Controlling scent to beat a buck’s nose is possible. It just takes a smart scent-eliminator strategy that employs the proper equipment and a good attitude toward getting everything as right as you can. It’s definitely a process, and it requires extra effort, but getting around a deer’s number-one defense is absolutely worth it—especially if you’re targeting mature bucks. Here’s how to eliminate your scent in three easy steps. As you can probably imagine, the first step in scent control involves the wind.
1. Plan and Work the Wind
The best defense against watching a whitetail bouncing away from your stand through the foliage is to play the wind. That’s the first lesson they teach in remedial deer hunting. Any deer that gets downwind of you has a much better chance of busting you.
A deer passing upwind, however, doesn’t have a chance to wind you. I’ve messed around with bird dogs for a fair share of my adult life and I’m always amazed at how a good upland dog won’t catch a whiff of a downed rooster even from a few feet away if the wind is blowing the scent away from them. A deer is no different.
Set your stands and blinds accordingly and you’ll have a good start, but it’s not enough to consider how the wind will blow at your ambush sites. How you get there matters as well. A lot, in fact. And if you walk past the best bedding area on the property and let your wind blow right through it, you’ll spend your evening stand time counting squirrels. Plan your exit and entrance routes around the wind as well. Like I said, it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it.
2. Add Scent Control Clothing and Boots to Your Strategy
There has been a lot of money spent on scent-control camo clothing and scent-eliminator sprays on the promise of taking oblivious Booners. Scent-control clothing does offer advantages and there are some excellent products on the market, but you need to use such clothing as a part of your overall scent-controlstrategy. Most important, you need to follow all of the manufacturer’s directions carefully. I’ve met with a lot of the people who have designed those clothes, and they know a lot more about how they function than we do. Trust me on that.
Use them correctly, and pair them with knee-high rubber boots. Remember those bird dogs I mentioned? One way I can trick them is by using knee-high rubber boots and spraying them down very liberally with scent-eliminator sprays while I set up blind retrieves. Normally, a dog that doesn’t have sludge between his ears will quickly learn to follow your tracks to the spot you either placed the dummy or tossed it, essentially hacking the training drill with his snout. When you use knee-high boots and treat them correctly, you can watch a seasoned bird dog run right past your scent trail without picking it up.
This applies to deer as well, and it matters most on your way into and out of your stand. Every time you walk through the woods you leave yourself open to contamination, and that has a cumulative effect. A deer that crosses your fresh trail and realizes he is now sharing the woods with a predator is a lot harder to kill than one who doesn’t recognize the threat.
If you think this step doesn’t matter, you’re missing out. I can remember in my early days of deer hunting when all we did was play the wind, and it was always a bummer to see a deer heading toward where I had walked in because I knew they were going to turn around and walk out. And they did, nearly every single time.
3. Use Active Scent Control
The last step to beating a buck’s nose is employing ozone odor-eliminator technology as part of your strategy. There are a lot of armchair scientists who claim ozone can’t work in the woods, but they don’t really understand how it works. Ozone is a natural bleaching agent, which occurs in the environment during thunderstorms. It’s an unstable molecule that seeks to cling to other molecules, and when it does, it renders them scentless. It also happens to be heavier than the atmosphere, meaning it sinks. That’s why the air smells clean after a storm.
An in-field ozone generator, mounted over your head and aimed downwind will take care of almost all of the new scent you’re creating while you’re sitting (you’re always creating scent). Ozone technology has been around since the 1800s. Among its many benefits is the fact that you can control where it goes and the amount you need to nearly erase your scent.
I spent a couple of years trying to disprove its effectiveness on hard-hunted public land and finally gave up. It works well. Really well. An in-field ozone generator doesn’t always keep a perfectly downwind deer from catching a whiff of something suspicious, but their reaction is always that of a deer that seems to think a predator is a lot farther away than he really is. They don’t stomp and snort, and take the whole herd away with them. Instead, deer stick their noses into the air and look around for a bit before simply walking off. A lot of times, they walk right by.