Deer Hunting – Making Sense Of Scent Control

While there is no way to ever be 100% scent free – despite what some of the product manufacturers would have you believe – there are certainly measures that you can take to tip the odds in your favor when you head out to your favorite stand this fall.


The foundation to a good scent-control program starts with clean, scent-free hunting clothes. This can be accomplished by washing your clothes in a reputable, scent eliminating laundry detergent. Most any major brand geared towards hunting clothing should work fine, so don’t go spending a fortune on the latest, greatest thing. Just make sure that whatever you use doesn’t contain UV brighteners, which actually makes your hunting clothes more visible to deer. Before washing the clothes, I even go as far as running one cycle of the washer with just the detergent and no clothes to get rid of that “perfume” smell from our normal detergent. While this may be a bit overkill, I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to scent control.

Once your clothes are good and clean, you have two options for drying them. I prefer to hang them outside to air dry, where they can get a natural “outdoors” smell to them. If that is not an option, then you can place them in your dryer with one of the scented dryer sheets made specifically for hunting clothes. To keep the camouflage colors looking good and to reduce wear on the clothing, always turn them inside out and tumble dry on low.

After you have them completely dry, be sure to store your clothes in a sealable bag or tote to keep out any foreign odors from your house, garage or vehicle. You can even throw in a scent wafer or one of the dryer sheets mentioned above to enhance that “fresh earth” smell on your clothes.


Clean, scent-free clothes aren’t going to do you a lot of good if you are putting them on a stinky or “perfumed” body. That is why it is always important to start the morning with a shower – thoroughly washing your hair and body with scent free shampoo and body wash. Then follow up with some scent-free deodorant to protect you throughout the day.


I am amazed at how many people go through all the trouble to wash their clothes in scent free detergent, wash their hair and body with scent free shampoo and soap, only to stop at the local gas station or restaurant on the way to the farm. The result is hair, hands and hunting clothes that smell like cigarette smoke, grease from the morning breakfast, or a variety of other “foreign” smells. Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure that you have plenty of fuel in your vehicle the night before, and if you need to stop to get breakfast, use the drive thru. Even with avoiding these types of places, your best bet is to leave your hunting clothes in their tote or bag until you actually arrive in the field at your hunting property.

When hunting warm weather, or in a case where you have a long trek to your stand, you will want to take extra precautions to avoid getting too sweaty on your way in. This may mean leaving your hunting clothes off until you actually get to your stand or blind, and walking slowly and taking frequent breaks. Once you arrive at your hunting spot, spray down with a good scent eliminator as an extra precaution.


No matter how many precautions you take with scent control, you will never be 100% scent free and if a big, mature buck gets directly downwind of you, then there is a good chance he won’t be there long! This is why it is so critical to pay attention to the wind when hanging and hunting a specific stand. It also means being aware of shifting winds and being willing to slip out of a stand early and changing locations if wind conditions become unfavorable. It’s not worth “taking your chances” and ruining a potentially great spot.


Some of you may be asking yourself – “why go through all this trouble when I can buy that high-dollar scent eliminating clothing and hunt when and where I want?” If it were only that simple! Research has shown that many of these products are simply gimmicks and that none can claim 100% scent elimination. In fact, one of the big manufacturers of these types of garments was recently found to have falsely advertised their ability to eliminate odor by the U.S. Federal Court.

That’s not to say that some types of clothing don’t HELP to reduce human odor, but most of these types of clothing are expensive and I question if my money couldn’t be spent more wisely on other things. If you follow the other scent reducing tips outlined in this article, then you should be way ahead of the game.


One other consideration when hunting warm weather often associated with Kentucky’s early archery season is that of bug control. What exactly does bug control have to do with scent control? Plenty! Have you ever took a good whiff of the common bug sprays on the market? I can’t stand to be within 50 feet of that stuff myself, so I know a deer can smell those products two farms away. That’s not to say, however, that hunting early season requires you to donate a pint of blood to the mosquitoes and ticks. There are a few products on the market that effectively control those blood-sucking critters without fowling up your hunting clothes.

If it’s ticks and chiggers that you are concerned about, try Duranon Odorless Tick Repellant. Duranon is NOT made to be sprayed directly on your skin, but instead is used to spray down your clothes, boots and gear, and I have found one treatment to remain effective for as long as two weeks.

For mosquitoes, I have become a firm believer in the ThermaCELL. Unlike your typicall “spray”, the ThermaCELL is a device that uses a butane cartridge to heat a small “mat” saturated with insecticide. The resulting vapor creates a 15′ by 15′ zone of protection from mosquitoes around the device. While the vapor created is certainly not scent-free, I have not witnessed or heard about any instances where the ThermaCELL was directly linked to spooking deer. While I’m not crazy about using anything that creates an odor around my treestand, it’s a risk I’m willing to take to avoid swatting at mosquitoes all morning or evening.


Killing deer – especially big, mature bucks – is a difficult task under even the best of circumstances. This season, tip the odds a little further in your favor by being as scent-free as possible when you’re in the stand.