What would you pay to have a second chance at all the biggest bucks that winded you over the last 10 years? Reflect hard on all those antlers for a moment. And this second time around, the animal would have no idea where you were, as if you were a ghost. Does that sound intriguing to you?
Five years ago, Bowhunter Magazine published the first national, in-depth article on how ozone works and the benefits of the technology for hunters. Our experience, at the time, was exclusively with ozone generators used to treat clothing and gear, and we were enamored with ozone's liberating utility: scent-free clothes in 20 minutes without washing; the ability to scent-cleanse large, bulky items like packs, boots and harnesses; plus the portability of the units and their operation on AC or DC power.
When we were researching product manufacturers for that article, we were introduced to Ozonics, the lone company that was promoting the use of ozone generators while actually hunting.
Having a pretty decent background in understanding how ozone works to decontaminate, cleanse and disinfect, I personally couldn't wrap my head around it being effective in an open-air environment, and nor could any of our staff. And we said as much in that 2011 article.
I knew that ozone molecules had to come in contact with offensive organic elements, contaminants, germs and bacteria to eradicate them, and that it takes time and concentration for ozone molecules to achieve this. But we were hearing lots of hype about Ozonics' effectiveness from trusted friends in retail who had been using the units while actually hunting. Editor Curt Wells had also heard about Ozonics from some of his friends at Scheels who swore by in-field ozone.
Dennis Fink, who was running Ozonics' PR efforts at the time, told me: "We don't know exactly what part of our scent signature animals react negatively to, and we've found that relatively small amounts of ozone introduced into our downwind scent stream have a material impact on animals being able to detect us. Try it and see for yourself."
I did try it while stand hunting that fall, and was astonished at how effective it was. Used in a ground blind, it was utterly amazing. I was eager to share my enthusiasm for the product with our other staff members at Bowhunter, Petersen's Bowhunting, North American Whitetail and Petersen's Hunting magazines.
The responses I received ranged from jaded doubt to near indifference, typical of editors who have seen and heard it all from PR and advertising execs. I arranged for a conference call between our staff and Fink, and Dennis met with similar vocal derision. "Hey guys," Fink said, "I'll send you some loaner units for you to test this fall, and you can let us know what you think."
I was somewhat conflicted. On one hand I felt like I'd just discovered some secret weapon and didn't want anyone else similarly empowered, and on the other hand I needed our staff to be as effective in the field as possible to get great articles, photography, and TV episodes.
Within a month, the e-mails and interoffice calls came pouring in, and they were all of the extremely positive, yet bewildered nature. Actual disbelief over how effective the HR200 units were proving to be!
Being in the multimedia content generation business, any utility we can employ that makes us more effective in the field — while saving time and money — is something we're going to take very seriously. And if you watch Bowhunter TV on Sportsman Channel or on the new MOTV app — you know that any time we are in a stand or blind we have Ozonics units running overhead. But we were learning the best practices and a few tricks in that initial testing year as well.
First, we all found out that when we ran out of battery power during all-day sits and stopped getting the occasional whiff of freshly created ozone (similar to the smell after a spring thunderstorm, where ozone is created naturally), we felt utterly exposed.
We were once again subject to the vagaries of shifting winds. We all started packing multiple batteries, and then the following year Ozonics came out with the XL battery, which lasts up to eight empowering hours.
Second, we learned how to correctly position the units above our heads, pointed downwind at a 45-degree angle to most effectively intermingle with our scent cone. In light or moderate winds, we had awesome scent-neutralizing results; in high winds it was somewhat less effective, and ditto in extremely humid conditions — but still light years ahead of being "unprotected."
In a blind, it was nothing short of phenomenal, akin to having a personal cloaking device with you.
Third, we discovered that if we wore the unit strapped to the back of our packs pointed downward as we walked to and from our stands, we were significantly limiting being detected when going to and from our stands by an easy 60 percent or more.
That in itself would make Ozonics worth the investment in my book, as I was getting betrayed regularly by my scent path, even when taking all the typical precautions of rubber boots, not touching foliage, and painstakingly choosing routes to the stand that should make me less detectable.
The use of Ozonics to and from the stand actually helped prevent early stand burnout — a huge benefit to all deer hunters, especially those hunting small lots and grounds where there are not a lot of good stand choices.
Fourth, we began experimenting with the units in spot-and-stalk scenarios (as had others), and the results, given the crude rigging methods we were employing, were very encouraging.
And stories from readers, outfitters, and guides came pouring in as well. Some outfitters, like Nelson Outfitters in Sheridan, Wyoming, were actually developing specialized strategies, tactics and a viable business through their use, providing clients an extremely effective way to get close to animals even when hunting the same blind setups regularly.
Another outfitter we know won't risk sending clients to their stands without an Ozonics, so he supplies units for clients along with a quick tutorial. Other outfitters ask in advance if their clients have units, and strongly encourage their daily use to prevent stand burnout. A simple Google search will attest to users' overwhelming belief and satisfaction with this technology.
We can argue the science all day long, but the one science we believe in most is that which our own eyes see. When Curt Wells has a Coues deer doe and fawn six yards downwind of his blind for long minutes, he believes.
When our staff hunters have both whitetails and mule deer 360 degrees around their blind in the middle of an alfalfa field from 3 p.m. to dark, they believe. And when a brown bear outfitter in Alaska says Ozonics has helped him get bears that are feeding on salmon closer to his client's blind, he believes.
Plus, I can't remember the last time a whitetail snorted at me when using Ozonics from a treestand. That's huge. These are just a few examples of the real-world science that matters to us.
This past season, Ozonics introduced a handful of new products that will enhance our ability to go undetected. The new HR300 delivers up to 45-percent higher ozone output than the proven HR200 (and yes, at perfectly safe levels according to OSHA standards).
Other features include a much-requested AC power option (DC batteries for field use), so you can use the unit to clean clothes and gear without needing a charged battery; an improved user interface with lighted buttons that is easy to use with gloves on; new Pulse Technology that balances time and oxidant concentration levels; and a quieter fan.
Frankly, we've never found the fan on the HR200 to be overly conspicuous to ourselves, let alone a game animal, but quieter never hurts. And yes, there are eight-hour batteries available for all-day sits during the rut.
Another new addition we are excited about is the new KiNETiC backpack, a purpose-built pack that features a dedicated upper section on the shoulder straps designed to carry an Ozonics unit in the ideal position for spot-and-stalk hunting or for going to and from the stand — the location of the upper pack points the Ozonics exhaust of heavier-than-air ozone "mist" where you want it, shooting up and back so it can "fall down" onto your scent stream, rendering it indistinguishable to game.
The upper pack can be adapted to use with your favorite pack — or paired with the removable bottom pack section that has 1,300 cubic inches of storage, side pockets, and compression straps for bulky clothing or other gear like camera tripods. The KiNETiC is a well thought out, cohesive design that we will be testing extensively this fall.
One of the new products I'm looking forward to using is the unique DRiWASH Bag, a heavy-duty, integrated hanging system that folds flat for storage and can be taken anywhere.
Special baffles and a unit-holding pouch make quick work of delivering ozone precisely where it's needed — on your clothes and gear. And the HR300's pulse mode makes "washing" your scent-contaminated equipment precise, blending the concentration of ozone and time needed at the optimal mix.
"At Ozonics, our mission is to optimize the delivery of ozone for use as a scent-elimination tool pre-hunt, mid-hunt, and post-hunt," Buddy Piland, marketing director at Ozonics, said. "The development of Pulse Technology and our new DRiWASH Bag provide the hunter with an innovative pre and post-hunt cleaning solution that ensures all your hunting gear is cleaned and completely deodorized without the risk of degradation. Our DRiWASH uses the perfect amount of ozone...never too much, and never too little."
If I were asked what single product or technology has been the most beneficial to my stand and blind hunting success over the last five years, it would easily be an in-field ozone generator. Is it 100-percent failsafe? No, nothing is.
But it will nearly always confuse an animal's ability to process the level of threat for some time — clearly obfuscating his olfactory defenses — which may be all the time you need to send an arrow home.
Of course, every animal reacts differently to varying concentrations of scent, and winds can be fickle and strong, limiting the ability of ozone molecules to interact with odors. Extremely high humidity (95 percent plus) is not an environment that ozone does well in, but how often do you hunt in those conditions?
"The secret to effective scent elimination using ozone is a combination of two factors: time and concentration," Piland said. "The addition of the new HR300 to our lineup has features that address the tough environmental challenges, such as higher than normal winds and high-humidity situations, by providing the hunter with 45 percent more ozone on demand. When correctly applied, this minimizes the amount of time human scent travels before it's attacked by ozone, and it maximizes the concentration of ozone directly to your scent stream close to your setup, thus reducing the number of environmental challenges that may exceed the unit's capabilities."
If you told any of our staff that they couldn't use an Ozonics for their stand and blind hunting this year, they would have a meltdown.
Our cumulative staff hours spent in stands and blinds over the last five years show Ozonics to be exceedingly effective, and it certainly enhances all your other scent countermeasures. You literally feel exposed if you don't have it with you, and you pray a trophy doesn't show up downwind.
I killed the largest buck of my career in a scenario where in-field ozone saved my hunt. Numerous other trophy deer that crossed my scent path also got a trip home in my truck thanks to Ozonics. Bowhunter Editor Curt Wells killed his biggest buck during the rut while protected by a "shower" of ozone under an Ozonics.
Publisher Jeff Waring killed his biggest buck ever in a blind while remaining undetected thanks to Ozonics. Assistant Editor Brain Fortenbaugh killed his biggest whitetail and mule deer while using an Ozonics unit. Sales Manager Jeff Millar killed his biggest buck and mule deer while protected by Ozonics.
I could go on, but the fact is, you won't believe it unless you try it for yourself. Ozonics is absolutely liberating as it allows you to push the envelope in all types of setups that would otherwise end in blowing and snorts.
As Curt Wells is fond of saying, there are two kinds of hunters — those who haven't tried Ozonics, and those who will never hunt without it again. It's safe, effective, works well in conjunction with your other scent-elimination strategies, and it's the closest thing we have to a cloaking device for hunting. And now it's available for on-the-go, spot-and-stalk applications as well.