Slipping in Unnoticed
The best possible stand location won’t produce if the hunter is heard, smelled, or spotted on his way to the stand. Hunting alone helps to keep human impact in the area to a minimum, but precautions must still be made to avoid spooking game while coming and going.
Stands should be accessed from down wind and without crossing areas that routinely attract game such as bedding areas, food sources, or frequently used travel routes. Take advantage of quiet access routes such as farm lanes or forest trails whenever possible.
When hunting in remote or wilderness areas, you often have only one way in and out of the area. In these situations it becomes critical to move into the stand slowly and as quietly as possible. Give yourself some extra time when heading out for evening hunts. Still hunt into the stand, stopping often to survey the cover ahead before moving forward.
Reducing human scent is an important benefit of hunting solo, but it’s impossible to completely eliminate human scent. There are, however, ways to manage scent to minimize the chances of being detected by game. Human scent should be managed not only while hunting but also while scouting, preparing stand sites, and hanging stands.
There are many ways to keep scent problems under control. Keeping your body clean and wearing laundered clothing is an obvious first line of defense. Strive to wash every day using non-scented soap. If a shower or tub isn’t available, a simple sponge bath will do. Concentrate on scent producing body parts including the groin, arm pits, and especially the hair.
Hair can become a major scent problem because it acts like a wick, collecting odor and dispersing it into the air. Short hair that’s washed frequently is the best defense against this odor problem.
In addition to maintaining a clean body, hunting clothing must also be clean and as odor-free as possible. Wear clean clothing in the field each day. On hunts where it’s not practical to have a change of clothing for each day in the field, hanging garments outside to air out helps.
Certain types of clothing can also be laundered and dried easily in the field. Polyester-based fabrics such as Polar Fleece, Worstelon, and Saddle Cloth can be hand washed in scent-free soap, rung out and air dried quickly. Fabrics such as cotton, wool, or cotton/polyester hold water and dry out too slowly for field washing.
Scent-absorbing clothing that uses activated charcoal, such as the popular Scent-Lok suit, are another excellent way to control human scent. Keep in mind, however, that this and other activated carbon suits are designed to trap and absorb scent coming from the body. To be effective, the exterior fabric of these garments must be kept clean and odor free. Never wear scent-absorbing clothing inside a cabin, tent, or around odors that might permeate the exterior fabric.
Knee-high rubber boots are a reasonably priced scent controlling item that every bowhunter should invest in. Major advancements have been made in rubber boots in recent years, most noteworthy the insulation level. Available with Thinsulate insulation layers ranging from 200 to 1,200 grams, the most practical models for walking are ankle-fit designs.
No matter how good a stand location is, no single stand is productive all the time. Changes in wind direction can quickly lend a stand useless. Plan on establishing a minimum of two stand sites per hunting area.
If the area you hunt doesn’t allow treestands to be left on public lands overnight, prepare two or more different stand sites ahead of time and pack a stand in and out as needed.
In areas where stands can be left overnight, purchase a second stand, hang it, and let the area rest for several days before hunting. This simple precaution establishes a quiet period, allows scent a chance to dissipate and encourages wildlife to visit the location without suspicion.
Hunting alone goes against some deep felt social needs. Leaving your hunting partner in camp isn’t going to be an easy decision, but in the end it may be the key to successful hunts for both of you. Two is a crowd except in camp.
Summary: Going Clean and Quiet
Field washing of hunting clothing is a good method of managing human scent on extended trips. Certain fabrics such as Polar Fleece, Worstelon, and Saddle Cloth can be hand washed, rung out, and line died quickly. Don’t forget to wash your cap a major source of human odor.
Adding a dab of white grease to treestand joints and hardware can go a long way towards quieting unwanted squeaks. Strap-on style stands can also be made more quiet by using a second ratchet strap to insure the stand doesn’t move when weight is shifted from one side to another.
Scent-absorbing clothing that features activated charcoal requires special treatment. This clothing can’t function properly unless the outside fabric is clean and odorless. Never apply cover scents, wear these garments inside, near camp fires or other odors that might contaminate the exterior fabric with unwanted odor.
Clean and odor free should apply to scouting as well as hunting. When scouting an area that will be hunted on the same trip, take every precaution to reduce human scent and noise. Treat scouting trips as you would hunting trips.