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Hunting Clothes and scent control


Apr 27, 2021
Im making this thread in the forum for deer hunting, but Im really talking to all big game hunters. I'm relatively new to the hunting world, been hunting for going on three years now, and I dont have my "system" figured out yet and I recently was talking to someone I know that has been a hunter for 30-40 years and has done most of their hunting in Texas, but has gone to some other states for mulies/elk. I have not been successful bowhunting whitetails this year and so they told me that I should start washing my hunting clothes in scent free detergent, letting them air dry, and then storing them in a bag. As opposed to doing what I normally do which is wash them with whatever I have, dry them in the dryer, and then hanging them in the closet with the rest of the clothes. They also recommended that I stop eating in my hunting clothes and filling up gas in my hunting clothes which I normally end up doing because I hunt public that is 3 hours away (it's the closest piece of public where I can whitetail hunt) and I want to be in my hunting clothes when I get there every weekend so I can just get out and hunt, so I put wear the clothes on the way there. And finally, they suggested I wear scent killer. So, will some of you tell me you're process for storing hunting clothes, cleaning them, what you wont do in hunting clothes, etc? I think it would be beneficial for me and other people to hear from multiple points of view on this subject before I invest time and money into cleaning and storing my hunting clothes different then other clothes.
Back when I was halfway serious about it I washed my clothes with scent free soap. I wore a Scentloc suit and headcover. I sprayed my boots with fresh earth scent killer until it froze out. I figured it couldn't hurt! Yes, gassing your vehicle or cooking, etc in your hunting clothes is not the best way to go unnoticed by a deer's nose. You can keep your clean hunting clothes in a plastic bag and change real quick when you get to where you hunt. Spray down with a scent killer before heading out. Boots the most! Anything you can do to reduce your scent will be to your advantage.
For deer hunting from a stand or blind, I usually wash my clothes with scentfree detergent and then utilize field spray before I walk out into the woods. However, I still try and play the wind to my advantage, but that doesn't always work and I like the insurance of the field spray. I have had deer walk within 5 yards of me while I was ground hunting because of good camo, remaining still and scent control.
Honestly I just use the wind as I am firmly convinced that's 95% of the battle.

I wash my hunt clothes with scent free soap a few times per season and store them in a bag that isn't used for any other purpose. Also will leave them outside on a breezy day. But that's all the effort I put in.

Edit: Just to drive the point home, my father-in-law killed a nice buck this year from a ground blind, mid-cigarette and wearing the clothes he had been running errands in all day. Downwind of the deer, of course.
Hard to use those products on a most western hunts because your not showering much or changing clothes etc. For stand hunting in the Midwest I use some of it. The scent free clothing seemed to help when I first tried them in high school but over time they don't work near as well so I don't really buy them anymore. I do shower with scent free soap before heading out to the stand however you could probably use any soap just helps to keep your scent to a minimum.
Scentloc works no matter what some bad hunters from Minnesota say. I have had deer 12 yards away down wind and never flinch. Here in the East you have to do everything wash keep it separate dress when get out of truck ect. That being said my dad hunted with a guy that smoked 2-3 packs in the stand. I think he did as well as he did cause it made the deers nose ineffective just like what can happen to a dog around car exhaust. I am trying ozonics but haven't had enough personal experience with it yet. Buddies swear by it.
When stand hunting my outer layers and boots get washed with scent free dye free detergent and usually stay in the truck - I put them on when I park to go into the woods. How much human scent you can get away with is sometimes relative to the environment. When you are hunting 100 yards from the landowners back door the deer are used to some level of human scent. Hunting out west or deep into a swamp and any human scent is alarming.
Scent control reduces pressure on deer by limiting how much scent you lay down in the woods. Hunting whitetails over a small area is where it comes into play. They make small changes in when and where they are to avoid you. Any scent you leave affects them. You need to find a section on public that others are not hunting and keep it that way as far as the deer can tell.

Knee high rubber boots you don't wear anywhere but in the woods are best. Some boots will come with mold release agent on them (LaCrosse) and stink. You'll never wash it off. Try not to let anyone catch you sniffing rubber boots in a store. If you wear leather or cloth boots, same but spray with scent killer every time. Tuck your pants legs in so you're not dropping skin cells and hair as you walk.

Wash clothes with baking soda, not detergent, and line dry. Store in a plastic tote and dress after you get out of the truck, just before you go into the woods. When I started bowhunting off the ground, I switched to Atsko Sportswash. Deer will notice a UV glow from clothes dye. That's why the Sportswash.

If you'll use the scent killer body wash and shampoo for a couple of weeks you'll see that you lose most of your body odor. My skin doesn't smell like much unless I sweat. It won't keep the deer downwind from smelling you, but it does help reduce the pressure from your scent trail.

Scent kller spray is good for stuff you sweat on and your hands. I'm not washing my hat every time I hunt. I just spray it down.

You can kill deer without doing this stuff, but you'll do better if you do. I mean if you're not seeing deer out of range or being blown at often then scent control isn't your biggest problem.

The difference between being the 10% who kill 90% of game and being one of the 90% do don't is a lot of little things you learn as you go.
I completely quit scent control a few years ago and I’m a better hunter because of it. For years I had bought in to the marketing hype that I’m going to somehow fool a deer’s nose. I now look at it more like a set of superstition rituals. Camo ranks a close second in marketing hype, but I won’t get into that here.

I learned to play the wind correctly and remain motionless. That’s 98% of the formula right there. Do all the scent control you wish, but you still have to breathe, and odor constantly emanates from your skin too. A deer’s nose can detect approximately how far away a human is, the location, and how recent the scent is.

If you do work to reduce scent, sure, you can up your game by fractions of a percent. But I challenge the assumption that “it can’t hurt” - it absolutely can when you overestimate the importance and neglect more important things.

When I bow hunt here is how I approach an ambush:
-wind direction, speed, and consistency/variability of both, prevailing wind, thermals, how when and why air movement changes throughout the day, and how deer play all of the above to their advantage.
Everyone has said it but I'll plus one re: wind! For storage we store all scent control clothing in giant ziplocks. The husband unit is way crazier about scent control gear...but then will pack lunches of stanky tuna and salmon. Try to wash off out there when you can. Maybe say no to fish. Neither here nor there but IMO Scentlok generally has pretty shitty options for womens clothing.
If you could only do one thing, you'd want to focus on playing the wind. No question. But, it's not going to hurt to take some other steps to reduce your scent. Plenty of deer get killed after smelling a hunter and just not freaking out for one reason, or another. Maybe they thought the hunter was further away than they really were, maybe they miscalculate the wind direction (the wind swirls like a $#@$er where I hunt). Maybe washing in a different detergent makes some difference in a specific circumstance. It's easy to do...
There are a lot of folks talking about scent free soap and detergent. I am in no way convinced that animals are afraid of the smell of soap. A good friend shot his very first deer when he caught it eating a bar of Irish Spring left out in a neighboring hunting camp. If anything, the scent of the soap should help mask the human stink that they are afraid of. I have used cover scents with good success in the past. One I haven't seen for many years smelled a lot like a car air freshener but one day while wearing it I did have a spike elk walk up to within ten feet of me, sniffing the air for all he was worth, trying to figure out what I was. He never did and finally just nervously walked away. Another time, while hidden behind a tree a cow elk walked by me close enough for me to touch her. But I didn't. I definitely agree that wind direction is by far the most important element of scent control.

If I was a whitetail hunter with a small piece of land that only I hunted and all I was interested in was killing deer. I would put up a stand and leave it. I would spend the whole off season going out to that spot as much as possible leaving my scent everywhere along with some salty teats. Thereby conditioning the deer to associate my scent with the treats. Then on opening day just go out and wait for the deer to smell me and come on in. I met an old guy who did this on public land with blacktails. He was also a great whistler so he would loudly whistle a particular tune as he put the treats out. I couldn't believe that there were as many deer in the area as there were that came into the sound of him whistling. This was in a campground where you couldn't shoot but he told me he had another secret spot in the woods where he would do the same thing. He said the hardest part was figuring out which deer to shoot.
I now look at it more like a set of superstition rituals.
Kinda where I'm at these days.

Only time I think scent is important is maybe, maybe stand hunting with a bow, and even then it's not going to make up for poor stand placement.

I put my hunting stuff through the was just like everything else, I pay attention to the wind, was able stalk within 30-45 yards of whitetails numerous times over the last couple of years.
I have never bought into scent control or washing clothes separately or anything, and it hasn't hurt my success. Hunt appropriately for the wind. If stand hunting, I have found that hanging the stand very very high in the tree can help in situations where wind can be difficult.

If hunting private, and your spots are limited (i.e., you can't hunt the wind), I would get a box blind to keep your scent contained. I haven't had to do that, but I'd buy into that more than scent control.

That said, I prefer scent free detergent anyway, and some of the other ideas mentioned don't really require any special purchases that can't hurt to do.
Yea, I’m a smoker… scent control? 😂 Play the wind…

Side note: I think round these parts the elk are more afraid of the smell of Copenhagen spit than a Marlboro.
You can compare scent control vs not, directly, in a hunt club or maybe public if you know plenty of other people on the same area. Go find a good spot nobody hunts. Kill a nice one in there. Hunt some more to see it's still good. Tell somebody you killed and where. If it's still good after that, then you've proven scent control makes no difference.

Hunting the wind is part of scent control. There is never a substitute for hunting the wind.
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