No Scents – Makes Sense
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No Scents – Makes Sense

By Jerry Bush

Feb 26, 2007 – 7:00:00 AM

Over the past 15-years, few innovations have affected whitetail deer hunting more than the use of scents.  It is indeed rare to cross paths with a hunter who is not carrying a bottle filled with some type of fragrance.   Hunters are into scents. Scents break down into 2 basic groups; cover scents, which duplicate everything from the aroma of smelly varmints to that of the earth itself, and lures, which imitate everything from food sources to a doe in heat.  Unfortunately none of these scents will have the opportunity to perform adequately if the hunter does not keep themselves scent-free. Human scent always trumps cover scents and lures.

The overwhelming opinion of experts is that scents can work to attract or fool a whitetail, but only when used properly.  Many hunters use purchased smells in a haphazard manner, relying on the introduction of purchased odors to mask a host of errors.  If that type of usage describes your tactics, I bring bad news.  Many biologists believe a mature whitetail buck can detect one particle of human odor if mixed with 10,000 particles of any cover scent.  Here is a fact: no shortcut exists to cover human odor.  The only sensible approach is to omit human smell first, and then concentrate on deceptive aromas.

It is common knowledge among hunters that deer, especially whitetails, have extremely sensitive noses.  Yet humans continue to underestimate this advanced defense mechanism.  This lack of respect is most likely attributable to hunters gauging the ability to smell by human standards.  It is nearly impossible for man’s mind to completely understand how superior a deer’s nose is.  

Let’s put the mystery of a deer’s sense of smell into perspective.  Humans use smell to determine what is desirable or undesirable; but deer are dependant on their sense of smell for the very basis of survival.  To a deer the smell is either friendly or hostile.  My late father put it in simple terms.  “A deer uses its nose to analyze situations and make decisions, much like humans do after analyzing circumstances with eyes, ears, and fingers.”  It would benefit each of us to approach the use of scents by imagining ourselves as a deer.

Rubber boots can be your nemisis if you never treat the inside of the boot. Foot odor (a build up of bacteria laced skin cells) can be pumped out of the top of the boot in a plume of scent every time you take a step. This can leave a trail of human odor right up to your treestand. Manage the boot odor by dusting the inside with N-O-DOR powder. The is unique powder has an affinity for capturing scent. A single teaspoon full has the surface area of a football field!

Mike Jordan, Research and technology director of ATSKO knows a thing or two about the effect of human scent on animals, and how humans can eliminate the odor produced by the human body.  His company specializes in providing products that help hunters avoid detection.  “Hunters need to understand the only thing a deer can’t smell is nothing”, warns Jordan.  “It has been shown that deer, in addition to being 10,000 times as sensitive to odors as we are, can actually associate (recall) as many as six different odors simultaneously.  Humans routinely perform this function only with visual images.”

One ATSKO product designed to truly clean cloths is Sport-Wash, which provides a terrific advantage for laundering hunting garments.  For years I used baking soda in cold water.  I thought it eliminated existing odor from the garments, but I (possibly like you) were wrong. Think about it. When we put baking soda in the refrigerator we expect it to grab onto odors and hold them. The last thing we want on our cloths is an agent to hold odors! Put your nose up to a box of freshly opened baking soda. Have you ever smelled that smell in the woods? Baking soda also attaches to the fibers on your garments and doesn’t wash clean. The last thing you need to have an unnatural agent coating your cloths that not only smells but is designed to maker chocolate chip cookies get flat when you bake them!  Baking soda for hunters is a wives tale!

From a science perspective the only possible benefit of baking soda is that it can theoretically lower the PH of the cloth making up your camo cloths?how important is that? Let’s just keep the baking soda in the cookies!

Laundry detergent that doesn’t leave residue in your camo is the only detergent serious hunters should consider using.

Wives tales will never achieve the results provided by Sport-Wash Laundry detergent.  That’s because ATSKO’s Sport-Wash has been scientifically determined to wash your cloths clean and then rinse completely out of your camo?.leaving no residue. Plus, Sport-Wash does not brighten colors like so many of the laundry detergents that contain fluorescing whitening dyes. Sport-Wash does not contain brighteners. As hunters we don’t want brighteners in our cloths. Deer can see the effect of brighteners in our camo. Deer see these brighteners as a glowing blue. The last thing you want to be in the whitetail woods is glowing blue! It is scientifically accepted that deer vision is very different than human vision. Deer see cloths with brighteners as glowing blue! If you are a serious hunter you probably spray your camo down with UV-KILLER by ATSKO and eliminate the UV-Glow problem.

Okay, so we can reduce odors on clothing.  Why not go for the odor right at the source?  Showering with special products like Sport-Wash Hair & Body Soap is now second nature for me during hunting seasons. I then spray down with N-O-DOR spray which is actually solid science in a bottle. It uses the tried and reliable scientific method of oxidizing odors. Did you know that many sprays “hunter sprays” are baking soda and bleach based? Smell them. If you can smell the ingredients so can a deer.  “N-O-DOR” powder is another great scent eliminator that can be sprinkled on feet and into boots.   

Do they really work? Like most bowhunters, I only care about realized results.  As I write this story, I am two weeks into my Pennsylvania archery season.  I haven’t filled a tag yet, but I have seen more deer this season than I did by this time last season and that’s during a time when many hunters in Pa. are complaining about lower deer numbers. I’m seeing proof with my eyes that smelling like nothing is the best strategy.

ATSKO’s N-O-DOR powder is among the most impressive scent blockers I’ve ever used.  Like most bowhunters, I sometimes get a bit sweaty under the arms when I carry my portable treestand into the woods with all the rest of my hunting gear.  The fact that I am an outdoor communicator necessitates that I carry several added pounds of photography equipment when I hunt.  I’ve found I can completely block underarm odor for the entire day by dusting N-O-DOR powder under my arms before a hunt.  

How do these products work?  They not only block existing smells, but prevent future odors by reducing the formation of bacteria.  That’s the trick!  I used to use an antiperspirant with baking soda, and while it helped a little, I noticed odors were produced by the end of the day.  That odor was the result of not blocking the growth of bacteria throughout the day. N-O-DOR spray and powder are the answers that I circle.

Today hunters also have the advantage of wearing scent blocking garments.  We’ve been told they offer an added layer of protection that every hunter should consider.  In the beginning, carbon based garments were the only choice.  In the last few years it was discovered that silver based garments work way better.  Here’s the deal!  All of these garments require maintenance, especially carbon, so be sure to read the manufacturers instructions for care of the fabrics.  

Choose Sport-Wash for Carbon based camo for your scent blocking garments.  Be certain that whatever laundering product you choose, it will rinse completely and will not add scent that a wise old buck is going to smell. Think about this?we have been told that carbon based cloths will attract and hold odors. If we know that most laundry detergents actually coat the fabric with residue why won’t the detergent also coat the carbon, rendering it worthless? Answer is that most detergents will do just that! Choose wisely when selecting a detergent for your carbon clothing.

Use cover scents if you like, but use them wisely. The prime thing that will alarm a deer is the scent of their prime predator?you. Your ultimate scent related job is to eliminate human scent. Remember this though, you are not the only hunter in the woods, and if a sloppy smelly hunter is using the same attracting scent, deer may avoid it like the plague.  Mike Jordan advises: “If the deer you are hunting have come into contact with this “sloppy hunter” the animal will associate the misused scent with danger.

As Mike said earlier, “The only thing a deer can’t smell is nothing”.

Regardless of whether a bowhunter chooses to use cover scents, luring scents, or no artificial odors at all; it is still wise to accept Mr. Jordan’s advice when dealing with human odor and “smell like nothing.”

You are the deer’s number one predator?fool his nose and tag his ear.


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