Smell Invisible

Get serious about eliminating odor this year. Top bowhunter Terry Wunderle walks you through effective scent control from head to toe.

Would you have been busted? This trophy 10-pointer approached author Terry Wunderle's stand from downwind.
Photo by Terry Wunderle.

I waited as a magnificent 10-pointer slowly worked its way toward my stand. If this prize deer continued on its course, he would be directly downwind of me before an open shooting lane would unveil. Finally, the buck arrived inside 20 yards and directly in my wind path. The sight pin settled on his vitals. The arrow found its mark.

No scent alerted the animal. You might say I was lucky. I'd say I was prepared.

I've taken numerous trophy whitetails at close range on the downwind side of my stand. Though I don't recommend hunting in this manner, when a deer approaches from the lee side of my blind, I know I've worked to be so clean that I am invisible to its keen nose.

Scent control is a must in order to be highly successful.

True, you can take some winning animals without this precaution. However, you will triple or quadruple your chances if you can eliminate your smell.

My desire for odor control goes much further than worrying about the deer that I can see walking into range. I am more concerned about contaminating the woods with human scent and spooking the deer that live there. Making contact with the flora in the deer woods can contaminate the area for a day or two, if you are not perfectly scent free. Any deer crossing this path will be aware of the human intervention. Since a mature whitetail rarely shares the woods with a person, the animal will likely move on and find a safer habitat.

In the 1960s and '70s, I made thousands of dollars trapping fur. Fooling the wary nose of the mink, fox, and coyote was a necessity in order to be successful. The understanding that I acquired then, plus the 50 years of knowledge I gained from whitetail hunting, has helped me learn to fool the nose of many a trophy animal.

To avoid detection by an experienced deer, everything needs to be scent free. My wife teases that my hunting gear is cleaner than my church clothes. She is right!

How does one prevent odor contamination?

All foreign smells have to be eliminated. This task is much easier now than it was 10 or 20 years ago. Several scent-elimination companies have developed a line of products that specifically target potential odor problems. I've found that the products of some companies are more inclusive in this process than others.

Gary Reed, general manager of Dead Down Wind, has told me that his Evolve field spray was formulated and engineered to work on a broad spectrum of odors, not just perspiration and bacteria.

I believe it.

Nearly all hunters are aware that their bodies produce unwanted fragrances that a deer identifies as human. They wash with unscented soap and think the problem is rectified. True, odorless soap and scent-free shampoo help to reduce human smells, but not long after a good cleansing, the new buildup of odors repeats the cycle.

To correct the situation, it is advantageous to spray your skin with scent eliminator. This precaution retards the rapid increase in bacteria and aromas that are emitted from oils produced by your body.

Once you are completely scrubbed, keep yourself as uncontaminated as possible. Deodorant, shaving cream, aftershave lotion, and toothpaste will harm the cleaning process if they are not odor free.

Being from the Midwest, I experience a wide range of temperature variation during the long archery season.

Last year in early October, it was late afternoon and seemed like the time to go hunting. The wind was light and variable, with the thermometer hovering in the 90s. I turned to my wife and said, "Let's go fishing." It was an excellent decision. We caught a couple buckets of white bass and did not contaminate our deer woods with human odors.

When the temperatures are high outside, you are going to release a lot of scent. It's best not to educate the animals.

Clothing worn on each hunt requires just as much attention as your body. I clean my gear with odorless laundry detergent. When the washer gets to the final rinse cycle, a cup of baking soda is added to the water. This process makes the clothes more scent free, and also leaves particles of baking soda in the fabric to help absorb body odor produced during the pursuit.

Rarely do I ever wear a set of hunting clothes more than two or three times between washings. During warmer weather, I use them only once. The clean garments should be kept in a plastic bag or container, so they do not become tainted with foreign smells.

When walking into the woods to begin a hunt, I usually carry my hat, coat and bibbers. If I work up a sweat walking to a blind, some odors will be produced. At this time, scent-eliminating washcloths can be handy to re-clean the head and neck area.

Since it's hard to control smells in warmer weather, I usually hunt the downwind fringes of a timber. Then the deer will not detect that a person has been invading his territory.

A wise hunter should always be aware of wind and air currents. If a deer comes to you on the downwind side, you must be prepared to shoot before the prey enters any scent area.To help me track the air currents, I have a small pouch of duck down strapped to my bow. By releasing a piece of feather, I can visually follow it for a considerable distance. Sometimes the results are quite surprising, and I discover the air movement to be much different than expected.

Another approach is to carry a little film or medicine canister that contains cotton. A few of these fibers will float in the air for 20 or 30 yards and reveal the air path.

-- Terry Wunderle, an archery coach to champions, has been hunting whitetails for more than 50 years and has taken 52 trophy deer.

I normally wear a carbon-impregnated suit as an inner or outer garment to help remove and control scent. The carbon clothing is excellent at purging mild body odors.

However, if you or your outfits are not clean at the beginning of a hunt, you can't expect the carbon suit to perform a miracle.

Typically, your head and feet are the worst scent offenders. I have several dozen hunting hats and wear a different one each time I enter the woods. When I return home, the hat is sprayed thoroughly with odor eliminator and placed in a box until its turn comes up again.

Bows, arrows, and firearms should also be scent free. Use odorless oil to care for them. Tents, as well as straps and cushions on tree stands, often carry a repugnant manufacturing odor. A good rule of thumb is, if you can detect the odor, the deer can smell it a long distance away.

If you use tobacco or your friends smoke in your vehicle, your clothing will become contaminated. When your hunting wear is exposed to smoke, don't bother with the suggested scent controls: They're useless.

Remember, you are playing the game on the deer's home court. His eyes, nose, and ears are all better than yours.

A hunter can make dozens of mistakes. The wary deer cannot afford to make any. With quality scent control, your opponent may just make that one fatal error.

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