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The Nose Knows: Eliminating Scent from Your Hunting Clothes

by Anthony

Scent control is a huge topic of conversation in the hunting world. Even if you are brand new to hunting, you’ve probably heard plenty of folks saying that scent control is absolutely vital. You’ve probably also heard about all sorts of methods for eliminating your scent from your hunting gear. While it’s true that scent control is especially important for bowhunters who are out during the humid days of early fall, it’s also beneficial for firearms hunters who head into the woods later in the season.

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Deer and other animals have highly developed senses of smell that act as primary defense mechanisms. If they are able to smell you, they are unlikely to come anywhere near you. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, you are more likely to have a successful hunt if you take steps to minimize your scent as much as possible.

There are a lot of products out there that are designed to eliminate or mask odors, and it can be hard to know which products are the real deal and which ones are gimmicks designed to capitalize on the popularity of hunting. If you are planning on heading out into the woods soon, here are a few tried-and-true tips for eliminating scent from your hunting clothes.

Start with a Good Base Layer

No matter how clean you are, there is no way to completely eliminate your human scent. That’s where a good base layer comes in handy. It helps trap your smell close to your body and can keep it from wafting away on the breeze. There are garments out there that are specially designed for this purpose, such as activated carbon clothing, but they are not an absolute necessity.

If you don’t want to spend a fortune on scent-blocking undergarments, polyester sweat-wicking shirts make good base layers. They pull perspiration away from your skin and allow it to evaporate quickly. In addition to keeping you more comfortable, this prevents you from smelling sweaty.

Wash Your Gear the Right Way

Washing your hunting gear using regular detergent and fabric softener makes it smell great…to you. To deer and other animals, though, the scent of laundry products is far from natural. Before you go hunting, wash your clothes in scent-free detergent and skip the fabric softener. Any scent-free detergent works, but there are also several manufacturers that make laundry soap that is specially formulated to remove odors without adding unnatural fragrances. Scent-A-Way is a popular choice among hunters. You can also make your own unscented detergent using a combination of borax, washing soda and bar soap.

Skip the Dryer

Image by Willi Heidelbach from Pixabay

When it comes to drying your hunting clothes, it’s best to skip the dryer. Even if you don’t use dryer sheets with your hunting gear, there are still likely lingering fragrances inside the dryer. To keep your clothes scent-free, hang them on an outside line to dry. With this method, they will pick up the natural scents of the outdoors instead of the artificial fragrances that are likely lingering in your dryer.

If you have to use your dryer, invest in some dryer sheets that are designed to absorb odor in the dryer. They are available from many of the same manufacturers that make laundry detergent that is formulated for hunters.

Store Your Gear the Right Way

In between uses, be sure to store your gear properly. After washing and drying, store your clothes in airtight containers. It works best to place them in a large zippered plastic bag inside a plastic storage tote.

Consider keeping your gear in storage until you are in the field. When you get dressed at home, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up unnatural odors. Even the air freshener you have in your car could transfer a scent to your clothing that you may not be able to smell, but deer certainly can. Changing in the field eliminates the risk of picking up scents on your gear.

Control Your Own Scent

Take a shower just before you are ready to head out and avoid using scented body washes. The fragrance that your spouse absolutely loves isn’t likely to be popular among deer, so save their favorite body wash for date night.

Scent-free body washes are widely available, so buy one and scrub up before you head out. Some manufacturers even offer scent-free deodorant, toothpaste and other personal care products that will help you eliminate as much of your scent as possible.

Use Scent-Eliminating Sprays

Scent-eliminating sprays are formulated to kill bacteria and reduce the amount of human scent that can be detected by animals. There are several brands to choose from, but they all do roughly the same thing. Pick up a bottle and spray yourself down from head to toe after you get dressed. This will help eliminate any lingering scent on your clothing.

Keep in mind that these sprays are not substitutes for following the other tips listed above. They work well as a sort of “finishing touch,” but they won’t do much good if you don’t take other steps to minimize your scent.


Image by Paul Barlow from Pixabay

Whether you are hunting with a bow or a firearm, controlling your scent can make you less detectable to deer and many other types of wildlife. There are a lot of products on the market that are intended specifically for this purpose, but there are plenty of ways to get the job done without spending a fortune. Wear a polyester sweat-wicking shirt as a base layer, wash your clothes (and yourself) using unscented detergent and soap, store your gear properly and you should be good to go!

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