Published by RightWing on 06 May 2008
While sweat is often blamed for spooking game, it is really an oversight. Sweat is an odorless, colorless, natural secretion from our bodies. Perspiration is in fact not the cause of body odor. There are several kinds of bacteria that live on the skin’s surface, some of these bacteria feed on our perspiration. The byproduct from this bacterial feeding action is what we and other animals smell and indentify as body odor.
To combat this phenomenon, one must destroy or reduce the culprit bacteria. Masking the odor is not a viable solution, it has been proven that whitetail deer can smell multiple odors at once and distinguish each of them individually. The process of applying so called “Cover scent” will do little, if any, good to fool a whitetail’s nose.
Then the question still remains, how do I fight “Game Spooking” body odor? Luckily there are some practical, inexpensive and effective methods. Most of these products can be bought at any drug store or even a supermarket. Here are five (5) methods that I will explain in detail; you will find them to be extremely effective with zero gimmicks.
* Cleanse – Your body……..
* Neutralize – Odor causing Bacteria…….
* Maintain – Clean clothing/footwear…….
* Mask – We’ll talk about this one…… 🙂
* Play the wind – Enough said………
Cleanse- Wash often, showers are good, but soaking bathes are better. Several excellent unscented soaps are available to the general consumer (that’s right, not just for hunters) most of these are marked as “Hypo allergenic” and contain no fragrances. My personal favorite is “Dove” unscented bar soap, because it works well for the hunter, it’s inexpensive and is available almost everywhere. You can usually find four bar packages of it for under $5.00
Neutralize- As I mentioned earlier in the article, bacteria feeding on our perspiration is the culprit in causing body odor. The best ways to reduce the amount of body odor lies in our ability to reduce or temporarily destroy the bacteria. Baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) applied during your shower/bath will change the PH on the skin’s surface creating a hostile living environment for the bacteria. Scrubbing down with a good antiseptic is even better. Beta-dine is my personal favorite because almost all hospital and doctor’s offices use it a surgical scrub and surgeons shower with it before an operation. If you are not familiar with Betadine, it is the reddish-orange liquid the doctors and nurses swab onto your arm before sticking you with a needle (bringing back memories now, Huh?). It does have and odor but will dissipate with rinse water and the smell will disappear real quickly (most water supplies contain Iodine anyway), so this is not a problem at all. Just follow the directions on the back of the bottle when using. I pour about a tablespoon full of the antiseptic on a washcloth then lather up real good. I then use another teaspoon in my hair as a shampoo. Rinse well with water afterward, to remove the Betadine and the residual dead bacteria, yeasts, molds and germs from your skin’s surface.
This treatment will leave you bacteria free for about 6-8 hours. You can buy this antiseptic at most drug stores for around $10.00 a bottle and it will last you the entire season. Another possible brand to use is Hibbi-cleanse but it tends to cost more for a lesser quantity. You will find that having either of these two items beneficial for home first-aid duty as well. While at the drug store check out alfalfa pills, they contain chlorophyll from plant leaves and will help to fight bad breath. Doctors also recommend them to diabetic patients to remove odor from urine. Personally, I usually just chew the leaves of one of several species of the wild mint family (wild spearmint, horsemint, wild peppermint etc) they are usually blooming during the early bow season and resemble nothing else in the woods, but to be safe before trying, research books of edible wild plants from your library and learn to recognize them. They are natural and leave your mouth with a minty mouthwash taste, plus the chlorophyll from the leaves will help to reduce mouth odor as well. I finish up this regimen with an application of unscented underarm deodorant. I like Arid unscented in either the solid or roll-on you can pick this up for around $1.00.
Maintain- I keep a couple plastic totes with latches around to store my camo and layering clothes in. In this container clothing will stay dry and scent free, but there is a routine that I go though before any of my hunting clothes are ready for the plastic tote. I first run several empty loads of water through the washing machine to remove residual fragrances from standard detergents the family uses for general washing. When the washer is properly prepared I wash my camo in cold water (it keeps the colors from running and is great for washing camo in because it is usually not all that dirty anyway). I again use unscented products that are available at supermarket, just look for the brands marked hypo-allergenic (or unscented), my favorite brand is “ALL” unscented concentrated liquid, but there are many other adequate brands available. It works well in cold water cycles, has no odor, and it is fairly in-expensive too. I then, either hang them out to air dry (weather permitting) or place them in the dryer. My clothes dryer gets a similar treatment to that of the washer, I run a couple loads of wet, clean, and scent free, towels though to remove any odors that might be left behind from the general wash. Inside my plastic tote, I keep a small draw stringed cloth bag containing cedar chips; they give the clothes a natural scent and help to protect expensive wool camo from moths during long periods of storage. In my hunting footwear I sprinkle a little bit of baking soda to help reduce bacterial growth. Before entering my treestand I apply a clothing neutralizer like the scent-a-way products as a final step.
Mask- I already mentioned earlier that I am not a big fan of food-type masking scents like acorn, sweet corn and grape. I also feel earth scents and fox urines are of little use for really helping to fool a deer’s nose. I have however found one masking scent that I believe is the “real deal” and has really surprised me over the years, it will provide you with some room for error while stand hunting. Skunk scent seems to overload the deer’s sense of smell. I have also discovered that they are not afraid of it; on contrary they are very curious of the skunk smell. Whitetail will often, for unknown reasons, seek out and investigate the source. I place the skunk scent on cotton balls in three places around my stand. This method seems to triangulate the smell and makes it harder for deer to wind you regardless of the wind direction. Just place it at the base of three trees and let the morning and evening thermals do the rest. There are still a few sources of skunk scent available, but the best I have tried is the Bob Kirschner Deer lure company. Bob’s “Skunk Essence” it is harvested in Pennsylvania and has no equal for a masking scent. Bob’s skunk scent is so powerful that he will only package it in amber glass bottles then he seals it with wax. One bottle of this stuff will last you an entire season, though I personally buy enough for two seasons. I have used it for many years, while hunting whitetail both East and West of the Mississippi River. Trust me this is a cover scent that works.
Playing the wind- Being vigilant of predominate wind directions when picking a stand is a major “feather in the bowhunter’s cap”. I try to avoid areas where the terrain might cause the air to swirl. Research and try to gain a good understanding of thermals, this information is invaluable. As a rule of thumb try to hunt from higher locations in the morning when the heating air expands and rises, the opposite holds true for evening hunts, always try on hunt on lower ground in the afternoon as the air cools and settles back to the ground. Thermals are present even on calm days and can carry a hunter’s scent for great distances.
All these things will help you this fall when trying to fool those wise old whitetails. Just remember me and this article while you are enjoying those fresh backstraps with friends and family members.
Stay scent free and shoot straight………..
Written By Jason Wilborn Monroe Tennessee