Follow this simple scent-control strategy to fool more whitetails this season.
Whitetail hunters, especially bowhunters, can generally be divided into two factions when it comes to scent control. The first are the devout, do-everything-they-can hunters who swear by their ability to beat a buck’s number-one defense by using both passive and aggressive scent-control strategies. The second is comprised of the people who either never believed it was possible, or have simply given up.
The reality of scent-control tends to lie somewhere in-between the two sets of beliefs, with the needle tipping more and more to the scent-control junkies as we get access to better products. I can write this confidently, because I’ve spent a good portion of my bowhunting career believing that I simply could not (no matter what I did), have a deer downwind and not have it smell me.
These days, however, I know that’s not 100-percent true. I’ve seen too many examples of cagey public-land deer in multiple states do what they shouldn’t, and the only reasonable explanation I can offer is that scent control fooled them. The rub is that you have to be committed to the process, and follow it step by step.
Here’s how to create a scent-control strategy that really works.
The first step is to be mindful of the wind. This sounds simplistic, but why fight it when you can pull up hourly forecasts on your phone through resources like Scoutlook and know approximately where it will be blowing for your entire sit? Plan accordingly and tip the odds in your favor.
This is most easily accomplished when you know the wind is going to be blowing steadily from a certain direction. Usually this means you’re going to be dealing with a 15mph-plus winds, which often precede or follow a weather front. Either way, when that type of steady wind is forecast, playing it is easy enough. Choose a stand location where the prevailing wind is in your favor and you should be in good shape.
Quick Tip: There is no excuse to not play the wind given the fact that we can pull up hour-by-hour forecasts on our phones any time we want.
The wind that oftentimes gets you, however, is when it’s only blowing five or six miles-per-hour and its direction is variable. This happens a lot during the evenings when temperatures drop and thermals start slipping downhill. It’s also a great time to get busted because while the wind was supposed to be hitting you square in the face, it might suddenly switch directions and come in from behind you. At this point, if you’re not doing what you can to eliminate your scent, you’ll have a hard time getting a deer into bow range.
Odor-free detergent and scent-eliminating sprays, from companies like Dead Down Wind, are two ways to engage in a passive scent-control plan. Do they work? Sort of. They buy you an edge by allowing you to start clean, but after hiking for a while to your stand they will lose some of their effectiveness because humans are constantly creating scent.
Quick Tip: Dousing knee-high boots with scent-eliminating spray can definitely keep deer in the dark when it comes to your entrances and exits into stand sites.
This means that your pre-hunt ritual should address building a foundation of scent-free (ish) clothing and gear so that you can get into your stands and blinds without leaving a scent trail. This is important, and should not be understated. The more deer know you’re hunting them, the less deer you’ll see moving during shooting hours. It’s pretty simple.
My go-to method for this stage of scent-control almost always involves knee-high rubber boots and a good dousing of scent-eliminating sprays. When I’m running trailing drills with my black Lab so that she is on top of her game during pheasant season, I can see how she easily tracks me when I wear leather boots. If I pull on the knee-highs and spray them down, however, I can see that she has to work the wind to find the dummy. That says a lot, because confounding a well-bred, well-trained bird dog has to be in the neighborhood of fooling a wild whitetail.
Take a look at the deer-hunting scent-control market these days. There is an entirely new category that has sprung up around ozone technology. Skeptics will claim ozone can’t work in the open, but they simply don’t understand how it works, or are unwilling to learn. Ozone is a natural bleaching agent that binds to molecules, like those that the bacteria on your skin creates. In doing so, the unstable ozone molecules render it scentless by essentially bleaching them clean.
This process can be harnessed for hours with an in-field ozone unit, and that means you can actively kill your scent as soon as it’s created. I know, it sounds like malarkey. I spent a ton of time trying to prove that it was, and failed.
And you remember those variable wind conditions that will get you busted every time? That’s when an ozone unit shines brightest. It’s an absolute game changer in certain situations.
This process won’t keep you from getting busted every time you get in stand. There is no 100-percent guarantee. What it will do, however, is keep more deer from knowing you’re after them and when that old doe does start to get wise to your presence, she’s far less likely to turn inside-out and let the whole woods know there is a predator in the neighborhood. That matters, a lot.
If you’re hunting a small woodlot that could easily be ruined by sloppy hunting, or are fighting for elbow room on public land like I usually am, this scent-control strategy will produce more exciting hunts for you. It takes a little work, but it’s worth it when you have deer in close proximity that are oblivious to your presence.
Have a scent-control tip you’d like to share? Add it to the comments section below.
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About the Author: Tony J. Peterson has written hundreds of articles for over two dozen national and local publications. Although he covers topics related to all forms of hunting and fishing, his passion lies in do-it-yourself bowhunting for whitetail deer and western big game. Peterson is an accomplished outdoor photographer and currently serves as the Equipment Editor for Bowhunter magazine and Bowhunter TV.