May 13, 2022
By Cole Tanner
Scent control is a journey I have been on since I first started hunting as a kid. Now, more than 25 years later, it’s time to look back on where I’ve come from, where I am now, and what lies ahead. The intent of my story is not to convince you on how or why or if you should or should not do what you do. This is my experience down the rollercoaster ride of scent control. The good, the bad, the ugly, the real. I think you’ll be able to relate. So, let’s go!
A Look Back
My scent-control story started long before I knew it had begun. My grandpa was the first person to introduce me to hunting. I was an enthusiastic learner, to say the least. When it was time to go hunting, I had learned that we each had specific jobs to do. My grandpa was the wits, the weapon, and the know-how. I had the young set of eyes and the windicator.
The day I remember was a brisk fall afternoon hunt for rabbits. Grandpa parked his small car in the field near a woodlot. I fell behind his every step as we left the car behind and the adventure began. I copied his mannerisms the best I could. He was deliberate about what he was doing and where he was going. Every once in a while, he would stop, give me a glance over his shoulder, and motion me to the front. This was my favorite part — I was up.
I could hardly reach into my pocket fast enough. I pulled out a small bottle of windicator that the sweat and dirt had made my own. My grandpa had been refilling that bottle with baby powder for who knows how long before our epic trips. I flipped up the top and squeezed it with everything I had. Out came the puff and off it went. My grandpa knew rabbits weren’t going to wind us, but he was trying to teach me a lesson he knew I would someday understand.
I looked back at him just as fast as the cloud dissipated. He would ask, “What does it mean?” I would point in the direction of the cloud and say, “There’s the line.” My grandpa would ask me every time what the line meant and what we had to do. He had taught me that we had to shoot the rabbit before it got to the line. If we didn’t shoot the rabbit, it would wind us when it hit the line and run away. He was adamant about making this point every time.
And you know what? I have hunted with that line in mind my entire life. I set treestands based on the line. I decide where I’m going to hunt, when I’m going to hunt, and if I’m going to hunt based on that line. That line has become the clearest thing I’ve never been able to see. My experience had taught me that line had zero margin for error, because when an animal got to that line, the gig was up — period! I couldn’t change it, no matter what I did. We’ll come back to this after a bit.
What Scent Control Did To My Life
Let me tell you a story. There was a father who was going to take his son on his first-ever hunt. Before the morning hunt, the boy jumped in the shower and washed off with the special shampoo and soap his dad had instructed him to use. When the boy was done showering, his dad had special towels that appeared from a special tote, ready for him. Said towels had been washed and dried with his dad’s special laundry detergent in a separate washer and dryer from the one that Mom used.
The father ran through the same shower routine but had an extra step with the special deodorant he had to put on. The father also pulled from the special tote their travel clothes for the day. These weren’t the clothes the boy was going to wear hunting; these were just the clothes to wear for the ride to and from the hunt in the truck.
After a fun drive and a lesson on what good country music was, they found themselves parked by the field entrance. The boy was chewing on some special gum his dad had given him, because apparently it was important for his breath. The boy didn’t understand, but shrugged it off and chewed away.
His dad then unloaded their special totes with their special hunting clothes and other gear. With doors open on the side of this gravel road, they both changed into their special hunting clothes.
“Okay, let’s get sprayed down,” the dad exclaimed with a finger pointed in the air. The boy didn’t entirely understand this part either. But his dad was adamant, and it seemed important, so he sprayed down his clothes, boots, and pack.
As they walked into the woods, the father led the way down a winding trail that brought them to a big oak tree where a double ladder stand was strategically placed. The boy knew from past tagalong trips with his dad that there would be one more spraying routine before they climbed into the stand. He stood at attention as Dad administered the final round of scent control.
Once on stand, the boy’s nervous excitement manifested itself in an unintended steady tap of his knee. He didn’t notice it at first, until his dad reached over and gently squeezed his leg. The tap stopped and the boy looked at his dad with a smile. His dad winked and said, “It’s going to be a good day.”
The light in the sky started to change from a dark blue to a fire of reds and oranges. The boy’s stomach started to rumble, as breakfast from a few hours ago was not sitting well. Unable to deal with the belly pain, the boy let out a fart. His dad looked over in half surprise and amazement. “Sorry, Dad,” said the boy with an embarrassed grin.
In that moment of unexpected gas, all the “special” scent-control tactics the father had employed were seemingly wasted, as his scent-elimination regimen could only work on existing odors.
I was the dad in this story for more years than I care to admit. I think a lot of us have been. Heck the scent control I mentioned was about half of what I did on a huntly basis. You can’t tell me I was the only person who bought the latest and greatest special “scent-free” hunting clothes, got out in the stand, let out a fart, and wondered why I could still smell it. I was under the impression from the ads that I saw that the clothes would stop my odor. Doubt would creep in, as I felt I must be doing something wrong. This vicious cycle kept repeating itself…
Let’s Ask Ourselves Why?
This all came to a head one day when I decided to just stop everything I had been doing. I woke up, took a normal shower, slapped on my normal deodorant, put on my normal hunting clothes, grabbed my bow and went hunting. And you know what? The exact same thing happened as when I did all those special scent-control tactics. When I got a deer downwind, they smelled me — same as before. I realized that whether I gave an inch or a mile, I was still giving. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Not until I stopped did it become clearer why I started down this road of scent control in the first place. I had convinced myself that these scent-control tactics were like building blocks that I could stack up to get over the hurdle of success.
Why do you do what you do when it comes to scent control? When you honestly ask yourself that question, you might not even know the answer. That’s okay, if you think about it. Do you do it because that’s what you’ve always done? Is it working?
Do you do it based on fear? Are you afraid if you don’t do what you’ve always done, it will cost you an opportunity? When you get a deer downwind, what have your experiences taught you? Oftentimes, experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.
Where I Am Now
My hunting experience had taught me that the “line” left zero margin for error — until I started hunting with ozone.
My introduction into ozone was filled with skepticism and disbelief. The category of scent control had left a bad taste in my mouth over the years, and I figured this was just the next product in the long line of smoke-and-mirror antics. At the time, I was a hunting guide in Colorado and had the chance to guide Scott Elrod, the CEO of Ozonics, on an archery elk hunt. When I guided, I only had two rules for clients: 1) Don’t guide the guide, and 2) Don’t walk like an elephant.
Before we even started hunting, Scott was adamant: He wanted to throw caution to the wind and go right at elk with the aid of his Ozonics. I was quick to remind him of my first aforementioned rule but tried to be understanding. I explained that his Ozonics might work on whitetails — heck, I had buddies who used one — but elk have bigger eyes, ears, and noses than whitetails. They are an entirely different animal that won’t put up with any guff. Elk hunting becomes a cat-and-mouse game of playing the wind while manipulating your position and circumstances by being aggressive, but not too aggressive. You want to get close enough to a good bull to shoot him, but you don’t want to bump him or his cows prematurely. It’s like playing catch with an egg: It’s all fun, until it’s all over your face.
Scott insisted, and I begrudgingly agreed. I did what he asked, and over the next five days my world was flipped upside down. We moved in on elk in ways I had never done before. I’m usually not one to be short on words, but I was left speechless. Scott was gracious in his grandeur. He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, and I knew this was going to change things for me entirely.
When I guided, my job was to get you a shot opportunity. It wasn’t about killing; I was trying to put you in a position that you could capitalize on. The fact is, when hunting with Ozonics I see more animals, I have more opportunities, and I am more successful. Now, almost 10 years later, Ozonics has changed the game for me. The line was a permanent marker, but now it’s a colored pencil. I’m erasing the line.
What Lies Ahead
I have a four-year-old boy at home named Jet Kodiak. He is obsessed with hunting. Every kind of meat we put on the dinner table is moose meat. Pepperoni on a pizza? Moose meat. McDonald’s double cheeseburger? Moose meat. If we see a picture of an animal in one of his books, he asks me where the vitals are? He loves it…and he’s never even gone hunting.
Not too far down the road, I am going to be at a crossroads of Jet’s first deer hunt. I’ve decided I’m drawing some hard lines in the sand on what gear we are going to take hunting. I’m going to bring the weapon, the wits, and the know-how. And Jet is going to bring the windicator. No scent control, no ozone, nothing. And you know what, I might carry on like this with him for a while.
I want Jet to experience a deer walking in, getting downwind, turning inside out, and blowing at us every five seconds as it runs for the hills. I can see his face now, looking at me with a confused and exciting feeling of misunderstanding about what just happened. I want to teach him about the line like my grandpa taught me. I want him to learn how to respect and hunt the wind. And then someday, I’ll teach him all my secrets, and show him what my experiences have taught me. Then he can decide for himself what scent-control tactics are going to work for him.