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?
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
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
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.