area binds to both. I want to save as much surface area as practically possible for bad odors. So, I don’t hang Scent-Lok anywhere, because doing so will cover the carbon’s surface area with whatever odors it encounters.

However, all non-Scent-Lok clothing goes to either a line outside or in one of the least odorous areas available. It’s then entirely sprayed down with Scent Killer Gold. Upon drying, it goes into a ScenTote. That allows me to turn regular clothing into a weapon that’s 99 percent effective at combating odors, without spraying down in the field and being stuck wearing damp under layers.

I give my Scent-Lok outer layers an even spraying the first time I use them in the deer woods, while changing by the truck. Because I’m typically wearing under layers that still allow me to stay dry, while super charging the Scent Lok suit even further. After that initial spray down, I give myself two weeks of hunting before spraying down again.

The only catch is that carbon doesn’t bind to odors as well when it’s wet. Luckily, it’s almost always dry by the time I reach the stand.

The biggest area I see most slip-ups occur is after the shower. Many reach for that untreated towel, stored in the smelli- est room in the entire house, most often washed in scented detergent and dried with a scented fabric softener sheet in the drier. Use that towel and you might as well skip the shower. Towels and wash cloths must be treated as seriously as any other hunting clothing.

Steve Bartylla is uber-careful about his scent-control efforts and believes it pays off.

Steve Bartylla is uber-careful about his scent-control efforts and believes it pays off.

You also need to strive to keep your truck clean during hunting season. Even wearing treated clothing specifically for getting to and from your hunting land does little good if the inside of the truck stinks. To help combat this, along with routine cleanings, draping unscented garbage bags over the seat creates an odor barrier, while keeping the windows down when driving generates a flow of fresh air.

When getting to or from the stand, if you are crossing deer trails, Select Doe Urine on boot pads, over freshly sprayed-down rubber boots, is a Godsend. You should also walk slowly to minimize overheating and avoid touching and breathing on things, as much as practically possible. As soon as my Hunters Safety System harness is securely fastened to the tree, out come the Scent Killer Field Wipes. I use several to wipe down all exposed skin, putting the final touches on beating Mr. Big’s nose.

Defeating a mature buck’s nose can be done. The trick is consistently using the right products to make it happen and being very detail oriented in addressing every single item brought into the woods with you. Do that and you just gave yourself a tremendous hunting advantage.

Ultra-premium scents and scent elimination products can do wonders for hunters’ success rates. However, they also must be used properly. If you do, the benefits can be seen in more and bigger bucks receiving your tags.


Learn How to Kill Big Bucks
Big Buck Secrets with Steve BartyllaSolidly grounded in Bartylla’s wealth of experience, this buck hunting guide seeks to help real-world hunters take their craft to the next level. Chapters in his super book “Big Buck Secrets” include comprehensive instruction on everything from scouting new hunting areas to calling strategies, hunting during the rut, understanding mature buck behavior, aggressive and creative techniques, and more. Get your copy today!