Elk NetworkGEAR 101: The Science of Stink

Hunting | January 1, 2016

GEAR 101: The Science of Stink

by PJ DelHomme 

If you sweat when you hunt, chances are you’re going to stink. And if you offend your hunting partner, you can only imagine how you smell to an elk. So how can you minimize the funk?

First, understand the stink. It’s not sweat that stinks, but sweat mixing with ever-present bacteria on your body. Rule number one is to minimize bacteria. Showering is recommended but this is elk camp after all. When possible, an icy plunge in a creek is worth the temporary pain, and oh so refreshing. Otherwise, use scent-free baby wipes to clean armpits and other odiferous regions. Consider scent-free deodorants. And switch out stinky clothes for fresh ones that are washed in scent-free detergent and hung on the line to dry. 
Many of the scent-eliminating products work as advertised but there is an inexpensive shortcut hiding in your refrigerator. Many people put an open box of baking soda in their fridge to absorb odors. It works just as well in elk camp. 

The beauty of baking soda is the sheer versatility of it. Mix a few tablespoons with scent-free soap and take a shower. Use it like foot powder in dry boots. And don’t be afraid to brush your teeth with it either.

One factor that no one wants to pay attention to in hunting camp is diet. For me, I know that my stink is elevated if I have a lot of coffee in the morning. In reality, my body is reacting to the caffeine and sweating more. Same goes with drinking too much the night before a hunt, which will make you smell like a college freshman again. Lastly, lay off the beans, onions, garlic and wintergreen chew while in camp. Elk aren’t dumb; they know something’s amiss when the hillside smells like a mini-mart.


Always remember that no matter how much you do to mask your scent, an elk is going to smell you if you don’t play the wind. You can sound like an elk in the woods, and you can even look like one thanks to decoys, but one whiff of you and you’ll be lucky to hear a cow bark before they run. Always know the wind direction and use it to your advantage.