Welcome to the host site for outdoor writer Steve Sorensen’s “Everyday Hunter” columns. For a complete index of all columns, go to EverydayHunter.com.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Deer Think You Stink—Here’s What to Do about It

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 26, 2013) 

Some guys say they don’t wash their clothing the entire season. 
That’s a mistake, but if you do that, I say “Good.”

Hunters have always been aware that deer can smell us. And evidence shows that they can smell us as much as a quarter mile away.

Today’s advertising for scent control products might make you wonder how old-time nimrods managed to kill whitetails that were wise to their body odor. In light of limited personal hygiene in those days, you’d probably stand as far away as you could to shake hands with Davy Crockett.

Why, exactly, do people stink? Here are four problems you have, along with the solutions to your odor in the deer woods.

1.  The problem? Sweat—You’ve probably heard that perspiration is odorless. That’s true, but it’s not true for long. Microscopic bacteria love dark, damp places, so sweat provides a habitat for bacteria to thrive “where the sun don’t shine.”

The solution? Shower before you hunt. The grease under your fingernails from that last D-I-Y oil change is not the big problem. As perspiration oozes out our pores one molecule at a time, it’s partytime for bacteria. Your challenge is twofold. (1.) Wash away the micro-organisms that have been partying on your body. (2.) Create conditions on your body that are inhospitable to new bacteria. How? Lather up with anti-bacterial soap, which retards the regrowth of odor-producing germs.  

2.  The problem? Skin—With perspiration for bacteria to drink, guess who’s serving the hors d'oeuvres? The same host—namely, you! As bacteria nibble on dead skin cells and the organic wastes in perspiration, they produce their own wastes—and that’s what creates most body odor. And with all the eating and drinking that’s going on, there’s something unmentionable that’s happening, too. Yep—the surface of your skin is a rut zone for bacteria. Bacteria multiply faster than flies.

The solution? Stop shedding skin cells. Actually, that’s impossible. You start shedding skin cells as soon as you towel off. Slow down the process with an anti-bacterial body lotion. It will moisturize the skin that has just been dried by soap, and keep those dead skin cells hanging on a little longer so they won’t channel down your sleeves and sprinkle out like salt on French fries. Again, use a product with no scent added.

3.  The problem? Mouth—Although old-timers didn’t have specialized toothpaste, mouthwash and mints, somehow they killed enough deer to keep body and soul together. In addition, tobacco made them human chimneys. How did they ever get close enough to a woman to be sociable, let alone close enough to a deer to kill it?

The solution? Meticulous oral hygiene. Brush your teeth, your tongue, and the inside of your cheeks. Reach as far back as you can go—test your gag reflex with the toothbrush. Use a non-alcoholic mouthwash. Exhaled air contains an enormous volume of gases, and they’ll drift wherever the air currents take them—so make those gases less threatening. Eat something fresh and natural. Chew a mild, minty, sugar-free gum. (Sugar just feeds more bacteria in your mouth.) Take some apple slices with you into the woods and keep one in your mouth as much as you can.

4.  The problem? Clothing—Some guys say they don’t wash their clothing the entire season. That’s a mistake, but if you do that, I say “Good.” Why? Because if you’re hunting in the area I hunt, a nice buck might avoid you and run into me. Understand this—you add your own odor to your clothes each time you wear them. In addition, airborne odors are coming into contact with your clothes from the outside.

The solution? Clean hunting clothes. Clean body plus clean clothing equals minimal odor in the airspace around you. Never fail to wear clean hunting clothes. Wash them in baking soda, or one of those fancy odor-eliminating detergents. If you can’t easily wash your outerwear, let it air out in fresh air and switch off between two sets.

What about those miracle scent-control suits? They’re expensive, but their scent control value won’t be worth much more than garage-sale hunting clothes unless you take steps to control your odor at its point of origin.

Smart hunters are interested in anything that gives them an advantage over the deer’s most valuable defense—his nose. Certainly nothing works miracles, and even all these steps won’t beat the deer’s nose all the time because a deer’s ability to smell is truly remarkable. So, do all of the above, and then remember the biggest piece to the scent-control puzzle. You must still overcome the wind.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Got a Knife on Ya?

by Steve Sorensen (Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 12, 2013.) 

It’s a question that separates the country boys from the city boys. I can make that claim because this country boy spent nine years living in three cities, and never carried a knife then. Today, on the rare occasions when I forget to carry a knife I feel incomplete.

Why carry a knife? Because it’s probably the simplest tool man ever invented. (Using a rock as a hammer pre-dates the knife, but a rock hardly qualifies as an invention.) It’s also one of the most basic. (Yes, the rock-hammer is a little more basic.) And it’s the most useful. If you play Rock-Paper-Knife instead of Rock-Paper-Scissors, my money will be on the knife. 
A knife can do more jobs than you can imagine, 
and some it was never intended to do.

A knife does a wide variety of jobs. You can open your mail with a knife. You can cut through virtually indestructible, modern clamshell packaging. You can sever a rope. Open cardboard boxes. Do a manicure. (And if you’re really flexible, a pedicure.)

If you need to start a fire you can make fine shavings from a stick for kindling. If you’re a gardener you can open seed packets, cut suckers from your tomato plants, and graft buds onto root stock. If you’re a woodworker, you can trim splinters, wedge a crack apart so you can work in some glue, and trim dried glue. If you’re a hunter you can trim shooting lanes, field dress an animal and cut twine to attach a harvest tag.

You can play electrician and use a knife to strip insulation from wire. You can play mechanic and cut wire to clamp a coolant hose, or clean corroded battery terminals. You can play florist and arrange flowers with a knife. You can dig the mud out of your shoes, then cut a sliver out of your finger, then use it as a fork for eating peaches out of a can. (To a country boy, washing the blade is optional.)

If you’re a romantic country boy you can carve your initials into the trunk of a tree, along with your girlfriend’s initials, and cut a heart around them.

In emergencies, doctors have used pocket knives to cut tracheotomies, and used the barrel of a pen for a breathing tube. In another kind of emergency you can cut a seat belt. In your leisure you can play mumbley-peg. (Google it.) If you’re a farmer you can do just about anything.

A knife can do more jobs than you can imagine, and some it was never intended to do. Many jobs are hard on the blade, so some people carry two knives – one quality knife with a good cutting blade, and another of lesser quality they don’t mind abusing. Some people carry more than two. You can’t have too many.

Where to keep a knife? In a pocket or on a belt. Or you can dangle a neck knife under your shirt. You could strap one to your ankle to keep the weight out of your pocket.

In the late 1880s, the Swiss Army wanted a folding pocket knife designed so soldiers could open canned food and disassemble the Swiss service rifle. Voilà – a multi-tool was born. By loading a variety of other tools into a compact package, a Swiss Army Knife has been designed for nearly every profession, from doctor to soldier to tinker. Not even computer geeks are left out – Victorinox has a model with a USB thumb drive on it.

Today, two companies make “official” Swiss Army knives. To distinguish themselves from a hundred imitators, Victorinox claims to be “the original” and Wenger calls theirs “the genuine” Swiss Army Knife.

When I was a kid on the school bus I remember carrying a very small fixed-blade knife. The blade couldn’t have been more than an inch and a half long. I had lost the sheath, which led to a problem. The short version of the long story is that I did a bad thing with it, purely an accident, but I didn’t get tossed from school. All kids carried knives back then – country boys couldn’t live without one.

A knife is simply a tool you can use for right or wrong, good or bad. Because you can do bad, some people would like to ban knives. But what can’t you do bad things with?  

So carry a knife. Then when someone asks, “Got a knife on ya’?” it may not be the perfect knife for the task, but it’ll do the job.