The age old question for hunters has always been how to better conceal ourselves from our prey. Scent being the strongest sense that game animals have in their possession I would say hunters are right to be concerned about what they’re leaving behind. Though it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions on what deer can and can not smell, studies have been done with the next best thing and the results are rather surprising.
Deer are fully capable of smelling urine. Human scent can linger anywhere from 5 to 14 days, with some experts stating that some scents are detectable for possibly years. Factors relating to the duration of the scent are surface texture and moisture content.
With advancements in modern scent control technology, some hunters are under the impression that it is possible to be scent-neutral. With expensive clothing, lab-produced scent removers, and even scent-controlling electronics the choices are endless. However the question appears, how well do these products work, and are they capable of controlling our scent?
It is undisputed that deer and other game animals can smell human urine. The question should be more targeted towards to what extent does urinating at your hunting location harm your chances of seeing game.
For a particularly pressure-sensitive deer that is old in age and hypersensitive to potential threats, the scent of your urine could easily send this old buck into hiding.
Because of this fact it is common knowledge that it is unadvised to urinate at your hunting location. Though urine is not the only scent that we as hunters should be concerned about. Our everyday body odor is just as alarming to deer as our urine.
Here are a few things we as hunters can do to reduce the scents that we leave behind besides just urine scents.
With deer having a dominating sense of smell we as humans have tried to invent ways of eliminating our prey’s greatest advantage. Over the years the hunting community has seen a massive influx of products relating to scent and most notably scent control.
These products range from clothing, scent-eliminating sprays, and even electronic devices all to help eliminate our scent trails.
Scent eliminating clothing is a relatively new development that aims to control how our scent is released into the air. By simply wearing the clothing it is marketed that it will control how your scent is spread and in some extreme cases completely prevent your scent from escaping the garment.
Most of these products have a layer sewn into the garment that is supposed to help in their claim.
Much like its clothing counterparts scent eliminating sprays have become very popular over the years.
These products consist of scent-eliminating components and scent masking technology. The eliminating spray operates as its description implies though the masking spray will have an added scent such as “fresh earth” or “pine” to help cover your personal odor.
Electronic scent control is by far the newest way hunters have begun attempting to cover their tracks and fool deer. These products usually range from a scent removal tactic to a masking tactic. Though the options for electronic scent control are increasing this is by far the most expensive way we as hunters have begun masking our scent.
A Man’s Best Friend
So how do these products hold up to a test? Seeing as a bloodhound has around 200 million olfactory receptors (neutrons responsible for scent) and a deer has an estimated 297 million our best friend is a good partner for testing our scent control. The following tests are covered in the Field & Stream book “The Total Deer Hunter Manual”
In the first test managing body odor was the target. Without going into complete detail about the test method large plywood boxes were evenly spaced in a field. People sat inside these boxes for around 2 – 3 minutes to cover them in scent then all but one person leave.
The dog is then released and is timed to see how long it takes to find the remaining person.
With the dog finding all three test subjects in such a fast time it would appear scent elimination is rather unreasonable. In the writer’s words “we are bombarded by claims that a product makes downwind deer oblivious, but our tests would indicate, it probably does not”. So, now, if we can’t eliminate scent perhaps we can mask it?
With the same test setup as before masking products are used instead of eliminating ones and the dog is turned loose once again.
Unlike the first test of scent control, this test showed longer search times to find our hunter. The writer describes the dog looking for the hunter wearing the masking sprays to be checking more thoroughly and even double-checking boxes before finding the test subject.
In collusion with these tests, it is apparent that outright elimination of your scent is not going to be obtainable.
However, masking your scent may buy you valuable seconds to get a shot off or have the wind blow your scent away from the animal. Though best cases are they delay of the inevitable.
Do’s and Don’ts
The most important thing for hunters to remember is the wind. The use of the wind will either make a hunt a success or a failure. Even with the best scent solutions on the table, the wind will always conceal your scent from your prey.
Though the previous tests would say that scent control is a campfire myth many hunters including myself still use some of these products. I personally find that the uses of masking products and clean unscented clothing can make a difference in the unpredictable swirling wind even if it just buys me time.
My advice for hunters looking to manage their scent is rather simple.
- Limit unnatural scents such as petroleum products.
- Clean your clothes with an unscented detergent
- Don’t continue to use a single trail
- Avoid touching objects with your bare hand
Always remember the wind will be your best friend for concealment and used properly you will be able to close the distance on any game animal you find yourself pursuing.
Scent tests conducted and documented in the Field & Stream book:
“The Total Deer Hunter Manual”