…. And What You Can Do About It
by Steve Sorensen
Do you know how badly you… yes, I’ll say it… stink?
Visions of me nuzzling a big whitetail buck flickered in my wife’s head.
I had just opened a package one of those brown trucks had just dropped off. In it was a tube of toothpaste formulated to control a hunters mouth odor. “How close do you think you’re going to get to a deer?” she asked.
“Um,” I paused, my mind racing through a whole bunch of stuff she could have been thinking. “Maybe 20 yards.” I added, “But deer can smell you a lot farther away than that.”
“I don’t believe that,” she said.
I can’t blame her, but the truth is lots of hunters act as though they don’t believe it either. I remember hiking up a hill behind a hunting buddy years ago, and he smelled like the cologne counter at Macy’s. Once his stench filled my nostrils, I had to stay upwind of him. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but we never saw a deer that day.
My wife’s opinion is that scent control products are a round-up of gimmicks made for gullible nimrods. (Definition, nimrod: 1. In the Old Testament, great-grandson of Noah, a hunter. 2. A person regarded as silly, foolish, or stupid.)
She’s right about some of them. Some gimmicks are a complete waste. (She’s right that some nimrods are, too, but that’s another subject.)
Hunters have always been aware that deer can smell us. And contrary to what my wife thinks, deer have proven that they can smell us as much as a quarter mile away.
Old-time nimrods Theodore Roosevelt, Philip Tome, Daniel Boone and other pioneer hunters did pretty well without access to a Cabela’s catalog of must-have scent-control concoctions. And when I think of those old-timers, I think they must have stunk, even worse than yours truly on my worst day.
So why, exactly, do we stink? At least three reasons.
Sweat—You might have heard that our sweat is odorless. That’s true, but it’s not true for long. All organisms need suitable habitat, and sweat provides a habitat where microscopic bacteria can grow. It’s no secret that these tiny organisms thrive in dark, damp places. Humans cover our skin with clothing (well, most of us still do anyway), and even breathable clothing holds moisture against our skin.
So there you have it—the first condition the bacteria needs. As perspiration oozes out our pores one molecule at a time, a few bacteria collect there. Soon, it’s partytime. It can get wild and rank. There’s plenty to drink, and guess who’s serving the hors d’oeuvres? You are!
Skin—You already know that we constantly shed skin cells, but did you know that’s what the bacteria dine on. As they nibble on our dead skin cells and the organic wastes in our perspiration, they produce their own wastes—and that’s what creates most body odor. And with all the eating and drinking that’s going on, there’s something unmentionable that’s going on, too. Yep—the surface of your skin is a rut zone for bacteria.
Mouth—And then there’s your mouth odor. Although the old-timers didn’t have specialized toothpaste, mouthwash and mints, somehow they killed enough deer to keep body and soul together. Maybe standing in the smoke from their campfires tended to kill the microscopic critters that cause people to stink—but they certainly didn’t inhale the smoke. Maybe cigars, but not smoke from the campfire. One wonders how they ever got close enough to be sociable.
Clothing—Some guys say they don’t wash their clothing the entire season. That’s a mistake. Why? Because you’re adding your own odor to your clothes from the inside each time you wear them. And airborne odors are coming into contact with your clothes from the outside, and getting trapped there. Do you doubt that? Let me put it into mathematical form:
Clean body + Clean clothing = Minimal odor in the airspace around you.
Clean body + Dirty clothing = Dirty body and dirty airspace around you.
There are more sources of human scent, but these are the big ones. So, what can modern hunters do to eliminate the smells that come from these three sources? Nothing. You can’t eliminate them. But you can reduce them significantly. That’s what we’ll talk about next.
Outdoor writer and speaker Steve Sorensen writes an award-winning newspaper column called The Everyday Hunter®, and is the editor of the Havalon Sportsman’s Post. He is the author of Growing Up With Guns. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at www.EverydayHunter.com.[hs_action id=”7771″]
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