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The Disappearing Act

Tracy BreenBy Tracy Breen

Photo: When hanging a stand, pick a tree that offers a fair amount of cover.

-- Outwitting the senses of a whitetail can be difficult. In the past few decades, most diehard deer hunters have done several things to help contain their scent, blend in with their surroundings and go completely undetected in the woods. Disappearing in the woods is easier than it has ever been but being a ghost in the woods to the point where a whitetail can't smell, see, or hear you is still tough ... but not impossible.  

The key to success boils down to how diligent you want to be. Hunters who are willing to work hard, take the extra time to be scent-free and quiet, and wear the right camo are often the same hunters who are gripping antlers and smiling for the camera every fall. Below are a few tips to help you be a ghost in the fall woods.
Being scent-free is a key ingredient to being a ghost in the woods. If a deer can smell you, you probably won't get a shot at the deer. They will blow, snort and disappear into the distance long before you get a chance to let the arrow fly or pull the trigger. There are a couple ways to eliminate human odor. You can wear a carbon suit like Scent-Lok or use odor-eliminating sprays like Scent Killer. Whether you rely completely on a carbon suit, odor eliminating sprays or a combination of the two methods, knowing how to use them properly is the key to success. Many hunters who use Scent-Lok run into trouble because they don't take care of it properly. No one knows that better than Scent-Lok founder, Greg Sesselmann. 

"Wearing Scent-Lok can help hunters go undetected in the woods, but in order to go undetected, they must use the garments properly. This includes wearing the hood when hunting and storing the garments in a scent-free container when they aren't hunting," Sesselmann explained.
One of the biggest mistakes hunters make is wearing their carbon suit in their truck on the way to their hunting area or hanging it in a closet during the off season. If foreign odors are on the outside of a carbon suit, a deer can quickly be alerted to your presence. The carbon helps eliminate human odor but the carbon can't do anything about odors on the outside of the suit. To ensure that your carbon suit can do its job properly, keep it stored in a scent-free container when you're not hunting. Some hunters simply use a Rubbermaid container. More hunters are using containers made especially for hunting clothes. An example is the ScenTote. This unique storage system has a carbon web that absorbs odors in your clothes. Whether you use regular camo clothes or Scent-Lok, storing them in a scent-free container is a must.  

Tracy BreenPhoto: Storing your clothes in a scent-free container ensures you do not enter the woods with foreign odors on your hunting clothes.
Most scent-free freaks suggest spraying down your bow or gun, your boots, and any other equipment you have with you after you reach your hunting destination with an odor eliminating spray. Take the clothes out of the storage container, get dressed and head into the woods. After you return to your truck, put your hunting clothes back into the container. Studies show that deer can detect human odor on the ground and on brush and leaves days after a person walks through the woods.  If you are scent-free, deer won't even know you were in the area. If you're not scent-free, deer often adjust their movement patterns and avoid certain areas during daylight hours.
Remember that a large portion of human odor comes from the mouth. Always wear a carbon hood if you're wearing a carbon suit. If you don't, chewing odor-eliminating gum is another option. One company makes a lozenge called Vapor Shield. You suck on the lozenge, which has carbon in it, and eliminate breath odor. Regardless of the option you choose, if you don't contain the odor coming from your mouth and head, you will never truly be scent-free.
Being silent in the woods is also important. I'm sure there would be more bucks on the wall across the country if it weren't for the squeak of a stand at the moment of truth or the sound of an arrow shaft scraping across an arrow rest. Eliminating the "what-ifs" when hunting can increase your chances for success. Many companies offer simple products that can cover every inch of metal on a treestand to help reduce the clanging noise that occurs when you move around in a stand or reach for your bow. Summit Treestands offers Summit Skins. The skins are a camo sound-dampening material that adhere to any stand. It only takes a few minutes to apply and greatly reduces stand noise. 

I've also seen hunters use old carpet, moleskin, and other products to help reduce stand noise. Choosing a stand that has padded arm rails and a padded seat also helps eliminate excessive noise.

Tracy BreenPhoto: Using a little moleskin on your arrow rest and the riser can greatly decrease the amount of noise a bow makes as it is drawn.

Making sure your treestand blends in should be a top priority. One way to ensure you don't get spotted in the tree is to hunt from a tree with lots of cover like a pine or oak tree with several branches.  If you can't find a tree that offers lots of cover, many companies offer blinds made out of fabric for treestands. Ladder stands are one of the most popular styles of stands but they can stick out like a pimple on a prom queen. Ameristep offers a magnetic leafy strip - Edge ReLeaf Strips - that can be applied to the rungs on a ladder stand to help break up the outline of the stand. I have seen these in action and they do make ladder stands disappear. Using climbing sticks instead of a ladder stand is another option. They hug the trunk of a tree and aren't as easy to spot from the ground.
To help eliminate arrow rest noise and eliminate you kicking yourself for months after a blown opportunity, put 50 cents worth of moleskin on the arms of your arrow rest and on the shelf of your bow riser. This will eliminate the clang and bang sound when you draw your bow at the moment of truth and will help reduce the sound of your arrow bouncing off your riser if your arrow falls off your rest as you draw.
Camo patterns have come a long way in the last 15 years. Taking advantage of the latest technology in camouflage can help you blend in like never before. Realtree and Mossy Oak continue to offer quality camo patterns. Choosing one that blends perfectly with the area you are hunting can help you disappear. Some may say it is overkill, but when I hunt in the West, I always wear a western pattern. I know that looking like a pine tree in pine country can't hurt. Using all-purpose camo patterns like ASAT is also an option. Some say the large open pattern found on ASAT or Predator camo really help you blend in.  You can also consider using a 3-D leafy suit. Many companies offer leafy suits. The leaves blowing in the breeze on the suit make you appear more like a branch or tree and less like a person. The goal is to break up the human outline and a 3-D leafy suit does that.
Most camouflage clothing has ultraviolet brighteners in the fabric. It has been proven that animals and birds have sensitivity to ultraviolet light and the 438nm short blue wavelengths that humans are blind to. According to experts, when you sit in a treestand, you are probably glowing blue. This would explain why many times when hunters are sitting still they get busted; to a deer they look like a blue lightbulb! The solution to the problem is using a spray called UV Killer. The liquid spray absorbs ultraviolet wavelengths and eliminates the blue glow caused by fabric dyes and detergents that contain UV brighteners. I also used another brand called Fool-a-Deer. I was skeptical of such products until I went on a recent hunt with the owner of a prominent arrow company. He informed me how successful he had been at stalking game since he started using UV killers on his hunting garments.
Being like a ghost in the woods can be difficult. To successfully disappear in the woods and fool the senses of deer, you will have to go through an extensive routine every time you hang a stand and get dressed. You will have to follow the routine every time you return to the truck after a hunt. It will probably add several minutes of prep time to each hunt and add several minutes to the end of each hunt as you undress. Most of us have busy lives and finding a few extra minutes can be impossible. However, if harvesting a monster whitetail is something you are serious about, I bet you can find the time!

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By Braden Arp @ Tuesday, April 15, 2008 7:07 AM
Great article! I agree with you on the storage of scent clothes. It defeats the purpose to wear carbon when your carbon suit smells like the Waffle House!

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