Here we go delving into a richly and hotly debated topic that has been written about more times then the proverbial “Stand Placement for Whitetails”. Our intention is not to offend any company, manufacturer or pro-hunter that has a stake in this field but rather to point out the science and facts of what makes up human scent and odor and what can be done to control them.
As avid worldwide hunters of many diverse game animals, there have been many occasions that the intended prey got away because they picked up our presence simply by their extraordinary sense of smell. Be it Whitetails, elk, bear (Black, Grizzly and Brown), Cape Buffalo or the Bison to a whole myriad of game in between from all around the globe, we have been flat busted and many more times then we like to admit. As a matter of fact, I single handedly disbanded a herd of 70 plus Persian Ibex without them ever seeing me. But as we write this, we like to think that it happens to everyone else just as frequently and it is not something blatantly wrong with us in particular. But most of the time, we blame it on the wind. Those darn mid-day shifting breezes give our presence away to out intended prey. Sometimes they just bolt and others act as if they just got a whiff of something funny but not enough to convince them to leave. Usually though, the game is up in a matter in seconds after that.
All hunts are different. Some of our adventures allow us to return to a dwelling for daily showers and requisite laundry duties to keep our “stink” down to a minimum. While other pleasurable endeavors that we willingly put ourselves through dictate the same clothes and no bathing for weeks on end despite daily vigorous physical activity. That scenario makes for a truly memorable olfactory experience. Now on some hunts, scent and odor control are not nearly as crucial as others especially for the firearm hunter but it is usually very important for the archer. So let’s look at the science behind us smelly humans.
First of all let’s get rid of the easy part of this, the aspect of SCENT. All species have a unique scent to them, humans included and that is why you know a horse is around without seeing it. Dogs smell like dogs and not elephants. Deer smell like deer and not pigs and so on. This unique scent is really not an odor, it is what we as a species emanate. This is our natural smell and at this point can not be eliminated via present day technology. It can be covered up, absorbed and masked but not stopped. For those of you who are married, you can easily confirm that a particular piece of clothing from your spouse is his or hers simply by the smell. As mentioned above, all species have a unique smell to them but it goes further then that. All individuals of a species have their own unique smell within that of the species. That is why we can identify our spouses simply by smell despite our vastly inferior sense of smell compared to most of the animal kingdom.
So what can we do about our human scent? Yes, we can take showers with scent neutralizing agents which help for a while but we will continue to manufacture and put off that scent non stop. That is where the whole industry of scent absorbing clothing came to be. The leaders behind Scent Blocker and Scent Lok clothing have endeavored to design clothing that absorbs our natural human scent via the utilization of charcoal impregnated garments. The one thing we often overlook here is that we do not smell ourselves at least not our on scent. If close enough to anyone, you will detect their scent but you will not smell your own. So even if you just showered very thoroughly, we promise you that your spouse could pick you out of a line up blind folded. So lesson number one: At least right now in this day and age if you want to minimize your scent you must use quality scent absorbing clothing. Period. End of story.
So now that we put scent to rest lets move on to ODOR. A lot of people lump scent and odor together but it is vastly different and that it is why it is called “body odor” and most folks identify that as an offensive smell. Body odor is very simple. We all sweat and the areas that sweat the most are the hairiest parts of our bodies, namely our groin, armpits and head. Not to say that the rest of our body doesn’t sweat but just not to the same degree as the above mentioned parts. The fact is that our sweat does not stink; it emanates your natural scent that we mentioned above. The problem occurs when the normal bacteria that inhabit our skin begin to eat and digest the sebum that is secreted as part of our sweat. Sebum is a product that is manufactured in sebaceous glands that happen to be at the root of all of our hair follicles. Thus the areas with the most hair, the more sweat and the more sebum you produce which results in more food for your hungry skin bacteria. The by product of the bacterial feast is the offensive odor we all know and love as body odor. And this you can smell on yourself as well as others because it is not a natural smell for most of us anyway.
So what can we do to control this problem which is the biggest issue in scent control simply because of the overwhelming number of odiferous particles that are being put into the air? The answer is simple; kill the bacteria that live on your skin. Unfortunately, the solution is very difficult because if you think rabbits breed quickly, you haven’t seen anything yet. Some bacteria can reproduce every 30 minutes so even after the best of showers with anti-bacterial soap, millions of bacteria still remain instead of the billions that were there. Simple math will show you how quickly they regain their numbers in a short period of time. (If only some of our prized game animals reproduced this way but we can continue to dream.)
What that leads us to is the fact that if you sweat to any moderate degree and can not bathe to reduce your bacterial load; you will in fact smell terribly in a very short period of time. Even the best scent eliminating clothing can not fix this problem sufficiently. So Option One and the best option, if you are on an extended hunt in which odor control is vital you really need to be able to bathe even if it means a cold quick dip in a lake or river. And mind you waiting till all your outer clothes smell as badly as you do does no good unless you can wash them too. Option Two which is a commonly available product that we have used numerous times and have been very successful with is Neosporin. Unfortunately, we can not recommend it officially because it is an off label use of a FDA approved over the counter medication. The reason for that is the fear that if it was used continually for say more then two to three weeks you would begin to see the emergence of Neosporin resistant bacteria which could lead to difficulty in treating future potential skin infections. That being said, I can’t name a hunt that would last for more then two maximum three weeks in which one could not bathe but still be riddled with sweat. So the fact is that a very small amount of this ointment rubbed into your armpits, groin and scalp after a good bathing every third or fourth day will effectively prevent your normal bacteria from multiplying and actually will kill the bacteria there and will do so for the next few days. By eliminating the bacteria you eliminate body odor period.
Just to make sure we are clear on this, we DO NOT recommend this at all for daily use or in lieu of proper bathing at home or otherwise. Our endeavor here is to give all the advice we can to keep you safe and have a successful hunt. We hope this clears up the misconceptions about human scent and odor.
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