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Scent Control and Camo Selection for Trophy Whitetail Deer Hunting


Whitetails rely on keen senses, and instinctual abilities to guide their every movement in the timber. The primary defense whitetail deer possess to detect danger,is sense of smell. It has been estimated a whitetailed deer can smell 10,000 times better than a human. In short, successful trophy whitetail hunters take precautions to control human scent.

Ten years ago Greg Sesselmann and George Schrink, both aerospace filtration engineers and die hard bowhunters, asked a simple and historic question: “What if we put the filtration performance of activated charcoal to work in hunting clothing to adsorb human scent?” A deer has several hundred million scent receptor sites in its nose, compared to a mere five million in a human nose. When one emits scent, it’s in the form of organic molecules leaving the human body. Without carbon lined clothing the molecules are free to pass through clothing, and into the airstream...right to a deer’s nose. The best way to prevent your scent from reaching a deer’s nose is to prevent it from ever reaching the air. A sponge absorbs water-that is, the entire sponge soaks in and retains the water. Conversely, adsorption, which is what takes place with activated charcoal in Scent-Lok, is the capturing of matter by the surface of a solid. The surface of activated charcoal is an extensive labyrinth of different size pores, nooks and crannies that trap and hold gases, vapors, and dissolved matter (all forms of human scent). Activation or technically, reactivation, is the process of heating this surface to high temperatures. This releases the trapped scent molecules and reopens the pores, nooks, and crannies for future scent adsorption (Scent Lok, 1999).

In 1992, Scent Lok, a Division of ALS Enterprises introduced a liner system, which included a head cover, pants, top, and gloves. The suit was unique in that it contained an active layer of activated charcoal to absorb human scent. The liner system of 1992, which began the introduction of carbon-lined clothing, was designed to be worn as an inner garment beneath camouflage. After a few weeks of deer hunting, the activated charcoal in the suit reaches its adsorptive capacity. One is to throw it in the dryer on high heat for about 30 minutes. The heat releases the molecular bond between the activated charcoal and scent molecules. The suit is then to be taken out, and put into an airtight, scent free, plastic bag, or storage sack for the next outing.

By 1997 the carbon-lined clothing industry was off and running, thanks to Sesselman and Schrink. Scent Lok as well as other reputable competitors began to offer an outer suit. The new protection suit was introduced of 50/50 polyester/cotton, and was available in an assortment of camouflage patterns.

Manufacturers such as Scent Lok, W.L. Gore and Associates, Scent Shield, Browing, 10X Products Group, Walls Industries, and Whitewater Outdoors, stormed the marketplace with unique product introductions to control human scent. Working with 10x, W.L. Gore & Associates has developed an exacting set of performance standards for such products. Gortex with supprescent fabric has now made it possible to reduce the problems of heat loss, and wind chill, while simultaneously minimizing human scent with carbon lining. 10x and W.L. Gore & Associates offer a 100% Waterproof, windproof, breathable Gore-Tex fabric equipped with carbon lining. Carbon-lined head covers are also very important. Forty percent of human body heat is emitted through the head and face. As a result, the head and face area emit much human odor, and must be properly clad with carbon-lined apparel to minimize scent. Scent suppressant caps, face masks, gloves, hoods, breath shields, and even storage sacks, are available to hunters who strive to control human odor.

Outdoor writer, Darrin Bradley, recently completed a study surrounding the effectiveness of carbon-lined clothing. Bradley documented scent control conditions on 497 hunts of whitetail deer. On 400 hunts Bradley did not wear carbon-lined clothing. Bradley placed himself within bowrange of deer on 275 of the 400 those hunts, for a success percentage of 69% per hunt. Bradley then hunted 97 times while clothed in carbon-lined clothing by Scent Lok industries. Bradley successfully placed himself within bowrange of whitetails on 88 of the 97 hunts by utilizing carbon-lined clothing. A 90% success rate. Bradley insists, as a result of this study, carbon-lined clothing enhanced his odds of getting within bowrange of whitetails by a whopping 21 percent

I religously wear carbon-lined clothing when in pursuit of big game animals. I have learned to minimize human odor by not only wearing an outer garment lined with carbon, but by also wearing an undergarment or liner system as well. This practice doubles the amount of human scent I can control, and has greatly enhances my ability to remain undectected by whitetails.

Pioneers of scent control products intially attempted to mask human odor by utilizing scents. Scents designed to mock natures aromas of cedar, earth, predator urines, acorn, and even agricultural crops. Many excellent products do exist which mask human odor. The current market mindset is targeted towards minimizing human odor. In order to effectively minimize human odor, start with good products, and proper usage. A number of companies such as Wellington, Robinson Labs, Hunter Specialties, and the Wildlife Research Center offer quality products, which are available to today’s scent cautious archer. Scent Eliminators effectively minimize human scent. I have sprayed dirty ashtrays, gasoline spills in vehicles, and sweat soaked clothing on numerous occassions with such products. Minutes later no foul odor was present.

The industry offer an abundance of scent control products. Disposable scent eliminator soaked wash towels, to clean up with, if the walk to your stand is a sweaty one. Deodorant pills, which are composed of a chlorophyll, and copper base with parsley and alfalfa powder. Scent elimination powder to sprinkle into boots, and many other tools, which will assist the hunter in overcoming the whitetail deer’s keen nose.

Thermals effect an animal’s ability to detect human odor. Thermals are determined by the temperature and stability of air. If the air that is lifted is warmer than the surrounding air, it will be less dense and rise. This scenario occurs typically during morning hours. If the air that is lifted is cooler than the surrounding air, it will be more dense, and fall to the earth. This scenario occurs typically during evening hours. In short, air is attracted to the heat source. At night air is drawn to the earth, as the soil is warmer than the darkened sky. During the morning hours air is drawn to the sun, or heat source. Hunt strategies are difficult to implement based solely upon thermals, however when the opportunity presents itself the results can be advantageous. I hunted with an Outfitter in Illinois, wherein we were successful by hunting within the given allowances of the A.M. thermals. We setup a location on the top of an oakridge, which was elevated over an agricultural riverbottom. It was here we waited for deer to travel up from the bottom to ridgetop elevations for bedding. Just after sunup when my scent began to rise with the thermals, whitetails traveled toward our stand. The thermals made it more difficult for deer to detect us. As a result, I arrowed a nice buck about an hour into the hunt.


Camouflage is of vital importance to the archer. As a resident of Missouri, I have several favorite hunting locations that I hunt. One of these “hotspots” is dependent upon my camouflage selection. This particular area lies on the outskirts of a well populated town. A nearby river sets the tone for this particular section of ground. Agricultural crops lay west of a hardwoods funnel, leading into a swamp. Whitetails bed in the swamp thickets of the Missouri riverbottom, and travel through the hardwoods funnel to reach the foodsource. The only downfall of the entire ambush site is the hardwoods are mostly tall, and limbless for the intial 30 or 40 feet of trunk. This creates a situation wherein my stand setup is naked, and vulnerable to visual detection by passing whitetails. This situation calls for a careful camo selection.

A successful camouflage company must offer a variety of patterns, which can prepare hunters for different types of terrain. Mossy Oak, has virtually monopolized the camo pattern market because of their innovative designs. Toxey Haas, Mossy Oak, first began this venture in 1986. Toxey states, “I had turkeys in mind when I began working on the original Mossy Oak pattern. I knew that if I could develop a comouflage that was undetectable to gobblers, I would easily be hidden from deer and other game.” (Toxey Haas, 1999)

Toxey’s, Mossy Oak, Bottomland debuted in 1986, launching an encompassing brand that would soon be known as “America’s Most Effective Concealment System”. The pattern contained vertical and elliptical shapes, and eventually with little margin for error, featured the most natural earth tones ever put to fabric. Bowhunters and turkey hunters, whose number had progressively doubled nationwide, went absolutely wild for the new pattern, because it worked so completely in so many different terrains. Within months, Bottomland’s popularity outgrew the Haas’s family home in West Point, Mississippi, and the staff of Haas Outdoors, Toxey and his mother, Evelyn was on its way to the national Phenomenon Hall of Fame.

With original Bottomland as the background, Haas Outdoors soon began introducing more patterns designed to increase the camouflaging capabilities of Mossy Oak. Overlays of sapling leaves were used to create a heightened sense of depth for the next pattern, Greenleaf, creating an expanded rocket platform by which Mossy Oak Treestand was launched in 1989.

Next from Haas Outdoors was Full Foliage, which exactly recreates the under stories, and canopies of early spring and fall forests. A variety of large and small leaves, in two different shades of green, were added to Treestand to reach the desired effect.

In 1994 Haas Outdoors introduced Fall Foliage, the industry’s first accurate match of sutumn’s transitional woods. Fall Foliage duplicated a critical vegetation cycle by providing the same green/golden/brown color scheme found among the dead liimbs, and dirt of common American forests.

Two years thereafter, Haas Outdoor unveiled Break-Up and Shadow Grass patterns, an amazing pair of next step camouflage schemes that utilize natural background colors, the world’s most realistic overlays, and the most common lighting element found in nature shadows. At any distance, in any terrain, these two new patterns totally conceal the human outline.

Haas Outdoors began to offer a more diverse number of terrain patterns with the introduction of the Shadow Series. The series includes Break Up, Shadow Branch, Shadow Leaf, Shadow Grass, and Forest Floor. Break-Up’s innovative layering of perfectly shaped branches, leaves and limbs over a distinctive series of bold, dark shadows delivers an incredibly effective all distance, all terrain pattern woodland and bottomland hunting.

Shadow Branch is specifically designed for hunting sparse woods, and bottomlands in the dead of winter, Shadow Branch’s big timber pattern captures the naturally occurring colors, and details of winter limbs, leaves and shadows. Big, highly detailed shadow backed branches, right down to highlighted twigs and stems, orbit and lightened, neutral colored background. The end game result exactly recreates the limb field of all dormant forests. The goal of Shadow Branch is to evolve original Bottomland into the Alpha state by shadow enhancing the moss laden limb, stem and twig graphics. Increase lighting contrasts atop a primer brown and black toned background, defying contemporary camouflage desings by washing out the human outline at any distance.

Shadow Grass pattern’s highly detailed reproduction of grass blades, and naturally occurring shadows delivers total concealment at any distance, and is ideal for waterfowl hunting in marshy areas, dove in open cornfields, and big game in the open sage. Shadow Grass personifies the modern art of computer enhanced camouflages. And its name says it all: shadow backing gives it depth while the finely crafted grasses lend support of concealment.

Shadow Leaf’s realistic leaves, limbs and shadows render you virtually invisible in green spring woods, making it the most color perfect green pattern available, and the ideal choice for hunting late spring turkey and early archery deer. The goal of Shadow Leaf is to create a peerless all around pattern that’s specifically suited to spring turkey hunting, varmint hunting, and early season deer hunting applications. Atop a neutral background, the truest emerging greens ever applied to cloth combine with realistically shadowed, highly detailed overlays to achieve an exclusive, camouflaging matrix. Shadow Leaf may be the most effective green pattern ever offered to the public.

Mossy Oak Break Up is designed to be the world’s most realistic, photographically perfect, camouflage; the first pattern to ever exhibit superior “long distance visual integrity,” totally dissolving the human outline at any range. Its lightened neutral colored background appears natural to game animals, whether viewed above the skyline or at ground level. Strategic, highly detailed graphic elements: small and large limbs, a perfected balance of light and dark leaves, and profuse shadow backing of critical foreground objects. Break Up’s shadowing creates the illusion of depth, blurring silhouetter outling at any distance. Ultimately, natural shadows are the most common outdoor visual. In combination with finely detailed, next generation limb, leaf and stem art, the result is one pattern that, for the very first time, features close and long range concealment factors.

Mossy Oak’s latest shadow series illusion, Forest Floor, is one of those overnight successes that literally required 10 plus years to bring to market. Toxey conceived the pattern, and trademarked the name in 1988, and then moved forward with other projects, waiting for the day when higher technologies would come to the fabric printing industry. Forest Floor’s light and dark neutrals create richly grained backdrop shading for the most realistically detailed array of “outline breakers” ever put to cloth: large scaly limbs, twigs and stems; multi sized, sharply edged leaves; and those depth giving shadows. Its use of the earth tone spectrum, including opposite touches of emerald, is exploratory and shockingly realistic.

“By matching a complete gamut of woodland situations, duplicating more terrains than anything ever before, Forest Floor is sure to establish itself as the nation’s most useful camouflage pattern,” Toxey recently hypothesized. “Forest Floor is a thrilling continuing example of one of Haas Outdoors’ most important missions: Outfitting super enthusiasts with specialized, break through camouflages that exceed mere desire (Mossy Oak, 2000).

The key to concealment through camouflage is understanding how to match your attire up to compliment the area you have decided to hunt. This feat is easily done through the wide array of patterns which are available on today’s hunting market.

2450 words

Darrin Bradley

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