Q & A with Bowhunting Legend, Randy Ulmer
QUESTION: I’m a bowhunter and it seems like I get busted more often from elk smelling me than for any other reason. What do you actually do on your hunts to minimize your scent? Please give me some PRACTICAL scent control advice.
ANSWER: The problem with early season elk hunting is that it is usually warm, and if you’re like me, you’re typically moving (and sweating) a great deal. I have two different scent control regimens I use, depending on whether I’m hunting from a vehicle camp or hunting from a backpack camp. Here are several important points to consider:
- If I’m using my travel trailer as camp, I carry as many as 14 different sets of clean camo clothes/ underwear/socks. It is prohibitively expensive to go out and buy that many sets of clothes, but I’ve been at this a long time and have accumulated them over 20 years. All this clothing takes up a lot of space, so I carry them in Action Packer bins and store them outside the trailer.
- I tried to use carbon suits for several years. However, I found them to be too warm and cumbersome for early-season, active hunting. In order for them to work properly, you must remain relatively stationary. As you move, the clothing acts as a billows and the smelly air inside is pumped through the neck, arm and leg holes and never touches the carbon.
- I bathe as often as possible. I always shower every morning and, if I make it back to camp, I shower in the afternoon as well.
- I limit the amount of animal products I eat for a month leading up to the hunt and during the hunt. I use scent-free soap and then apply Scent Shield hair and body deodorant gel to all parts of my body.
- I carry approximately ten pairs of clean running shoes with me and put a new pair on every day (a great deal of your odor comes from your feet). I put baking soda in each of my shoes before I put them on. When I buy shoes, I get 100% synthetic shoes (no leather). You can wash these synthetic shoes over and over and they’ll never shrink.
- I take chlorophyll tablets each day for a few weeks leading up to the hunt and then each morning during the hunt.
- I brush and floss my teeth with baking soda at least twice a day.
- I rarely wear a belt, but if I do, I never wear the same belt for more than a day without washing it.
- I rarely carry a pack, but if I do, I change it out or wash it if it gets sweaty (I take 3-4 packs with me on a hunt).
- I spray my bow and binoculars with Scent Shield spray.
- I don’t carry my wallet with me. It probably smells similar to where it’s usually parked.
- If you only have a few sets of camo, just wash your clothes every few days. You don’t have to run into town to use a laundromat. I use these same Action Packers as wash tubs. I fill one up with water and detergent, put my dirty clothes in, and let them soak for a few hours, and then rinse them out and hang them on a tree. Remember, you aren’t worried about having your clothes clean – just scent-free. The soaking will get rid of all your sweat and odor.
It’s much more difficult to limit your scent production when you’re backpack hunting. When I’m on the trail, I carry body soap, detergent for my clothes, deodorant, toothbrush, floss, and baking soda. I don’t sleep in my clothes and I bathe and wash my clothes in the middle of the day – if there’s a water source. Otherwise, I just try to stay downwind of the elk.
Even if you follow all of these preventative measures, the elk can still smell you. It’s my belief that scent control merely decreases the volume of scent you put out and allows you to get away with a little more. When I’m clean and freshly showered, I can often get 100 yards upwind from an elk without being detected. However, if I’m stinky, the elk can easily detect me at 400 yards. As a bowhunter, you often have to slip in as close as possible to a herd of elk and wait for something to happen, so the less odor you produce, the longer you’ll go undetected.
The bottom line? Keep the wind right.