With Pennsylvania's archery deer season opening this morning, thousands of hunters across the state will be taking to their favorite perches high up in the trees in an effort to remain undetected by wary whitetails. And while concealing movement from a deer's eyesight is important when trying to get within close range of a buck or a doe, so is trying to remain undetected by its excellent sense of smell.
In recent years, more and more attention has been given to products, tips and techniques for trying to control human odor in an effort to give hunters the upper hand over the white-tailed deer. For example, many hunters wear scent-control clothing like Scent-Lok, and Hunter's Specialties (www.hunterspec.com) makes a complete line of Scent-A-Way products, including soaps, shampoos, deodorants, laundry detergents and cover scents, to help minimize scent.
One of the more recent innovations in scent-control clothing is antimicrobial, silver-based hunting garments, which are designed to move moisture away from the body and kill the bacteria that cause human odor. Just one example is Scent-A-Way's TEK 4 base layer line, which premiered in 2010 and this year expanded to include options for female hunters.
According to Hunter's Specialties, TEK 4 clothes provide unmatched odor control because they use up to 33 percent more silver than other silver-based garments on the market. "Petersen's Bowhunting" editor and Tamaqua-area resident Christian Berg is one person who definitely believes in the effectiveness of silver-based base layer garments, saying they do an excellent job of controlling human scent.
"I really think they are up and coming," Berg said. "I think more and more hunters are going to discover them and what they can do for you."
While scent-control products and clothes are definitely a growing component of hunting, if a person is truly looking to outwit a wary whitetail, it's also important they keep their impact on prey to a minimum when in the woods. Pennsylvania Game Commission Land Management Group supervisor Dave Mitchell, an avid archery hunter who works out of Lehigh County and grew up in western Schuylkill County has taken some impressive bucks over the years, says trying to control human odor is indeed a priority, but the two most important things to him are the approach to and from the treestand and hunting stands where the wind is in your favor.
"No matter how careful you are with scent control you're not truly going to beat their nose if the deer are directly downwind," Mitchell said. "I try to hunt stands that I have a good approach to, ones that I can get into and get out of without alerting a lot of deer."
When it comes to choosing a location for the day's hunt, paying attention to the wind is vital, since a hunter wants to try and avoid hunting a stand where the wind will blow in the direction from which the deer will be coming. Hence, it's a good idea to have alternate hunting stands and locations if the wind isn't exactly right.
"There are some times you just really shouldn't hunt stands, even if you have to wait three or four days," Mitchell said. "When traveling to and from the hunting location, hunters should try to approach their stand with the wind in their favor and cross as few deer trails as possible.
"How you leave your stand may be totally different than how you get into it, and if you're on a field edge in the evening, you may come in through the field and set up. Once the deer are out in the field after dark, you may get down and leave through the woods so as not to alert the deer."