The Reality of Being "Scent Free" - September 2008

Question: I follow all the scent elimination steps including wearing Scent Blocker clothing, but my brother smokes cigarettes while on stand and he sees more big bucks than I do. Are deer afraid of cigarette smoke or attracted to it? Is it worth all the effort to try to be scent free? -- Dustin Crawford, Osceola, IA

THE REALITY OF BEING "SCENT-FREE"The fact that your brother sees more big deer than you is either coincidence or related to his hunting locations. He may also know something you don't (knows how to pick better stand locations and hunt them correctly). It is not because he smokes cigarettes.

I know that deer are not afraid of wood smoke because I have seen them behaving naturally when smoke was in the air. There is even a product on the market, called the Scent Smoker (, which you can use to infuse your hunting clothing with wood smoke to cover human odors. Many hunters swear by this method of scent control.

I can only assume that deer are not afraid of cigarette smoke. However, I have not seen any scientific testing on this subject. It is hard to have cigarette smoke without human odor since both originate from the same source. As a result, it is kind of a moot point, worrying about whether or not it spooks them. If the smoke doesn't, the human scent likely will.

IS IT WORTH IT?This is the bigger question that Dustin was really asking. His brother is seeing bigger deer without doing the same work he is doing. Is it worth it? I have pondered this question many times when a deer smells me while I am on stand after having done everything possible to eliminate my scent. Here is my take on the entire subject.

First, I know for certain that every step you take to get yourself scent free and keep your clothing scent free will reduce the amount of human (or foreign) odor that gets blown downwind when you are hunting. I could list everything I do, but rather than do that I'll stay focused on the question at hand; is it worth it. Now, after doing everything, even if there is still enough scent for a deer to smell you at 75 yards, turn and sneak off, there may not be enough for the same deer to smell you at 150 yards after the scent has further diluted.

This is a worthy goal. By decreasing the size and length of your scent stream, you can reduce your overall impact on your hunting area. The fewer deer that smell you, the better your hunting will be both that day and throughout the season.

Regardless of how carefully you plan your stand sites and how carefully you approach them, some deer will inevitably get downwind of a certain percentage of those locations. The key to successful deer hunting is keeping those deer from knowing that you are hunting them. I count it worthwhile if I can cut the size of my scent stream in half. I rarely see deer react to my scent at distances past about 100 yards so I feel that I am not polluting my hunting area every time I sit in a stand.

In other words, despite the good luck enjoyed by some hunters who don't use maximum scent control measures, it is still worth the effort on your part. It will pay off over the long haul. A few good seasons don't make someone a great deer hunter (luck plays too much of a role over the short term). The true test is what happens over a lifetime. That is when luck averages out and you start to see the benefits of paying attention to every detail.

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