On my TV show you see us regularly spray down with Scent Killer (full disclosure, one of our great sponsors). I mist my boots, clothes, pack, etc. every day while I’m hunting and filming. It’s become second nature.
One night last fall a guy watched an episode and wrote me: “Mike, stop using that spray. It makes you look foolish. That stuff does not work.”
Ah, the non-believers. Anyway, that guy is wrong. Here’s the latest confirmation that scent-eliminating products do work.
In a lab at Mississippi State University (MSU), Shamitha Dissanayake, a graduate student, and Todd Mlsna, Ph.D., head of the lab, are working on ways to best collect and analyze volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from body odor. Their goal is to use VOC detection to diagnose and monitor human diseases like diabetes. But their research led to a unique collaboration with Bronson Strickland, Ph.D., a colleague in the MSU wildlife department, who at the same time happened to be studying and testing odor-reducing products for deer hunters.
Background on human scent and the whitetail’s sense of smell from the MSU study.
“The scent of a single person is a complex mixture of hundreds of compounds given off by bacteria, which live in our bodies and on our skin,” said Dissanayake. Scent compounds also come from the human body itself when it breaks down molecules to make energy. The odors are emitted through the skin and breath.
These substances—the VOCs–evaporate into the air, and can spook deer when you’re hunting.
Strickland added, “A deer’s sense of smell, like a dog’s, can be anywhere from five hundred to a thousand times more acute than a human’s.”
Figuring out which specific ingredients of body odor spook deer is the real challenge, the researchers said. Each of us emits a unique scent, and that scent varies depending on what and when we eat, drink, exercise (and sweat). To obtain a cross-section of scents, the researchers collected body odor samples from 65 people who for hours wore either an untreated T-shirt or a T-shirt treated with a hunting spray designed to eliminate or mask body odor. The researchers tested 4 hunting sprays out of dozens on the market, though they did not identify specific brands.
“It was a big challenge to handle such a complex data set with so many variables,” said Dissanayake, who worked with a mathematician to crunch the data. Based on analysis of the hundreds of VOCs emitted by the 65 people, researchers found that the sprays worked by greatly reducing the levels of 29 key compounds, either by killing bacteria, binding to the chemicals, or converting them into less volatile compounds.
Bottom line: More confirmation that odor-eliminating sprays work, and you should use one while deer hunting.
You do spray down, don’t you?