Stop the Stink with These 5 Scent Control Tips for Deer Hunting

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John Eberhart is religious about his scent elimination and control regimen, which many hunters probably wouldn’t do. But it has been proven to work for him for years and that’s what matters for his hunting.

There’s so much more to scent control than merely “playing the wind.” To become “invisible” in the whitetail woods, it’s necessary to develop and utilize a strategy for complete odor neutralization.

Since man first began using crude weapons, wind direction has influenced how he hunts animals that rely on their sense of smell for survival. Even today, with the onslaught of scent reducing and eliminating products and garments, most bowhunters still believe there’s no way of reducing human odor to levels undetectable to downwind mature deer.

Let me step back in time, before I implemented a strict scent control regiment, to illustrate how wind influenced every aspect of how I scouted, chose treestand locations and entry and exit routes, and hunted.

When selecting treestand locations, I would often ignore the best-suited tree and prepare one downwind of the prevailing northwest wind directions. Secondary tree options always put either runways or signposts out of range, or didn’t offer as good of concealment cover.

Due to uncontrollable thermals that caused swirling winds, no matter the sign, locations within specific terrain features such as saddles, bases and sides of ridges, and hilly terrain were often disre- garded as hunting locations.

Prior to trees losing their leaves, a treeline acts in a similar manner as a brick wall, because a portion of the wind will deflect off the foliage in differing directions. At the inside corners of fields and in small wooded openings, the wind swirls in the same manner as a whirlpool at a hard river bend. This affected how I hunted perimeters of CRP fields, standing corn and small openings surrounded by timber prior to the rut phases.

Non-target deer would oftentimes pass downwind or cross my entry route and spook. And there were times when bucks pursuing hot does on unchartered routes would pass downwind and spook, ending that hunt.

I used entry routes where my odor hopefully wouldn’t alarm deer bedded downwind and where deer coming to my location hopefully wouldn’t have to cross it. I’d trapped fox and knew to wear knee-high rubber boots, but my faint upper-body scent ribbon was enough to alarm mature deer and either spook them or alter their movements.

The pre-rut and early main rut phases were my largest concerns, because during every season some locations saved strictly for them would never get hunted because the wind direction necessary for them never occurred during that short time frame, or on my days off work.

Just as deer can follow the faint odor of other deer that passed by several hours earlier, after dark they could detect my lingering odor, and after a couple of hunts at a location, deer sightings would decline.

Those are a few realities of having to hunt the wind and illustrate how wind direction, more than deer activity, used to dictate how, when and what locations I was able to hunt effectively. Here are my top five scent-control strategies.

 
WATCH: HOW TO HUNT DEER IN HOT WEATHER

 

NO. 1: SCENT CONTROL ROUTINE
Now let me describe a typical season since implementing my strict scent control routine 18 years ago.

When post-season scouting for new locations, no matter the terrain features, if the sign warrants I prepare the location. This brings terrain features I used to pass on due to uncontrollable thermals and swirl- ing winds back into play as hunting locations. I always choose the best suited tree at each location without concern of wind direction, bringing all runways and signposts into play.

Entry and exit routes are now dictated only by the likelihood of spooking deer that see or hear me. Mature deer appearing from upwind and passing downwind or crossing my entry route and spooking, is no longer a concern.

Prior to each hunt, I decide which location to set up on based solely on recent activity, sightings and sign- posts. Being able to hunt my best locations during the all-important rut phases with no regard to wind direction dramatically increased my success rate.

After being winded many times each season for decades, I now regu- larly have deer directly downwind without having them spook. Simply put, wind direction has become irrel- evant. So what changed for me?

Even when I hunted the wind I was using the most up to date scent control products, but they were not adequate enough that I could ignore wind direction. Eventually I refined my scent control regiment to the point that for the past 18 of my 52 bow seasons I’ve paid absolutely no attention to wind direction and never get winded.

Being in the hunting industry, I knew scientific technologies worth their weight in gold were researched and developed by large industries or worldwide governmental bodies. R&D laboratories and staff scientists cost multi-millions to billions of dollars and are simply beyond the budget constraints of hunting companies. Therefore they have no option but to take advantage of existing R&D technologies.

When scouting public lands, the author has one standing rule: if he can’t access it with an elevated climb then he doesn’t waste his time. Other hunters will be too lazy to climb hills and tough areas, but he doesn’t and that’s often where deer will be. Scent control plays a huge role in this process because of how thermals rise and fall each day.
(Photo: John Eberhart)

NO. 2: ACTIVATED CARBON
During the 1990s, I heard about activated carbon-lined clothing and although I was familiar with activated carbon and how worldwide governmental bodies and multitudes of industries use it for adsorption and filtration purposes, I had serious doubts as to whether the technology worked as advertised for adsorbing human odor to levels undetectable by deer.

Some hunters believe in ScentLok and others don’t. The author does, and relies on it as an advantage against a deer’s sensitive nose.

To assume hunting personality endorsements, mine included, and hunting companies advertisements and website verbiage on technology is always true is extremely naïve. Scent elimination rhetoric gets the grand prize as the most deceptive because odor is something we can’t see. Nor can we smell the trace amounts for whitetails to detect us. And there are no state or federal agencies policing their legitimacy.

Always searching for every miniscule up-close bowhunting encounter advantage, I purchased a ScentLok jacket, pant, gloves and headcover in 1997.

Today we can Google and Wikipedia technologies to see to what extent they work and here are a few of the hundreds of adsorption applications activated carbon is used for throughout the world: gas purification, decaffeination, gold purification, metal extraction, drinking water purification, refrigerant gas adsorption, sewage treatment, chemical warfare suits, NASA’s primary life support systems (space suits), gas masks, water softeners, paint respirators, volatile organic compound capture, dry cleaning processes, automobile filtration systems, gasoline dispensing operations, groundwater remediation, adsorb radon for testing air quality, oral ingestion in hospitals worldwide to treat overdose patients, intensive care units to filter harmful poisons from the bloodstream of patients, adsorb mercury emissions from coal power stations and medical incinerators, filter vodka and whiskey of organic impurities, and by the U.S. Department of Energy to store natural and hydrogen gas.

Just as NASA, the auto industry, U.S. Department of Energy, hospitals worldwide, and every Department of Defense in the world didn’t pull activated carbon out of a hat and say, hey let’s use this stuff, neither did ScentLok when it applied for and received the U.S. patent to exclusively use activated carbon in hunting garments.

Evaluations using a scanning electron microscope show that if all the surface areas of the primary, secondary and tertiary pores, and the exterior surface of each particle of activated carbon were flattened and laid on a surface:

— 1 tablespoon of activated coconut carbon particles has a surface area of more than 31⁄2 football fields.

— 1 pound of activated carbon particles (a small butter tub) has a surface area equal to that of approximately 100 acres (more than a half-mile in length and a quarter-mile in width).

The best thing that ever happened to legitimize the case for activated carbon-lined garments adsorbing human odor molecules began in 2007, when ScentLok was sued for false advertisement. In an independent lab at Rutgers University it was undeniably proven for a United States District Court that activated carbon-lined garments worked and were able to be regenerated as advertised.

These two points were taken from that Court’s final ruling when they dismissed the case in its entirety in 2012: “Expert scientific testing found that using highly elevated odor concentrations that were likely 10,000 fold greater than a human body could produce in the course of 24 hours, ScentLok carbon-lined clothing blocked or adsorbed 96 to 99-plus percent of odor compounds, and essentially 100 percent of surrogate body odor compounds. Expert testing also found that after drying, or washing and drying, ScentLok carbon fabrics continue to be highly effective at blocking odor permeation.”

Using sprays and apparel detergents along with body soap is just part of the process of scent control.

NO. 3: REGULAR SCENT CONTROL REGIMENT
I’d like to make it perfectly clear that I’m not paid by ScentLok to endorse its products or technology, but am doing so here only because it works.

While a properly cared for exterior carbon lined suit, head cover and gloves will be the final catch all barriers in adsorbing body odor, other precautionary actions should be taken as well.

Anti-microbial undergarments wore against the skin will aid in reducing odor by coming in contact with and killing bacteria on your body, however they do nothing to rid the odor of the dead bacteria or any of the other odors that derive from our bodies and emit through our skin.

Dense areas of hair are breed- ing grounds for bacteria and excess odor so during season shave your armpit hair, beards, and cut your hair shorter than normal. Shower using scent free body wash and shampoo, and use scent-free antiperspirant and toothpaste. Make minor changes in your diet, eliminating pungent foods that might contain garlic, onions, hot peppers, strong spices, etc. because these cause additional body odor and bad breath. To further aid with scent control, hand wash fabric release aids, ropes and rattle bag covers, and wipe down your bow and grip with scent free wipes.

 
WATCH: HOW TO HUNT DEER IN CHANGING CONDITIONS ALL SEASON LONG

 

NO. 4: AVOID THE DON’TS
I can’t grasp why so many well-known hunters endorse, preach and advertise scent-control products yet “hunt the wind.” The definition for scent is odor and for control is “to have power over,” so if they have power over their odor, why merely hunt the wind?

Ask any serious public-land hunter and they will tell you that you simply cannot get away with leaving hair, beards, face and neck exposed, while half-heartedly spritzing your clothing with sprays as a “total scent control regiment.” They’ll also tell you to regularly wash your backpacks in scent-free detergent, use face paint, and never wear breathable Cordura or leather boots while hunting. Any one of these lapses will throw a scent control regiment out the window for those of us who hunt in pressured areas.

In pressured areas where most hunters target any legal antlered buck, a mature buck’s ability to avoid hunters is immeasurably greater than their brethren in a micro-managed area. If you hunt unpressured deer, you can get away with scent control lapses. When bucks are allowed to pass by hunters while growing to maturity without consequential engagements, they obviously become more tolerant of human odor, their vulnerable daytime movement habits remain intact, and for a plethora of other reasons they’re relatively easy to kill.

NO. 5: PRACTICE THE DOS
Activated carbon can’t differentiate whether your hunting, sitting on a human odor contaminated driver’s seat, eating in a restaurant, or pumping gas. The moment activated carbon’s exposed to the environment it begins adsorbing whatever molecules are in the air. All activated carbon-lined garments should be kept in air-tight containers until used in the field and put back in the air-tight container immediately when the hunt is over.

Always wear your exterior carbon-lined garments during entries and exits to stands to keep from leaving odor on vegetation you might touch or brush against with your clothing.

Every time you take a step or move your foot while on stand, foot odor air (molecules) is displaced out the top of your rubber or neoprene boots. Drape your pant legs over your boots and the activated-carbon in the pant legs will adsorb foot odor molecules.

DECEPTIVE DOG TESTS
I’ve read several hunting talk forum posts stating that tracking dogs were able to track someone totally clad in activated carbon-lined clothing, across a field. So what!

My son owned two trained Bavarian bloodhounds and they could track anything drug across the ground even if the object had no odor. Every step taken disrupts the ground, crushes grasses and or weeds, and leaves enough altered odors that any trained dog could easily follow that path. Just as we can easily follow the disrupted wet-dew after a morning entry across grass or through a weed field, a dog can easily smell and follow a ground disrupted trail even if there is a total absence of human odor.

For the past 18 seasons, I’ve bowhunted without getting winded and have had hundreds of mature deer downwind of me. That was simply not the case during my first 35 seasons, when mature deer downwind would almost always bust me. Implementing a scent control regiment that works is a matter of degree; if you miss one aspect of it yet do everything else correctly, the regiment is compromised and you need to “hunt the wind.”

Activated carbon-lined garments require very specific use. If you’d like a proper care instructions and tips sheet, visit www.Deer-John.net then click on Contact and send your request to the listed e-mail address and I’ll send it to you.

— John Eberhart is an accomplished bowhunter who exclusively hunts public, walk-on, and knock-on-doors-for-free permission properties. He has 28 bucks listed in Michigan’s record book from 19 different properties in 10 different counties. John co-authored the books, “Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails,” “Precision Bowhunting,” and “Bowhunting Whitetails the Eberhart Way.” He has produced a three volume instructional DVD series titled “Bowhunting Pressured Whitetails” available at: www.Deer-John.net