By Tracy Breen
Wearing a carbon suit without the hood is like climbing into your stand wearing nothing but boxer shorts.
Every hunter I know uses some type of scent-eliminating process to go undetected. There is something for every budget, including Scent-Lok garments, body sprays and antimicrobial undergarments. But many hunters don’t realize how the different products work and how they can be used in unison to take scent elimination to the next level.
Getting to the point where you truly forget the wind and simply hunt is not easy, but it can be achieved if you spend the extra time it takes to be scent-free. Sadly, many hunters go about it halfheartedly and have limited success.
If you want to eliminate all human odors, you must be a fanatic. You must do everything within your power to eliminate your scent. You might seem like a freak for taking it so seriously, but you’ll be the one laughing when you drag your buck out of the woods.
Increasing the Effectiveness of Carbon Suits
Scent-Lok and Scent Blocker are part of the complete system that helps eliminate odors. Carbon suits trap human odor in the pores of the carbon fibers. The degree to which you sweat and how much bacteria your body creates determines how long the suit will be effective. Before you think you are scent-free because you put on your carbon suit, realize that it is only part of the equation.
Keep garments scent-free by storing them in a plastic container.
A carbon suit must be kept in a container that doesn’t allow the outer shell to attract odors. If you keep it in the garage or basement, your suit will take on odors and potentially spook game. Keeping your carbon suit sealed in a Rubbermaid container or bag will ensure it’s free of scent. Double Bull, creator of the popular pop-up blinds, makes a bag designed for storing garments such as carbon suits.
For a carbon suit to work to its potential, it needs to be put in a dryer periodically. At 160 degrees for 45 minutes, the suit’s adsorption capacity is regenerated to just like new!
To ensure your carbon suit does its job effectively, shower to eliminate as much of your body odor and bacteria as possible. In recent years, a number of companies have created soaps to help neutralize body odor, and some products eliminate bacteria and slow their return. This will help your carbon suit do its job even better.
Companies that make soap especially for the hunter include Hunter’s Specialties, Atsko, Scent Blocker, Scent-Lok and Scent Shield, to name a few. Regardless of what brand you choose, using a good odor-eliminating soap and taking a shower before you put on your carbon suit will help keep you odor-free. That said, some hunters don’t shower before each hunt and they don’t get winded.
If you are hunting in the backcountry with Scent-Lok or some other carbon suit, taking a shower daily may be difficult. Look for wet wipes and body foam that can be sprayed on the skin to help keep your body scent-free.
Antimicrobial Base Layers
You can hunt with a carbon suit next to your skin, but you will eliminate more human odor by putting on an antimicrobial base layer first. Many companies claim that their antimicrobial clothing eliminates all human odors. However, independent testing shows only carbon can truly keep human odor from escaping a garment. Antimicrobial suits still have their place.
The human body is constantly creating bacteria. They stick to your clothes, creating body and garment odor. Scent Prevent by PolarMax is made with a silver thread that helps kill bacteria before it forms, eliminating body odor and prolonging the life of the garment. Many of these garments are currently used by the military and work great as an undergarment that eliminates odor and wicks away moisture.
Eliminating bacteria by wearing an antimicrobial garment under a carbon suit will make it more efficient and extend its life. Scent-Lok’s Base Slayers combine the benefits of carbon and antimicrobial material into one garment. The latter helps destroy bacteria, but not all forms of bacteria can be eliminated. By using Base Slayers or antimicrobial garments next to the skin in addition to a carbon suit, you will eliminate scent.
Many sprays eliminate bacteria and odors found on skin and on the outside of garments. I often spray down my suit before heading for the treestand. If you don’t wear a carbon suit, spraying your clothes with a scent eliminator will help keep your odor to a minimum, but will not eliminate it.
Sprays can be the perfect addition to a carbon suit. Jeff Murray, a well-respected outdoors writer, uses sprays in conjunction with his Scent-Lok suit to minimize his chances of being winded.
“On a recent moose hunt, I had to ride an ATV for a few miles in and out of the bush each day. By the time I reached my hunting spot, I smelled like a gas can. I sprayed down with Scent Shield White Lightning as soon as I got to where I was going to hunt. It eliminated the gas smell immediately, so my carbon suit could do its job,” Murray said.
Spraying down your hands, face and hair will help minimize your scent, but even your breath smells! Kevin Kreh of Hawgs Limited gargles with his Vanishing Hunter before each hunt. Carrying a bottle of scent eliminator and spraying down periodically as you hunt helps keep odor levels low.
Sprays can be used on your footwear, too. Just like your carbon suit, keeping your boots away from the floor of your truck or any other place where they collect odors is a must. A rubber container or plastic bag is easy to use and inexpensive. Manufacturers now offer Scent-Lok-lined boots, but odors can stick to the outside of the boot, especially if it is leather. This is why you should always spray the outside of your boots before you enter the woods.
Spraying the inside of boots is not a bad idea, either. Feet can sweat a lot on the way to and from a treestand. Wearing rubber boots is the easiest way to eliminate odor. Insulated rubber boots keep you warm and scent-free.
The last thing you want to do is leave human odor on your boots so deer heading down the trail a few hours later can smell it. Studies have shown that human odor can linger for days after you leave the woods, so make sure your feet and boots are odor-free before you leave the truck!
When the craze of scent elimination started, the use of cover scents to hide our human odor took off with every flavor from skunk to apple. Now, I am not a chemist and have not studied the effectiveness in a controlled environment, but I have tried them in the field with limited success. Kevin Kreh has done research on this and shared his opinion about using cover scents to mask our odors.
“When I get up in the morning, I can smell the eggs, bacon and toast that my wife is cooking. My nose is not even half as strong as a whitetail’s nose. Therefore, I think we are foolish to believe we can outsmart the nose of a deer by putting a scent on our clothes. Deer will smell the skunk and us and still be alarmed. Many of these scents may help eliminate odor or attract deer, depending on what scent a hunter is using, but, in my opinion, they will never cover it up completely,” Kreh stated.
That said, use caution with cover scents. They might help, but relying on carbon suits and sprays is a safer bet in the long run.
One Step Farther
Some hunters are scent-elimination extremists. They watch their diet before deer season to avoid eating foods that produce a lot of odor. They shave the hair off their body to help decrease odor. Some guys even take chlorophyll pills to eliminate their body odor. You might think all this is a little extreme, and maybe it is, but those who do it believe it is worth it so they don’t have to worry about wind direction.
Learning from the Experts
Experts like Murray and Kreh who consistently harvest big bucks leave nothing to chance. When it comes to scent elimination, they do not cut a single corner. I have seen hunters head to the woods in sneakers they wore to work and wonder why that buck spooked when he came close to the stand. I often see hunters go through the trouble of buying a carbon suit and scent-eliminating spray and put it all in plastic bags only to refuse to put the hood on when they head to the treestand because it’s too hot. Your head and mouth give off more odor than any other part of the body. By leaving your hood behind, you are rolling the dice.
Skeptics believe eliminating human odor when hunting is impossible. These folks try a suit or spray themselves a time or two and forget about going the extra mile to make sure they did everything right. Then they swear the suits really don’t work and claim it is all false advertising. But independent studies have proved that carbon does in fact trap odors. And sprays neutralize acids found on human skin.
When all the elements of scent control are used together, a hunter can truly hunt and forget the wind. Without proper precautions, humans are like big diesel trucks. We give off a stench that is easily smelled by the animals around us. If I come through an area where a diesel truck passed through 15 minutes earlier, chances are I will still be able to smell its exhaust. A Toyota hybrid, on the other hand, hardly gives off any exhaust. It is a machine designed to give off little emissions and exhaust. As a hunter, you can be like the hybrid; it just takes a little work and a regular routine.
Don’t leave a scent cloud behind as you approach your stand. Instead, use a carbon suit and a few additional items and do things right. This way, you truly will be dressed to kill.
-- Reprinted from the September 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine