August 21, 2019
By Christian Berg
It’s no coincidence that one of the oldest dilemmas in bowhunting — scent control — continues to spur new, high-tech solutions. And for 2019, there is arguably nothing newer, or more interesting, than the ZeroTrace PureION Field Generator from Wildgame Innovations.
The ZeroTrace is a first-of-its-kind product that uses positive and negative ions to reduce odors in the field. Arriving just in time for archery seasons, Wildgame’s Mike Scrip said the ZeroTrace is the result of a lengthy research-and-development effort to create a product that is as effective as ozone while avoiding what he described as the shortcomings of ozone-based technology.
Hunters’ use of ozone to control odors — both on apparel and gear in closed environments and while afield — has become increasingly popular over the past decade, with a multitude of manufacturers offering ozone-based products. In fact, as an avid bowhunter and self-described “scent-control junky,” Scrip himself has used ozone products for the past nine years because he believes they work. However, Scrip also said he has two significant complaints about ozone products. First, ozone is a powerful oxidizer, he said. Repeatedly exposing his hunting equipment to high ozone concentrations has resulted in the premature breakdown of items such as rubber boots and the elastic suspenders on his camouflage bibs. Second, ozone is a known respiratory irritant. Scrip said he often found his breathing irritated when hunting with an ozone generator, particularly when inside a ground blind.
In searching for a scent-control technology that could rival ozone’s effectiveness while avoiding the potential drawbacks, Scrip said Wildgame discovered ion-based products that have been used for many years to purify air and eliminate odors indoors. In a nutshell, such devices use an electrostatic plate to generate positive and/or negative ions and a fan to disperse them into the air. These electrically charged ions then bond to airborne molecules such as dust, pollen, bacteria, etc., neutralizing them and causing them to fall out of the air column.
Wildgame decided to employ the same technology in a new unit designed for outdoor use by hunters. “We jacked up the ion production in this machine to equal or exceed some of the very large [indoor] units,” Scrip said. “We have specifically targeted this to reduce scent.”
Independent laboratory tests commissioned by Wildgame showed the ZeroTrace was able to reduce human odors such as lactic acid and urea. Scrip and other product developers also tested ZeroTrace units throughout the 2018 hunting seasons with excellent results, including a 14-point buck that hung around Scrip’s treestand for more than an hour. “Deer definitely should have [been] alerted if this thing wasn’t effective,” Scrip said. “What this does is give you that edge … to have that opportunity at game.”
As added benefits, ions don’t have any harmful effects on clothing or gear, nor do they irritate the respiratory system. Because of that, Wildgame recommends the ZeroTrace be mounted in the tree or blind above the hunter’s head and angled down toward the hunter in the downwind direction. “You want it to … wash over you,” Scrip said. “It’s cleaning that air as it goes downwind.”
The ZeroTrace unit features a Trubark HD finish to help it blend in with the woods and comes with a magnetic, ball-and-socket-style tree mount. Once the magnetic ball base is attached to the tree via the included nylon strap, simply place the metal socket on the back of the unit near the magnetic ball and the connection is made. The ball-shaped design allows you to easily swivel the unit into the desired position before locking it into place.
Air is moved through the ZeroTrace via a five-inch fan, while power is supplied via a rechargeable lithium battery that provides six hours of run time in standard mode and four hours in boost mode (maximum ion output). Scrip said hunters can use either standard or boost mode in both blinds and treestands, depending on variables such as length of sit and wind direction.
I recently received a ZeroTrace for evaluation and was impressed with the unit’s overall quality and ease of use. The unit measures about seven inches tall, five inches wide and four inches deep and weighs 2.4 pounds with the battery and mount installed. The magnetic mount really is innovative and literally makes setup a “snap.” However, the sound of the ball attaching to the socket is fairly noisy in a quiet room, so I’m glad Wildgame also gives the option of attaching the mounting strap directly to the unit for those dead-calm mornings close to bedding areas. I also found the fan on the unit very quiet; it’s comparable to the in-the-field ozone generator I regularly use. Although it will be another couple of months before I can get out and actually hunt big game with the ZeroTrace, I am definitely looking forward to trying it for myself.
In addition to the magnetic tree mount, the ZeroTrace comes with two batteries, a battery-charging cable and a soft-sided blind adapter, all for less than $200 — a price point Scrip said is designed to give more hunters the opportunity to experience it. Additional magnetic ball mounts and a hard-sided blind mount will also be available for those who want to place mounts for the unit in multiple stand/blind locations.
“To convert someone from ozone — an established technology that has been around for a long time and has been accepted — you have to change people’s minds,” Scrip said. “We want them to understand … this is a [viable] alternative, and for those people who have been on the fence about it, this is an affordable way to get into this type of technology.” MSRP: $199