I’ve been out hunting the past few days. As always, it is an ineffable blend of excitement, anticipation, apprehension and sadness coming singly and together as I sit in the woods waiting for a deer to walk past. It’s an activity unlike any other, and I don’t know quite how to describe it.
Luckily, that’s not what I’m writing about today. This year I’ve taken a deep dive on scent control measures, and I’ve come to realize that they are the most perfect products, which is no doubt why there are hunter specific soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and deodorant, not to mention chewing gum, scent removal spray, carbon lined clothing, masking smells ranging from the obvious (apple) to the improbable (a device that lays down a lot of smoke), and a bunch of attractants, once again ranging from the obvious (apple) to the gross (doe urine). This bounty does not prove that any of them actually work well, but that’s the whole point.
It is obvious to anyone who’s spent time in the woods that the problem is real. Deer have an uncanny ability to pick up any unfamiliar scent, and they can do it from a long way off. I suspect smell causes the most failed deer hunts, at least where a bow is being used. At the same time, it’s impossible to be sure why a hunt succeeds when one does. Was it simply favorable winds, or did smell absorbing boot liners make the difference?
This is why these are the perfect products. The problem is real, but the efficaciousness of any single part of scent management is impossible to separate from the endless variables that go into hunting. There will always be frustrated hunters coming in from a day in the woods wondering why that one deer never came close enough for a shot, or why no deer turned up at all, and they will be prepared to shell out money for something that might make next time more successful.
The issue is that all the obvious products already exist. My best idea so far is a little box with a carbon filter and an antimicrobial coating that you can put your cell phone and wallet in. After all, people take their cell phones everywhere these days. Who's to say how many hunts they’ve ruined?
P.S. The picture above is a homemade mixture of baking soda, water, and hydrogen peroxide. It’s probably just a placebo, but at least it’s cheap.
P.P.S. One of my favorite things about researching hunting topics is the comments. Many of them are straightforward, on topic, and useful. But others are so earnestly stereotypical that they border on parody. Today, while reading about tactics for hunting from the ground (rather than from a tree stand) I came upon one that might well be the greatest comment in the history of the internet. It went something like, “I’ve always hunted from the ground. But I live in a place with a good game to population ratio and reasonable laws. Politicians call it flyover country. We call it America.” You’re welcome.