Making Sense of Scents - by Mark Campagnola

Submitted By Admin Aug .23.2017

With archery season just around the corner I want to talk about cover scents and human odor. There are a lot of hunters who think they don’t need any type of cover scent - they feel if they have the wind in their face they can’t be winded. While keeping the wind in your face is true, you just cannot trust the wind or the thermals to blow in your favor all the time. Maybe you have taken two long hours working your way in for the shot, the wind’s in your face, and now you’re just waiting for that bull to turn when suddenly the wind changes and a cow or the bull catches a whiff of you. All that work and “BOOM” it’s over in a flash.

When I’m hunting I am constantly checking the wind with my odorless HS Windicator powder. Bowhunters really need to worry about their human odor more so than rifle hunters do, but a rifle hunter should by all rights be very aware of their odor also. If you stink, an elk can smell you at around 400 yards or more. I know this is the main reason a lot of rifle hunters don’t see a lot or any game fairly close. A few years ago while I was elk hunting I came across four other bowhunters. We stopped and talked a few minutes until the wind shifted towards their backs and right at me… I almost threw up. They stunk so bad that I finished that conversation and went the opposite direction of them. Staying clean is very important, scent-free soaps and laundry detergent for you and your hunting clothes will help, but you still are not going to be 100% human odor free. Elk and deer live by their noses first, and then their eyes and ears. If the wind changes direction on you and they smell you, it’s over and they’re gone.

This is where cover scents come in. If you and your hunting clothes are as clean as can be, you still want to use a cover scent that fits your surroundings. When I’m elk hunting I always use Fresh Earth and Natural Pine Scent Wafers® together, as with this system you stand a better chance of not being winded. By doing just this I have literally confused elk to the point they could not figure out my scent as being danger so they went back to feeding.

When using Scent Wafers I will use three Fresh Earth and one or two Natural Pine. One Fresh Earth on my hat, one on my day pack, and one on my pants cargo pocket flap. The Natural Pine I put one on the other side of my hat then maybe one on my pack or on my pants.  I’m not saying don’t hunt with the wind in your face; I’m saying cover scents do work as long as you and your clothes are clean and don’t smell like the bacon and eggs you had for breakfast that morning, or smoke from the campfire you had the night before. Like I said, elk and deer live by their noses.

Keep your Hunting Clothes Scent-Free

Staying clean and scent-free is impossible when you’re on an extended hunt in the woods, sleeping in tents and not hotels or lodges without using some type of scent elimination system. Ninety- five percent of the time I’m hunting out of a tent too so I know how difficult it is to stay clean and scent-free. Depending on where I’m hunting and how bad the roads are I might be able to get my 24’ camping trailer in where I can have a shower. But if you can’t shower every day there are other ways to stay clean, you just have to put a little more effort and pre-planning into your personal hygiene. All this pre-planning starts at home before you even leave for your hunt.

Forty years ago when I started elk hunting it was with a rifle. We would stay one week in the mountains while never taking a shower. All we did was use a washrag to clean up and maybe wash our hair once or so during that time. Needless to say when we got home we were pretty ripe. No one ever thought about any kind of scent control, we knew to hunt with the wind in our face but nothing about scent control.

After two years of rifle hunting for me, my family decided to take up archery hunting which was way beyond a learning curve for all of us. This was where we learned about scent control amongst a lot of other things that we did not do rifle hunting. Back then we didn’t have anything for scent control or cover scents except little 2 oz bottles of elk urine and those where so expensive that we came up with our own ways for scent control. Whenever we found fresh droppings or urine on the ground we would smear it on our clothes and that didn’t cost us a dime. Cow pies also worked pretty well too.

Now I start with washing all my hunting clothes (including socks and underwear) with Scent-A-Way® Bio-Strike® Laundry Detergent. Then, throw everything in the dryer with a Scent-A-Way MAX Fresh Earth Dryer Sheet (your dryer won’t smell like dirt when done). Once this is done I make sure my hands are clean so I don’t contaminate my clean clothes, I put them in my Scent-Safe™ Deluxe Travel Bag with a couple Fresh Earth Scent Wafers. Now, all my hunting clothes are clean and will have a fresh dirt smell to them and ready to go. I do this before every hunt I go on (except Turkey) and I choose the Fresh Earth Scent Wafer to put in my bag because that cover scent can be used anywhere there is dirt - which is everywhere. The greatest part about these Wafers is you can use them all day long, put them back in their container and they will revitalize overnight smelling like new come morning.

I know a lot of people who used to store their clothes in a trash bag (my self included) thinking their clothing will remain scent-free – this is a big problem. Even when you tie it closed outside odors can contaminate your clothing. How many times have you smelled nasty odors coming from a trash bag when it’s tied tight? Everyone has. So, if trash bags can’t keep odors in, it’s certainly not going to keep odors out. Get a Scent-Safe Deluxe Travel Bag to save yourself from some headaches.

Now while I’m out hunting I always keep a small plastic spray bottle of Scent-A-Way Bio-Strike Odor Spray and a pack of Scent-A-Way MAX Wash Towels (which are also odorless) in my day pack. This allows me to clean up right there in the field any time I need to and be as scent-free as possible.

While at camp I always take my camo off after getting back from hunting and put on regular camp cloths. I take my camo clothes and spray them completely inside and out with field spray and then hang them out away from any of the camp smells so they can absorb the mountain air. If it’s stormy out I will put them back in my bag after letting the spray dry. When I’m ready to go back out I clean up with my Wash Towels, put my scent free-clothes on and off I go.

Keeping your clothes scent-free isn’t too hard as long as you follow this type of system. I’ve been using this system over 25 years now and I have had some unbelievable encounters with elk and other animals.


Mark Campagnola