Sniff Test: Scent Control Products and Practices vs. a Drug Dog | Field & Stream

Sniff Test: Scent Control Products and Practices vs. a Drug Dog

Baking soda, five showers a day, plastic bags, and rubber boots. Some hunters will try anything to mask their scent from a whitetail's nose. And with the ever increasing number of scent-control products flooding the market, it can be difficult to find a method that actually works. That's where our 4 sniff tests comes in. Here's what our Whitetails Editor Scott Bestul learned while pitting new products and techniques against drug-sniffing dogs.

Photo by Ralph Smith

Sniff Test 4: Ozone Isn't a Gimmick

You’ve had your head in the clouds if you’ve missed the de-scents-itizing hype of companies selling ozone-generating products. Ozone, they claim, contains an extra oxygen molecule that attaches itself to other molecules—say, b.o. molecules—and changes their structure. I’m eager to examine any deer hunting trend and, if necessary, flip it on its head. So I enlisted Chance, a highly trained police dog, to test ozone’s effectiveness. I’ve watched Chance’s nose zip through every sort of no-scent solution and was fully prepared for an ozone rout. But that’s not exactly what I got.

Sniff Test 3: Cover Scents Work Better Than Odor Reducers

Photo by Teru Onishi

You may remember the second annual sniff test we did in the magazine last year. In that test the most popular products designed to reduce or neutralize human odor did not fool Chase, the drug-sniffing German shepherd and Houston County, Minn., K‑9 cop. The dog found the hidden hunter—and fast—no matter what scent-control product was used. So why should skunk, pine, and acorn scents do what soaps, sprays, and no-scent clothing couldn’t? I bought a bunch of cover scents nonetheless and with Chase out sick, I booked a new K-9, Ike, and his handler, Lt. Tracie Erickson, for a day of testing.

What I got was a real eye-opener.

Sniff Test 2: You Can't Hide Your B.O. With a Shower

Scent Test

Photo by Dan Saelinger

Every deer hunter frets about b.o., but our attempts to manage it are all over the map. Some of us just play the wind. Many of us shower or spray down. Then there are those whose pre-hunt deodorization routine borders on obsessive-compulsive. I wanted to know if any of it really makes a difference. So I left it to Chance­—the German shepherd K-9 partner of Luke Sass, a sheriff’s deputy in Houston County, Minn. Chance not only sniffs out contraband drugs; he can find a lost person or track down a runaway crook. I asked Sass if he could try to find a hunter attempting to hide his body odor. “Absolutely,” he said.

Sniff Test 1: Practical Revelations

Photo by Donald M. Jones

Do rubber boots keep you from leaving a scent trail as you walk to your stand? How far downwind can a deer bust you? How long does it take for your scent to dissipate in the woods?

I don’t have hard-and-fast answers. But I’ve got far better than the usual mere guesses. I’ve got Blitz.

Knowing a deer’s nose is often compared with a dog’s, and hoping to shed some light on a few of the nagging questions about a buck’s ability to sniff us out, I enlisted a pair of professionals: Winona County, Minnesota, sheriff’s deputy Chris Cichosz and Blitz, his 5-year-old German shepherd K-9 partner. In addition to being a drug-sniffing smart bomb, Blitz is trained to find human beings, usually of the criminal variety. But I asked Chris if Blitz could also find a hunter.

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