Luck or Strategy?
By Wade Nolan – Bowhunting Biologist
Jul 3, 2008 – 1:59:36 PM
|Kurt Von Besser is a bear hunting machine. He has arrowed 27 big bears and he knows the difference between luck and strategy.
Arrowing one big bear can involve luck but twenty-seven giant bears involves a strategy. Kurt Von Besser is a man with a passion for the hunt. Kurt is also one of the sharpest business men I know. He is always up to date and up to speed on what ever he is involved in. Just to day he was discussing bear hunting with me and he made me pause and rethink a few things?and I have deep experience with bears.
Way back in 1984 I got serious about black bears while living in Girdwood Alaska. I teamed up with a noted Alaska bear guide, Ralph Ertz and we got busy baiting and filming black bears. Over the next two years I spent over 700 hours in treestands and ground blinds filming black bears at under 25 yards. Some baits had 12 different bears on the guest list. I shot one bear in those two years and got a real education by observing bear behavior. Black bears are incredibly aware of their surroundings. They use their nose like their life depends on it.
This bit of information is like a gold nugget to a bowhunter whose paying attention. Like whitetails, young bears are relatively dumb when it comes to evading humans. At a bait they spend most of their time watching for big bears that will kick their butt. They use their nose but most often they use it to avoid other bears. It’s a pecking order thing.
When a mature bear approaches a bait he usually circles down wind and checks the site for bowhunters and other bears. They are professionals when it comes to detecting bowhunters. I have watched mature bears stand for 30 minutes in my down wind vector sampling the air with their nose. What can you smell like and still fool a bear’s nose? There is only one winning solution?you have to smell like nothing.
When I posed this question to Kurt Von Besser he had an answer ready. Kurt has not only been hunting for a lifetime but he has been designing scent suppression solutions for decades as well. Millions of our nation’s best hunters rely on his advice and scent solutions every time they enter the woods.
Kurt says that, “Most hunters fail to take a comprehensive approach to scent suppression. They think that just spraying some scent spray or cover scent on their pants will fix the problem. Fact is that is just a glancing blow when it comes to knocking out human scent. To fix the problem you first need to understand it”. Kurt went on to describe the real problem and differentiate between real solutions and gimmicks.
He said, “Hunters often wear their pants and shirts for 3-5 days on a bear hunt and wonder why they are not seeing bears. To really address human scent you need to wear clean clothes that are freshly washed?every day. Take along 3 sets of clothes and change them daily. Then on the third day wash them all and start over again. And don’t use any detergent that you see in the laundry room, use a residue-free detergent – SPORT-WASH in the white and blaze orange bottle.”
Kurt explained that most detergents are really the same. He told me that all hunting detergents are just private labeled by the big detergent manufacturers and that they are all based on a hydrocarbon chain that looks like a fish-hook. Like a hook, the detergent hooks into to the fibers of your camo and builds up. The amount of this residue is measurable on a micro-scale and it actually candles onto the fibers. Residue stinks and it holds body odor. Only a scientifically engineered detergent with a straight carbon chain can release the old residue and completely rinse out of your camo. Use the similar engineered soap to bath in. It’s called Hair and Body Soap by Sport-Wash. Now your camo and body can be scent and residue free.
The next scent trick Von Besser uses is to attack human scent with a solution that will destroy the organics that generate human odor. B.O. is really the respiration of bacteria that is eating our skin cells. The resultant gas that is liberated in the process is B.O. The way that most products work is by altering the Ph of your skin which makes the bacteria ineffective. The solution that most products use is primarily baking soda mixed in water. Ever spray dark pants and let them dry? You can see the white baking soda residue. This is a cheap and phony fix. Here’s why.
Kurt explained that, “Boxes of baking soda are used in refrigerators by housewives to hold odors. The baking soda becomes useless after it is wet and needs to be replaced”. Kurt continued, “Why would you want a substance that you can easily smell, and one that holds odor, on your clothes? Plus, by definition, the sprays are a liquid and that makes baking soda ineffective at best. Rather, use solid science to eliminate odor through a simple, safe and common chemical reaction?oxidation.” The rusting of iron is a form of oxidation your familiar with. The oxidation actually changes the iron to iron oxide, a new compound. That is how N-O-DOR spray uses oxidation to add an oxygen bond to the organic skin bacteria and change it into an odorless salt. Meanwhile stopping the bacteria’s ability to respire and give off human scent. Spray your body, which is the source, and then your camo and hunting gear that holds odor.
Kurt then shared the final puzzle piece, our breath, “Like a smokestack in the wind, our mouth gives off a steady stream of body odor that is both moist and heated?so it dissipates well and completely scents the air in our down wind vector. We breathe 12 times a minute and exhale 9 gallon jugs of breath into the air every minute. Breath is often foul and it may be one of the biggest culprits when it comes to being detected by a bear.” Kurt explained that, “N-O-DOR spray is safe to put in your mouth. Brush your teeth with it and shoot a spray into your mouth before you leave your truck. Now you’re addressing real scent issues.”
Kurt also is serious about sight suppression and uses U-V-KILLER to treat all of his camo for UV Glow. He says that he is often looked right through by bears if he’s UV-dead. Kurt didn’t arrow 27 big bears by being lucky. Kurt knows their strong suit and works to be scent free. He accomplished this by using a scent and sight suppression strategy that works. This year’s big bear was just a smidge under Boone and Crocket. So is it luck or strategy. Luck may serve you once in a while but strategy is what the pros rely on, strategy and science.
Kurt Von Besser is the owner of ATSKO. Check out these real suppression strategies at