December 2016
Talkin' Huntin'

Eight Steps for Scent-Free Whitetail Hunting

Whoever smelt it … will have an un-notched tag.

Back in the 1980s, I used to get razzed because of the detailed preparation I went through to try and remain as scent-free as possible when hunting whitetails. My father and grandfathers taught me that whitetails have a great sense of smell. They also educated me on how to play the wind, but, besides hanging our clothes outside before the hunt, we did little to reduce odors. When others saw how persnickety I had become about reducing odors I was made fun of … until antlers began to hit the ground.

We all know a whitetail’s sense of smell is a force that’s difficult to beat. To an olfactory offense so strong, it’s likely impossible to be totally scent free. However, it’s a proven fact that it is possible to reduce our odors to minuscule, trace levels that even mature bucks will tolerate in close quarters. Are you doing enough to reduce these alien odors so you can get closer to whitetails? Do deer think you stink? Follow these steps to get closer to whitetails:

1) Wash your clothes in a quality hunter’s detergent. Besides our body, we need to be concerned with everything else we’re bringing into the woods, our clothes being one of the most important.

Do not put your boots or clothing on until you get to your hunting location. In fact, if you have a long walk to your ambush site, you may want to carry your clothes until you get closer to avoid sweating in them. Rubber-bottomed boots will help to reduce scent transfer on the trail.


Some feel they must also treat their clothes with a product to remove the UV from the garment. There is no need if you use a superior hunter’s wash like Scent Killer Gold Laundry Detergent because it doesn’t contain optical brightening agents or fluorescent brightening agents. So, besides removing all UV from the garment, it doesn’t add any back. If you are a numbskull and wash your deer hunting clothes in regular detergents, you will add back the brighteners.

2) Dry your clothes outside if possible. If you live next to a gas station or greasy restaurant, you’re defeating the purpose; if it’s late season and your wet clothes would freeze solid, it’s OK to use your dryer. If you do, remove all fabric softener bars before drying; before storing them, it may be a good idea to let them air-out outside if possible.

3) Once your clothes are dry, store them in a container so no odors have the possibility of infusing into them. Make sure the clothes are totally dry! If there is any moisture in them, you will begin a chemical reaction and odors will begin being produced. This is the same reason it is best NOT to include leaves, dirt, pine boughs or other natural items in the container with your clothes. Even with our limited human sense of smell, after one week in the container the difference in the smell of fresh pine boughs compared to the ones you have in your container will be obvious. If you must put something in with the clothes, fill a sock with one-third cup of baking soda and place it in the container – switch it out every few weeks.

4) Shower in Scent Killer Body Wash & Shampoo and use Scent Killer Deodorant. In nearly all regions of the whitetails’ territory, L-serine (human scent) is the most feared odor they can experience. Reducing these odors by showering is extremely important.

Brush your teeth! Yes, most toothpaste has a minty odor, but it’s better than the bad breath of a human carnivore. To reduce any breath odor while in a stand, a piece of mild mint gum or eating an apple can help. Again, yes, both also have an odor, but both are better than that nasty carnivore breath.

Do not pass through where any odors may cling to you or your clothing. If I’m going out for a morning hunt, I will shower directly before. If I come inside to eat, I will remove all hunting clothing before I enter any building and shower again before heading back afield. Try to plan ahead – make sure you have your vehicle filled with gas and eat any meals before showering and brushing your teeth. In addition, be picky about what you eat immediately before you head out. Onions, peanut butter, lemons … if you can smell it after a meal, guess who can smell it 1,000 times better?

5) Don’t put your clothes on until you get to your hunting area. In fact, don’t even remove them from their protective container until then. It’s amazing how many hunters put on their hunting boots at home and then stop to fill up with gas, or they put on their hunting clothes and stop at a café for breakfast … then they proceed to try and fool a nose as sophisticated as a bloodhound’s. These hunters usually have a vacant trophy wall and an empty freezer.

If you have a long walk to your ambush location, carry your clothes until you get close to the site to avoid sweating in them. Sweating not only causes more odors, but it’s a sure way to become cold.


Scent Killer Gold spray works when applied like you see here, but actually works best when you treat your clothing and then let it dry-in ahead of the hunt. When used in this way, I refer to it as a scent-elimination suit.

6) Treat your boots and clothing with a quality scent elimination spray like Scent Killer Gold. Spray your clothing the day before and allow the spray to dry into your clothing. Then return your clothes to their container. Scent Killer Spray molecules adhere to odor molecules making them too heavy to form a gas. No gas, no smell. Spray down each layer of your clothing, concentrating on your high sweat areas – the small of your back, your underarms, crotch and feet. Believe it or not, your feet have three times as many sweat pores as your armpits. With the spray dried into your clothing, it seems to me like I’m wearing a scent-elimination suit.

I believe in this product so strongly that I would list it in my Top 2 most important hunting tools. I must have my bow and I must have my Scent Killer Gold. I make mistakes just as often as everyone else and I’ve seen this product protect me countless times.

7) Pay close attention to scent-transfer. We have taken care of the greater share of smells we may carry into the woods on us, but what about the smells we may be leaving behind? Every time you touch an object it’s like you’re pushing your scent into it. How strong the smell will be and how long it lingers will depend on temperatures, humidity and numerous other factors. Why telegraph your presence to the herd? Wear rubber-bottomed boots and don’t touch anything with your bare hands. Pay attention and be sneaky.

8) When the hunting season is over for the year, where do you store your treestand(s) and other gear? Hopefully, you don’t amass them in your garage or other area where foreign odors will permeate and cling to them. Just think; during the winter when you start your car to warm it up before you take it somewhere, where do you imagine the exhaust fumes are collecting? I promise you a whitetail will smell that! Pay attention to storing your equipment in a spot where minimal odors will be able to contact them. An outdoor shed or even covered by a tarp under an awning is a good place to store a treestand.


These tasks are ways we can prevent odors from entering the whitetail woods so we’re better at closing the distance on them. We still must learn all we can about playing the wind and thermal current. Understanding the air current, when combined with the plan mentioned, will make you deadly this season.


Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations for Mossy Oak BioLogic, Editor-in-Chief of Gamekeepers, Farming for Wildlife magazine and a habitat consultant.