Every hunter knows that scent is the enemy in the woods. Deer can pick up on your presence long before they see you simply by catching a whiff of your natural bodily smells. This will send deer running in the opposite direction which in turn sends you home empty-handed, making the day a stinker all around.
Now that the off season is here, it is time to wash and store hunting gear for next year. If you're duds have been in a pile in the corner of the garage, waiting to be dealt with, there is no time like the present to tackle such a task. Before simply dumping your clothes in the washing machine, however, there are a few steps you should take to ensure that nothing is overlooked in you efforts at becoming scent-free.
For starters, immerse your hunting clothing in a cold soak of water and a cup of vinegar (the smell of which will vanish upon drying) in a large bucket or tub. This soak should take place overnight. During the time your clothes are soaking, dirt and blood stains will loosen provided the water is cold; hot water, on the flipside, will cause stains to set. Agitate clothing by hand to remove any loosened debris. Remove clothes, dump water, and repeat the process, this time using a cup of baking soda instead of vinegar. Agitate again for a period of several minutes then dump water. The third and final time you fill the bucket should be with clear water free of additives for the purpose of rinsing. However, if water is still cloudy, you may wish to rinse again.
Photo: The New Homemaker
We tend to concentrate quite a bit on the washing of hunting clothing, but drying is important as well. You do not want to simply place clothing in the dryer and call it good. Though people do not always associate the dryer with scents, think about the many laundered garments that went into it previously, those that were washed with scented detergents and dried with drier sheets, or worse yet one of those heavily scented dryer bars. Skip the drier and opt instead for the scent of the great outdoors, hanging clothes outside to dry.
Once clothes are fully dry, it is time to plan their storage until it is time to use them once again. Prior to storage, it is imperative that gear by fully dry because moisture breeds bacteria and bacteria create odor. The most commonly used method for storage is placing clothing in a sealed plastic bag, accompanied by foliage to infuse a natural scent. Also useful for a scent-free storage is baking soda. Sprinkle it in between articles of clothing prior to storage and even leave the remainder of the container in with clothes. Alternatively, you can embrace the scent-absorbing powers of activated charcoal. Simply place some charcoal in with your clothing and it will absorb scent. A small amount of activated charcoal goes a long way, but it does have an absorption capacity at which point it will stop being effective so it may be necessary to refresh it prior to next hunting season rolling around.
Photo: Earth Clinic
Now that your clothes are odor-free, that leaves to task of tackling your own personal body scent. A few good ways to tackle that include:
1. Buy and use cheap, unscented soap from your local big box store.
2. Make a paste of baking soda and unscented soap and gently wash with it.
3. Commercial body washes that remove scent can be purchased at sporting goods stores.
4. Use vanilla to cover up your natural scent; this is said to confuse deer as the scent of vanilla is not something they associate with predation or hunters.
5. Use unscented baby wipes both before dressing and once in the field.
Photo: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland
Top it all off with some unscented deodorant and a sprinkle of baking soda in your shoes and you should be good to go. With the natural body odors we produce removed from the equation, as well as from your hunting clothing, you are well on the way to being prepared for next season. Just don't put a new air freshener in your truck the week before you leave to go hunting and you should be set.
Are there any scent reducing rituals you swear by? What are your preferences for storing clean gear? Tell us about it in the comments!