Between all the blood, sweat and tears (literally) that we soak up each hunt, we can get pretty dirty and build up quite a stench over time. We as hunters are not only having to deal with our own B.O. from long bouts of walking or roasting in the harsh summer sun, but we also have to deal with the smell of animal blood, guts, and sometimes even feces that accumulate on our clothes from all the field dressing that we do over time.
So, the reason why we want to make sure we clean our hunting gear off on a regular basis is usually for two reasons, and that is so we don’t work up a smell so bad that we scare animals away from us and also because, well, it’s just nasty.
There’s no way I personally can go back in the field without washing all of my gear every single time after a hunt, but I do know a lot of people who don’t, and in my honest opinion, it isn’t a good idea, and it’s definitely not the most sanitary. On top of all the sweating we do, we’re also getting blood all over us from the game that we dress, and sometimes this blood can carry diseases and other bacteria that we shouldn’t let harbor on our clothes. So with that being said, let’s check out what we can do so that you can stay fresh, clean and undetected every hunt.
How often should you wash your clothes after a hunt? Every time. Hunting can easily work up a sweat, so making sure that you’re clean and scent-free is pretty important. We as humans carry a natural scent that animals can pick up on, so getting dirty, bloody and sweaty will only make this problem much worse.
I know it can sometimes be hard to grasp, but there are certain animals who have smelling senses much more sensitive than us and much better than us as well. So keeping clean will usually always result in us having the advantage when it comes to our hunt, and having that advantage is something that we will need on every trip.
Worried about what you can wash them in? Don’t worry! I’ve got you covered.
BUT… WHAT DO YOU WASH THEM IN
There are really no set-in-stone detergent or cleaners to wash your clothes with, but whatever you do, make sure you’re using something that is scent-free. We want scent-free for obvious reasons, and this is so we don’t create an additional scent that animals can pick up on.
Can you get away with using your normal detergent that you usually mix in with your everyday clothes? Probably not, so investing in a good, odorless soap is an absolute must when it comes to washing your hunting gear.
There are many different brands to choose from, but I’ve found that Seventh Generation and ECOS are two really good ones to look into. If you’re on a budget though and just want to use an at-home remedy like I do, then plain old baking soda is another awesome alternative. This will not only help with scent reducement but will also act as a natural fabric softener as well. The size of your laundry load will determine how much you should put in, but 1/2 a cup will usually do the trick for most loads.
In addition to that, making a baking soda and peroxide spray and applying it to your clothes after a wash will also help with creating a scent-blocking barrier that will hide your scent even more and reduce your chances of getting busted by an animal.
HOW SHOULD YOU DRY THEM
I typically dry all of my hunting clothes outside on a clothesline, but if it is snowing or raining outside and drying outside is not an option, then store your clothes inside somewhere sheltered such as a garage, a shed or anywhere else not affected by the weather. If none of these are an option, then just normal drying in the dryer should work perfectly fine.
The only reason why I prefer to hang-dry my clothes is because I like the natural earthy scent that it gives them.
Also, remember to not use any scent-based dryer sheets as this will obviously give your clothes a scent that will scare animals away. If you really like dryer sheets and feel that you need them, then investing in scent-free sheets will be your best option.
If you use the baking soda remedy for your clothes, then your clothes will already be soft and dryer sheets will not be needed. Baking soda will not only help you save money but will keep your clothes soft and scent-free as well. So, really, at this point, it is not the cheapest option but the smartest option too. And I use this method to clean all my clothes, so I definitely stand by it.
GET THE GRIME OFF YOUR BOOTS, ALSO
Your clothes are not the only thing that get dirty when hunting! Clean boots are also important for keeping good hygiene and smelly scents away. Sweat collects inside of your boots just like your clothing, but unlike them, they are directly in contact with whatever is on the ground.
So you could be stepping in anything from deer poo to another hunter’s chewing tobacco. You might think since they are on your feet and not directly touching your upper body that you shouldn’t have to worry about them, but they too can get pretty stinky.
When you’re stepping on the ground, you are more than likely collecting anything that’s on it along the way. So, aside from your sweat and natural body scent, animals can smell whatever else you may have stuck on the bottom of your boots.
Whether you own a pair of rubber or leather boots, the baking soda trick will still work either way. I own both and have had no problems using this method. Just like your clothes, you’ll want to wash your boots with unscented soap, but since they are likely big and bulky, you’ll want to do this by hand.
Washing by hand will help to not cause any damages to the washer or dryer. Besides, machine drying rubber boots is probably not the best idea anyways because of the heat. What you want to do is take your boots, get a clean washcloth and then wash the outside of the boot with hot water and unscented soap.
After you do that, take about a teaspoon (or tablespoon depending on the size of your boot) and sprinkle it in the inside. And this is optional, but before sprinkling the baking soda, you can soak your shoes with the same unscented soap inside of a bucket or container of hot water for a while. I generally let mine sit for about 30 minutes before applying the baking soda, but this will usually depend on how smelly they are.
If your boots are not durable or you feel as if they might get damaged from soaking them, then skip this step. If you are able to soak them though, then set them outside in the sun until they dry. This is not a requirement but can help a lot with sweat and odor elimination.
Keeping your feet nice and clean before a hunt also helps a lot. I always make sure to take a shower and scrub my feet with unscented soap right before I leave and head to the field. This way I’m getting most natural odors off and minimizing the chances of stinking up my boots with sweat.
I mean, what’s the point of cleaning one thing if we’re not going to clean the other, right?
If you follow these tips, you will surely have a lot more luck when hunting. I know that getting dirty and sweaty is a natural part of the hunt, but sometimes it can hurt us. Certain animals, like deer specifically, have an insane sense of smell, so if they happen to pick up on all the different odors that we create and pick up over time, then you might notice that the chances of you coming home empty-handed will become greater and greater.
For a long time, I was ignorant to the fact that I might have been missing out on good game because of the smell I was carrying, but eventually after striking out time and time again while hunting, I figured I’d give it a shot, and let me tell you that it made a world of difference after doing so.
I think it is absolutely insane how just the smell of us humans can scare animals away, but ever since I incorporated a cleaning routine in my hunting trip, I’ve been having tons of luck ever since.
It is important to stay on top of your game when it comes to hunting because one little thing can mess your trip up, and that’s never a good experience. So, take a little time out each trip and clean your gear off so that you will always be on top.