by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 17, 2009.)
What stinks? If you’re a deer hunter, the answer is probably you!
Think of the surface of your skin
as a rut zone for bacteria.
It’s not necessarily body odor. We normally take precautions against body odor in order to avoid being offensive to our own species, and that often means overcoming natural odors with soap, shampoo, underarm deodorant, cologne, lotion, mouthwash and other personal hygiene products.
But those are offensive if we use them when pursuing species with well-developed noses such as whitetail deer. I remember following a hunting partner up a hill many years ago. I could hardly stand his aftershave. No wonder we didn’t see a deer that day.
The truth is that we often sabotage our hunts if we use the same personal preparations as we use before going to the office or out to dinner. Most hunters have too little respect for the sense of smell a deer has. Deer live and die by their noses, so we need to give much more attention to our hunting preparation than we do for social situations.
Few deer hunters realize how many ways we distribute odor in the woods. We cannot enter the woods without leaving part of ourselves there, and deer will notice.
Here’s an example. I wear a watch with a nylon fabric band. It appears to be dusty. What I’m looking at is dead skin cells that my long sleeves channel down my arms where some of them are caught by the fuzzy fabric on my watch band.
What that tells me is that even without a dandruff problem, I’m shedding skin cells all the time, and if I’m out in the woods some of them drop off wherever I walk. When a deer comes by, he’s on alert because he can smell the part of me I’ve left behind.
Many times we’re careless at the gas pump or step in oils on the garage floor where we pick up odors that we deposit in the woods. Besides skin cells, we leave scents in the woods in the form of body oils, personal hygiene products, breath odors and perspiration.
Sweat would be odorless if the bacteria on our skin didn’t find it the ideal environment in which to thrive. And thriving includes propagating. This isn’t an accurate description, but it will help to think of the surface of your skin as a rut zone for bacteria.
The stuff that makes us give off odor is almost endless, so zipping ourselves into one of the expensive and heavily advertised miracle suits can’t possibly eliminate all odor. The best it can do is to help reduce odor.
And that means we need to do more than try to cover our scent. Cover scents can help, but the deer’s nose is able to distinguish that from other odors, so we need to do everything we can to reduce or eliminate human odors.
Showering before a hunt with scent-free anti-bacterial soap will not only eliminate accumulated odor-producing bacteria, but will inhibit its return. It will also wash off dead skin cells and loose hair that otherwise might drop off in the woods, and body oils that we deposit on anything we touch.
Use a personal deodorant that is not only odorless, but also retards the growth of bacteria. Wash hunting clothing frequently in baking soda or a soap that does not add any scent and eliminates the scents that accumulate on it – scents from our own bodies as well as the environment where our clothing is stored.
This season I’m adding a pill called Nullo (www.Nullo.com) to my regimen. It’s a chlorophyll compound that’s advertised to help reduce human odor from the inside, including breath odor. It’s been used successfully in the medical industry. It can’t hurt, and maybe it will help.
Finally, add a little extra insurance against being a walking scent bomb by spraying yourself with an odor-eliminating spray. Then, if you want to invest in scent-locking clothing, go ahead.
The smart hunter understands that we can’t eliminate our scent completely. Whether you try or not, be constantly aware of where you are and where the air currents are taking your scent. That should always be the capstone of your scent control strategy.