Kurt Von Besser has built a lifelong career combining two compelling interests: biochemistry and hunting. As president of Atsko, he is responsible for popularizing the famous waterproofing treatment, Sno-Seal, then inventing familiar brands like Sport-Wash, N-O-DOR and U-V Killer, to name a few. Along the way he’s extensively studied the whitetail’s senses of sight and smell in conjunction with researchers at Clemson and the University of Georgia, and translated those findings into practical product applications. Now in his 80s, Von Besser remains an avid hunter with a burning desire to share what he’s learned. Here are his recommendations for eliminating human scent from your deer hunt.
Pre-season: Stock up on scent-control supplies. Essentials include: laundry detergent; soap for body and hair; and an all-purpose adsorbing powder. What’s important, according to Von Besser, is to use scentless soaps that leave no residue, since odor-causing bacteria will attack anything left on the skin and restart the decay process. Sprays and powders should be “oxidizers that destroy odors by chemically changing them into non-volatile salts,” he says. There are many options in this market category, so it pays to do your homework.
Pre-hunt prep: Launder clothing in scent-free/residue-free detergents. Clothing can go into your home dryer, but be careful not to impart new odors left behind by scented dryer sheets. Alternately, hang them outside. Treat boots with scent-neutralizing spray plus powder on the inside, and store them and clothing in unscented plastic bags. Also treat gear—your pack, safety harness, seat pad and gadgets—with scent-neutralizing spray or powder, but take care with optics, as such products may contain fine crystals that will scratch lenses. Wipe your gun or bow free of oil and solvents, or consider switching to an odorless oil or dry silicone lube.
Before heading out: Whenever possible, shower with scent-free soap and/or shampoo. Proper soaps cleanse so completely that it takes hours for odor causing bacteria to reappear. Be thorough, especially on hair, feet and sweat areas. If a shower isn’t possible, spray your entire body with a liquid scent-eliminator that oxidizes organic compounds on the skin and hair. Von Besser rates this to be as effective as showering and can be repeated in the field.
As you dress: In cold weather, apply spray or powder to critical areas of your body, as well as to clothes and boots. If warm weather permits, dampen your entire body and base layers with odor-control spray as you dress. Carry your boots and outermost layer in a plastic bag if you will be riding in a vehicle.
At your hunting area: Stand away from your vehicle to finish dressing. In cold weather, use powder as you layer up, but in warmer weather, spray your inner clothing lightly with liquid. In all weather, the sleeves, collar, cuffs and entire outer layer including hat and gloves should be sprayed or dusted. Re-spray the outside and bottoms of your boots to avoid leaving scent trails. If need be, you can re-apply scent-eliminating spray while on stand.