Scent Control/Wood Smoke

by Steve
(Idaho )

I was wondering if anyone has any insight on the effect that wood smoke on your hunting clothes has on game? Does it alarm them? Do they not really show much reaction?


I've heard differing opinions on this. Some say the scent of wood smoke on clothing does not have any effect on game--meaning they will not become alarmed by it as they would to natural body odor or other scents. Some even say it helps. Others say any "camp" odor is cause for alarm to elk and deer, unless there is smoke in the area from a distant wildfire. Does anyone have any opinion on this? I ask only since I will be camping solo on a few hunts in Sept. and if conditions get nasty and cold, I may light a small fire.

Thanks in advance!

- Steve

Comments for Scent Control/Wood Smoke

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Jul 21, 2015
Cover scent
by: Bruce

I have been hunting and working in montana and Idaho the last 12 years.there are fires everywhere and new growth along with them.Its not an alarm,they live with wood smoke every day.40 miles in or just off the trail.Wood smoke is a great cover scent. My 5 elk and another 8 for clients.even black for camo.

Oct 30, 2012
Scent vs scent away!
by: Anonymous

This is my field of expertise. It might be long, but worth the read. I have elk hunted 24 years of my life right here in Co. Majority of them were public land hunts. For 12 years of my hunting life, I hunted with a family member. We thought (or at least I thought) we did everything imaginable to be successful.

We hunted and we hunted and we saw elk sometimes 2 miles away. Once we walked from 6am til 5:30pm and time we made it back to the truck and elk pooped right in my boot track. We scratched our head and went on our way. After 12 years, I ditched my partner (he actually stopped going) and I finely got a cow, this after 12 years, this was a year later. I changed areas on the 14th year and got my 2nd cow. That's 2 years in a row.

On the 15th year my family member decided to come up, but couldn't come up til the 2nd day of the hunt. As he arrives where we were parked at, 1 of us was bringing a load back (guns, packs a hind quarter) to the truck. We had just shot a cow a mile up the trail. My family member stayed at the truck (which was parked on the main road) to make sure no one stole the quarters as we got them off the mountain. 3rd day my cousin said Steve take my boy to go get his 1st elk (mind you my cousin has never got an elk before, even though he hunted with me for 12 years). I take him up a mile or so and we lay near some trees near an opening that the elk use as their highway. Nothing all day. 2 days later still nothing.

His last day before they had to leave, I told his boy, he had to sit right next me like fly on poop. As we lay there, I start sniffing him. I got a smell of fragrance from him and he swore they did the wash of the scent away detergent (just as my cousin had swore for 12 years he had done). I decided to talk to him about it some more. I wanted to know! Finely he had said, look my dad did the wash, I watched him and then when it is done, my mom puts it in the dryer and uses downy fresh. I was floored and disgusted.

This is why for 12 years, I never ever got close to seeing an elk to shoot. That night we took 2 (TWO FULL Bottles) of scent away spray and we doused him with it (every piece of clothing and body). We left his coat and pants outside overnight. That morning we headed up to the area and sat in our same spot. After 20 min. I pulled him to me and took a whiff. He still smelled Downy Fresh, lol! He never got one and my cousin has not been back since. I have gotten an elk ever since, every year.

Perfume scents are the worse and can travel miles. All other smells like food and camp fire are more of a natural scent and even though can make elk aware of you, it won't chase them away to another planet like perfume scent does. Be careful with whom you hunt with!

Oct 21, 2011
Wood Smoke
by: Tater

I have to agree with the rest of the hunters. Any strange smell could alarm deer. I can't tell you about elk, my first hunt coming in a few days. Smoke could mean danger since it could mean fire, and danger. I tend to agree it's more change of atmosphere and normal smells. I heard that the plain tribe Indians used sweet grass smoke to mask their scent when hunting on the plains. Good luck on whichever way you end up. Smoked or Smokeless *-)

Aug 19, 2011
Scent Control/Wood Smoke
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

I think you're right. One thing that I have learned about elk is that they are much more able to "reason" than a deer is. Elk seem to be able to figure things out just by observation and make complex decisions. I have watched lead cows bringing herds up from hay pastures through a line of hidden archers waiting for them. They seem to weave their way through the crowd so that no one gets a shot by simply studying the terrain before they decide which route to take. Then the next day they will do it differently, I guess depending on how the wind is blowing, etc.

Elk seem to be able to recognize something is different and avoid it. I'm convinced they even know how to hide their vitals with trees when they stop to look where they think they have heard an elk (me!). I don't think they think so linearly as to decide "smoke means forest fire somewhere". I think they can think, "Man fire, not forest fire." They avoid humans with great stealth until they can't shoot them. Then they know they can bunch up in yards in town, if need be, while people walk all around them. They're "smarter than the average bear".

Aug 19, 2011
Smoke scent effect
by: Skip Shephard

Hi Steve,

My guess is that the smell of wood smoke by an elk or deer would certainly alert them to be very aware of a change in their environment. To me it would be a signal to "get otta Dodge!"

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