I had been hunting for the better part of 8 years when I met a friend of a friend who was a hardcore bowhunter with several successful seasons under his belt. He was turning the corner in becoming a trophy hunter while I had yet to meet success. He took me under his wing and introduced me to a number of important aspects of bowhunting, from tree stands and camouflage to good bows and practice.
Most importantly, he taught me that I STUNK – literally. Deer would smell me well before I could even see them. Scent control was just becoming popular as sprays and lotions and special clothing was just hitting the marketplace. He was even more basic in his approach to scent control. Wash your clothes, pay attention to the wind constantly, keep your clothes in a bin full of leaves and dirt and never wear your hunting boots in your truck. We would take extra time walking to stands to keep from sweating up as he would call it. On one occasion I was down to a short sleeved t-shirt and a pair of long johns to avoid getting overheated–and there was 6 inches of snow on the ground!
One fall afternoon we were hunting the same piece of land. We had picked our spots and had our deer attractants deployed. I was still hunting and he was in a stand. He spotted 2 bucks near his stand and through radio contact gave me careful instructions to sneak toward them while he watched them for any signs of being alert. Through our communication I was able to close the distance until I reached a point that I needed to cross upwind from them to keep in cover. That point was approximately 250 yards from the deer. The second the wind touched the back of my neck the radio sounded-the deer had smelled me and bolted. I could not believe it – they were totally unaware of my presence and then suddenly at 250 yards and before I even caught sight of them they were gone. What an eye opener.
I had learned that if a deer smells you, you will never see it. I began to wash my clothes on a gentle cycle with baking soda added to the water-always wash camouflage inside out to protect the design and prolong the color. Line dry them outside and as soon as they are dry get them into a rubbermaid type bin with a tight fitting lid and throw in some earthy stuff from acorns and pine branches to dry bark and leaves. Leave those clothes in the bin until you are standing at your vehicle at your hunting spot and then get dressed only if the walk to your stand is short and you won’t overheat. if the walk is long, put the clothes in a backpack and carry them in.
Sounds like a lot of work, but it is worth it. Shifting wind is often times no problem, deer will even come in downwind on occasion and I can get away with it. When they were in close to my tree stand they didn’t wind me and remained calm much of the time.
Pay attention to your scent before all other things and you will see more deer.