A Whitetail Hunter's Guide to Scent Elimination

The technological advances of ozone-based products has changed the chemistry of hunting, both literally and figuratively.

A Whitetail Hunter's Guide to Scent Elimination

Since learning of its defense capabilities, humans have been attempting to fool the noses of the game animals they pursue. Most notably, this is accomplished by keeping the wind at the advantage of the pursuer. However, soon after the dawn of time, humans have also used cover scents to mask their own odor. Cover scents include urine from animals such as raccoons and fox, as well as aromatic scents from nature like apple, cedar, pine and fresh earth. Typically placed around the area in which one would be hunting or applied on the hunter themselves, this practice aided the overall scent cover process immensely. In fact, it was the go-to scent-masking technique until the advent of scent-eliminating products.

In the early to mid-1990s, hunters began using odorless sprays that helped to eliminate human odors. The sprays were soon followed by odorless shampoos, soaps and detergents. Even though these products worked great, and are still available today, deer hunters started to note that many of the odors deer could smell were not the “human odor” that they were trying to mask. This revelation kick-started the pursuit for a scientific approach from manufacturers to help eliminate all unwanted odors that a hunter came in contact with, as well as emitted themselves.

That revelation spawned the use of carbon- and silver-based materials to create a technology-driven approach to scent elimination. Leading the way were scent-gathering and antimicrobial-based garments. These tools fought odors from the source instead of masking odors that were already present. The art of making hunting apparel designed to remove odors changed the landscape of hunting. Today, there’s another leading technology available — ozone.

Ozone Primer

Ozone-based technologies work by disrupting molecules with either UV light or electricity, splitting oxygen molecules into single atoms. Then, these single atoms bond to another oxygen molecule, forming via unstable bonds, thus forcing the extra oxygen atom to attach to another nearby free molecule. This is when the scent molecule is transformed into an entirely different chemical makeup; therefore, eliminating the scent all together. In not-so-scientific terms, ozone changes the chemical composition of scent molecules, giving them virtually no smell at all.

To further comprehend what is going on with scent elimination technology, such as ozone, one must first understand what scents are alarming to wildlife and where they originate. Once this is realized, hunters have a better understanding of how ozone can be used effectively.

The folks at ScentLok Technologies have produced some great information on odor management. Odors come from various places. ScentLok defines odors within three pillars. The first pillar is bacterial; these are odors that are caused by bacteria on the skin as a byproduct of metabolizing the nutrients from one’s body in order to sustain life, such as sweat. The second pillar of odor is metabolic; these odors are produced as a result of substances that one ingests. Things like garlic, spicy food and even alcohol can all cause the body to produce odors. The third and final pillar is ambient odor, which in my opinion is the one needing the most attention by hunters. Ambient odors surround us throughout everyday encounters with things such as food, fuel for our vehicles and smoke. These odors attach themselves to our bodies and clothing without us realizing it. 

My Scent Elimination Process

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I began my obsession with scent elimination. This was the same era in which scent eliminating sprays, deodorants, soaps and laundry detergent all made their debuts. Each of these products had the same purpose, to keep hunters scent free. During that time, I can recall Hunters Specialties, the makers of Scent-A-Way, printing a scent elimination system on all their products. At the end of the list, it would state that the system must be used 100 percent in order to be effective. Even though that was years ago, I still agree with that system. The only difference between then and now is I have now added a few more details that involve using ozone. And yes, it still must be done 100 percent to be the most effective.

The first part of my regimen in eliminating odors has always been my laundry. It involves washing all my hunting clothes in a scent eliminating laundry detergent, then storing the garments in a scent free bag. To this day, I wash all my hunting clothes including gloves, facemask and socks.

The next step is body cleansing using scent eliminating soaps and shampoos. I am religious about this step; however, the one thing that always bothered me when trying to stay scent free was what would occur after getting out of the shower. I would proceed to get dressed, get into my truck and then drive to my hunting location. Even though I try to dress in the field, especially my outer layer of clothes, I knew I would be riding in the cab of my truck where there is a massive number of foreign odors flowing freely in the air. Think about it; a truck seat has everyday odors embedded into it that want to cling to our bodies while riding in the confined area. This is where the technology of ozone comes into play, and it works wonders.

Implement Ozone

Ozone is known for cleaning the air or the space of an area. Before moving to the next step of eliminating odors from our bodies and clothes, we must clean the areas in which we will be before hunting that can cause all the prior work of becoming scent free to be wasted. Again, the number one place for various odors is our vehicles. Hours before I know I will be hunting; I will place my ScentLok Radial Nano portable ozone generator inside my truck and let it cycle for an hour or more. This eliminates all the odors flowing in the air, as well as on the surfaces. This step is so important that a lot of companies, such as Scent Crusher who have a product called the Ozone Go, have manufactured these small ozone generators that plug directly into the 12-volt outlet of a vehicle. These too provide clean air throughout the vehicle, so that no odors are taken out of the vehicle with the hunter.

To combat odors in your vehicle, run a portable ozone generator such as a ScentLok Radial Nano for an hour before driving to your hunting area.
To combat odors in your vehicle, run a portable ozone generator such as a ScentLok Radial Nano for an hour before driving to your hunting area.

Since the advent of ozone technology, I have changed the way I store my clean hunting apparel after removing it from the dryer. If I am going to be hunting near home or staying for an extended period at an outfitter, I will use a portable closet. After I get my clothes out of the dryer, I hang them directly into the closet chamber then cycle approximately an hour of ozone. This helps eliminate any odors that have been left behind, as well as prevent any odors from settling onto my clothes until I am ready to hunt. If traveling for a multiple-day hunt, I prefer using a duffle style bag, featuring a portable ozone generator. These types of bags are perfect for a couple sets of hunting clothes, and again they keep any unwanted odors from entering after doing an ozone cycle.

The act of becoming aware of and eliminating odor in the spaces we live, before the hunt takes place, is in my opinion one of the biggest eye-openers of the overall scent elimination process. These areas include any place our hunting gear is going to be: closets, storage rooms, garages and as already mentioned, our vehicles. These areas are also typically where our bow and accessories are stored. Other areas to pay attention to include places such as mud rooms and garages where our boots, treestands and safety harnesses are stored.

In Practice

By pre-treating our surroundings before the hunt takes place, we are less likely to transfer unwanted odors to the field. When I started paying attention to the spaces that my hunting gear were exposed to, I could tell my scent elimination was at a new level. I am constantly using new products such as Scent Killer No Zone spray from Wildlife Research Center, which helps eliminate odors in the air instead of on the object, and using my ScentLok Radial generator in all areas that my hunting gear is located, multiple times before the hunt. In using these products, my chances of taking odors with me in the stand or blind decreases dramatically. Here’s an example.

This past November, while deer hunting in Missouri, I was greeted by an early snowfall. Overnight the grounds where covered by close to 1-inch of snow, bringing with it temperatures dipping into the 20s — unseasonal for Missouri. The night before the hunt, I found myself digging out my cold weather gear instead of the mid-season garments that I had been wearing the previous five days.

Before going to bed that night, I put them in my ScentLok OZChamber 8K duffle bag, then set my ozone timer for one hour. The next morning, I began hunting on the ground, so that I could watch a small open field that was between two patches of timber. Immediately, I began seeing a lot of rut activity, as several smaller bucks were chasing does throughout the field. Finally, around 7:30 a.m., a nice 8-pointer came out of the timber, entering the field to see what all the deer movement was about.

I knew that the buck was a shooter; when he came into range, I took the shot. The buck ran a few yards, then down a hill and out of sight. Usually, I will give a deer a little time after shooting, but my nerves got the best of me. I stood up and proceeded towards the hill to see if I could catch movement of the buck. As I neared the top of the hill, I could see the buck swaying back and forth, then go down. My patience had paid off, and I had a nice, southern Missouri whitetail on the ground.

Even though you try to keep the wind in your favor, deer have a knack for appearing downwind. By remaining as scent free as possible, you might still get a shot at filling your tag.
Even though you try to keep the wind in your favor, deer have a knack for appearing downwind. By remaining as scent free as possible, you might still get a shot at filling your tag.
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