One of the hunting industry’s most successful marketing strategies in the past decade has never passed my sniff test.
But sportsmen have spent millions of dollars buying manufacturer claims that deodorizing soaps and clothing fibers impregnated with carbon can mask a human’s scent from the discriminating noses of deer and elk.
The worst part of this madness isn’t that hunters’ money would have had higher odds for success buying mega-millions lottery tickets.
The worst part is that hunters fell for it.
Short of locking yourself, weapon and gear into an air-tight capsule, how do you think it’s possible to sequester the odors from your unclothed face, not to mention your breath, sweat and farts?
I’ve watched my English setter track quail over scabrock where nothing but little, leathery feet met the basalt.
Bloodhounds can follow the route of a fleeing prisoner hours later from the residual scent left from hard-rubber boot souls and the brushing of pants in the grass.
A ton of science is cited to document the odor-eliminating properties of Scent Blocker, Scent-Lok, No Trace and other clothing product brands.
But all the hype never really addresses the bottom line: Wild animals have evolved to have olfactory sensors effective beyond our comprehension. Their lives depend on it.
Serious doubt about the value of scent-inhibiting clothing and other products for hunters has been documented by writers and scientists, albeit those whose publications or income isn’t tied to advertising by major hunter product companies.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve smelled some meat in the several hard looks at the issue by Field & Stream magazine. Even though it’s a publication that could not survive without hunting advertisers, one of the nation’s top sportsmen’s mags took the bold step of publishing another revealing product test in the August issue.
Of course, few people who’ve worked with bird dogs or hounds would waste their money on clothing touted to block human odors from reaching the highly sophisticated noses of elk or deer or other big game and predators.
But writer Scott Bestul put his misgivings to a test. To help out, he recruited a sheriff’s K-9 deputy and a seasoned German shepherd trained to find contraband drugs as well as missing persons.
The study involved three experiments:
1. Full-blown B.O. – An unbathed hunter wearing street clothes is hidden in one of six wooden boxes in a field. All of the boxes have residual human odor.
Result: The dog was brought out. As soon as he was released, it ran downwind of the boxes and needed 20 seconds before he zeroed in on the box with the hunter and barked.
2. Showered and sprayed – For the second test, a hunter showed up showered with no-scent soap and dressed in camo clothes washed in a no-scent detergent and stored in a plastic tub. He also wore high rubber boots to keep his walking trail clean of foot odor.
Result: The dog found his hiding box in 18 seconds, with no hesitation.
3. Compulsively clean – In the third test, a hunter used every scent-control measure the Field & Stream editors could think of, including two layers of activated carbon clothing, scent killing spray and chewing a wad of gum designed to eliminate breath odor.
Result: The dog found his hiding spot in 13 seconds with zero hesitation.
Field & Stream concluded that a hunter is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks deodorizing products allow him to ignore the wind.
They even nosed around for these enlightening details to help sportsmen understand:
—The German shepherd’s sniffer contains about 220 million olfactory receptor sites.
—A deer’s nose has several hundred million receptor sites.
—Yours? A paltry 5 million.