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.
When the "Everyday Hunter" isn't hunting, he's thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell him exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com. This column and others can be accessed online at www.EverydayHunter.com.