Tag Archives for " prey "

Scent Control for Hunters

Scent Control for Hunters

If you are a hunter, you’ll likely know that many animals have a much more sophisticated sense of smell than humans, giving them information about how to stay alive and out of our paths.  Eliminating human scent, then, gives an edge to the hunter, allowing his prey to come closer or linger a few more seconds.  There are many products marketed to hunters, but if you’re in the know, they don’t have to be expensive or hard to find!  In fact, some are already in your pantry or backyard…

First of all, hunting is not like watching sports.  Although traditionally it is “unlucky” to wash a certain item of clothing if your team wins (tradition says you should never wash it), doing this in hunting is a sure way to tip off your prey, because human scents like sweat, gunpowder and gasoline are big warning signs and build up with wear!  So, into the wash go the hunting clothes…but not just with any laundry detergent.  Artificial scents and whiteners are pungent “stay-away” clues to them.  Particularly, three studies in 1992, 2013 and 2014 on deer eyes confirmed several theories about their visual abilities: (When deer eyes can see laundry detergent residue, hunters must work hard to stay hidden)

  • With just two types of color photoreceptors, deer eyes distinguish fewer colors than human eyes, which have three types of color detectors.
  • With a deeper perception of blues into the ultraviolet range, deer see not only blue jeans but residue from UV brighteners in laundry detergent that is invisible to humans.
  • Deer pupils gather more light, and a greater concentration of light-dark photoreceptors gives them better night vision. Eyes positioned on the sides of the head give deer a broader field of view.
  • Deer have incredible motion detection. They can see a hunter blink from a distance, but if there’s no additional movement they don’t know what it is.

Similarly, a deer’s sense of smell is hyperactive compared to ours.   Biologist Dr. Bronson Strickland of Mississippi State University’s Deer Lab describes “scent” as a generic term for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are given off by a subject. Due to their high vapor pressure, these lead to large numbers of molecules evaporating into the surrounding air.  (The Science Behind a Deer's Sense of Smell & Scent Control)

VOCs can come from numerous sources, like manmade products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, paints, oil, tar and perfumes. Our bodies give off thousands of VOCs: our organs such as the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin all take toxins from normal metabolism and render them into removable chemicals, through excretory pathways found in feces, urine, breath, sweat and saliva.

Here’s where a deer has the upper “hand”: any of these “human” scent molecules are inhaled through its broad nasal openings and then captured by little hair-like cilia in the mucous membrane. Once captured by the cilia, VOC molecules dissolve into the mucous and are transferred to the olfactory epithelium.  The whitetail epithelium is reported to have 297 million olfactory receptors. (The human epithelium has only 5 million.) These receptors translate the scent signal as electrical impulses up through nerves that extend through the roof of the mouth and into the part of the brain known as the olfactory bulb.  In another study, it was demonstrated that a whitetail’s olfactory bulb is about four times larger than that of a human. This means deer have a greater capacity to both detect and transmit scent signals to their brains. The olfactory bulb then shoots electrical impulses up the olfactory nerve into the limbic system of the brain for analysis.  The longer a deer has lived in the wild, the more the deer has learned from experience that certain VOC signatures signal danger.   (The Science Behind a Deer's Sense of Smell & Scent Control)

Since hunters strive to be invisible to their prey, then, the main goal is to avoid emitting as many of these VOCs as possible.  We’ll go them here one by one; one of the cheapest natural deodorizers is baking soda, and you can use it in your laundry, on your teeth and sprinkled in your gear:

What you eat will vary your VOC signature.  The company Lumen figured that out and uses it to help customers burn fat and avoid diabetes, among other goals, by breathing into a device to analyze the VOCs in their breath.   Hunters, similarly, can recognize that eating certain foods like onion and garlic before hunting will of course show up in their scent signature and possibly frighten away prey.  

Body odor is very important.  Avid hunters have recognized that even sweat generated by walking from their vehicle to the hunting site (usually carrying a lot of equipment) defeats their purpose, so they take a number of measures, extreme to some, to avoid generating offensive VOCs:

  • Showering with non-scented products
  • Brushing teeth (mint is better than bad human breath and baking soda is even better)
  • Using unscented anti-perspirant and sprinkling baking soda in shoes to absorb sweat
  • Avoiding pungent foods like garlic, fish and alcohol before the hunt

As we mentioned before, what you wear is huge.  Some of the “hacks” include:

  • Washing with unscented or “de-scenting” laundry detergent with no optical brighteners
  • Drying clothing outdoors when possible, or without dryer scents when not possible
  • Storing hunting clothing in plastic totes away from other stinky areas like garages or kitchens.  Some hunters use garbage bags, but these are typically loaded with VOCs of their own!
  • Placing natural materials like fresh pine needles or acorns in sachets in the tote with the clothes to scent them naturally
  • Carrying hunting clothing and boots to the site and changing into them, or storing them at the site, to avoid unnatural scents like asphalt and gasoline
  • Buying ScentLok clothing (activated carbon lined) to adsorb their scent
  • Using de-scenting or “cover” sprays on their clothing periodically.
  • Using ozone generators to treat their clothing and equipment to remove VOCs

What we suggest (hunters, let us know what you think!)

  • Using TotalClean to de-scent clothing periodically, or on outer wear like coats that aren’t washed after every use.  After all, TotalClean does industrial tasks like de-scenting garbage and waste, in a non-toxic way, using the natural elements of iodine and copper.  You can also use TotalClean to wipe down non-washable equipment like binoculars and guns.  TotalClean can be used in every area of your vehicle to descent it as well, before and after the hunt (dressed meat and dogs for hunting such as squirrels and rabbits can leave quite their own “scent” on a vehicle!)
  • Using activated carbon to adsorb VOCs of clothing and equipment while it’s in storage, especially when it's new.  Just cut large pieces from the media and place them below, between and above your clothing in the tote.

Many hunters and scientists advise that you cannot eliminate or block 100% of your VOCs, but using as many precautions as possible can give you precious seconds or yards to make the difference between a fruitful and unfruitful hunt!