Field Test
Taking our time in testing products, so you won’t have to waste your time in the field.

Smelling Absolutely Quiet!

The burn of the setting sun reflected from the rimrock to the east and bathed my back with warmth as the chill evening breeze pushed hard up the creek flowage and danced the dry grass and willows. The huge 6x6 bull answered the ‘spike’ bugle by huffing and raking the trees and brush about him. Sauntering down below the 40 or so cows and calves, the mud-coated bull bugled and coughed as he came to the edge of the timber on the point of the bend across from his wallow. Treetops whipped in a frenzy as the great antlers smashed and fought the smaller timber in mock battle only 70 yards away.

I tensed as I felt my back cool. The wind had suddenly changed directions and was being pushed directly into the face of the bull. In his frenzy, I hoped his rancor would cause him to miss my scent halo, however I knew the cows could hardly be counted on to pass it by. The wind continued to pulse and the bull once again bugled, and the cows milled around without bolting.

Eventually the cows slowly dropped behind their hero and moved down to feed in the long grass of the creek bottom, the bull tagging along behind. Seven muleys noisily moved in behind them as I paused in silence to develop my next moves, eventually milling around in the brush four yards downwind from me. Feeding within view, two does spooked at the odd lines my image presented against the color of the dancing willows, but they only hopped twice and calming at my still-and-quiet, they resumed feeding directly under the wind at my back.

The bull returned three times to my cow calls and spike challenges, and once again removed to his gathering of cows that continued to feed off and away in the open. And although his return was close enough to make the pulse in my ears bounce; he still never caught notice of my scent. He came back and stood in the trough of my scent, and could not tell I was there!

This series of satisfying events began early that same morning when I found this bull in a bugling war with two lesser bulls in the same canyon. I watched and listened for an hour or more as the huge bull thrashed the brush and wandered in and out of his wallow as his cows fed contentedly. Upon occasion, when the action hit a lull, I would issue a spike bugle, which, from the close proximity of the rimrock above his hide, would begin the vocal session once again. I eventually settled in to quietly watch the entire group wander into a sheltered bedding area of the slope, cows calling calves, and the bull thrashing timber in mock battle. Retreating to my camp, I was sure of the course the rest of the day would follow. I had preparations to make which were required by the direction and size of the canyon, and the single direction of entry that would put me precariously on the wind. I knew if I had the slightest hint of human surrounding me when I reached the bottom of that canyon, the game would be up and gone for good!

The specific actions I set to were: Removing as much human odor present on my body as possible. Maintaining that same effect over time. Setting a barrier for any possible escape of ensuing human odor. And finally, providing a "scent of interest" that would not only mask any mistakes I might make, but also entice specific interest which may bring my target closer. The evening hunt was an example of how totally effective my efforts were.

Zodi Outback Gear provided one of their portable hot showers for field testing this year. This self-contained, instant-hot-water shower is one of the best pieces of outdoor equipment I have ever had the pleasure to bring to the field! The price a hunter, camper, or any outdoor enthusiast pays for it is well worth the cost of the comfort the product provides. The Zodi model I used was the Hot Tap Plus.

This lightweight unit comes in a 4-gallon plastic lidded container that becomes the water container and heater stand. Two 16-ounce propane bottles were attached to the dual-burner heating head. The compact pump is driven by a switched watertight 4 D-cell battery case. You simply fill the container with water, start the pump with a push of the button and then put a match into the hole in the side of the heater head. Twist the propane knobs and in a little over 10 seconds, 100-degree water is at hand. The amount of water in the container provided for a long, satisfying shower, with much to spare. If you want to luxuriate in the stream, a quick splash of extra water from another bucket can keep your shower going as long as you could ever want. Water pressure and volume were good, and adjustment of temperature, up or down, was easy using the flow valve and burner controls. The convenience of the "almost-instant" hot water was great. And being able to wash the sweat and dirt away with no more effort than dropping your clothes, lighting a match, and twisting a knob, was excellent. Two propane bottles and 4 D-cell batteries can provide up to 4 hours of showers. That is a huge amount of "clean," as I used this shower for two weeks and never got close to draining either the propane or the batteries. This great shower is offered in 7 models and price ranges. It was definitely a very important first step in ‘smelling absolutely quiet’! Available in most outdoor retail outlets or by contacting Zodi at 800-589-2849, and on the net at

The soap and personal scent elimination products I used were from Bucks and Does HSE’s (human scent eliminator — and they aren’t kidding!) "ELK ESSENTIALS" elk hunter’s program. The complete "system" began with the Shampoo-N-Body wash, a thorough spray with their Body Deodorant to my hair and appropriate areas and underclothing, and an application of their ‘crystal-ball’ mineral salts Underarm Deodorant Ball. I have never been as totally scent-free as I found myself after utilizing these products. Hunters will also find included in the boxed system; concentrated scent and UV-free clothing wash, alpine blend and forest blend clothing scent sprays, Autumn Elk Dominant Cow elk rutting urine, and Autumn Bull elk urine. Additionally, a great elk food blend with elk musk is available, along with cover scents to match any terrain. In this case I used the forest and sage blends due to the mixed terrain. You can contact Bucks-n-Does HSE at 800-782-6686 or on the net at

Prior to the hunt I washed the excellent camouflage clothing from Natural Gear (if you haven’t seen these clothes — there is a reason why — the pattern won’t let you!) in Scent Killer clothing wash from Wildlife Research Center (763) 427-3350; and then sprayed all of these garments with Scent Blocker Carbon Blast microporous carbon dust from Robinson Laboratories.

Once I had dressed, the last act to effect the complete "no-hunter-here" package before entering the woods was to attach two Wildlife Research Center Super-Wick scent dispersal containers to the stabilizer of my bow. These dandy, fully sealing camouflage plastic scent systems are designed to be hung vertically and used in conjunction with stand hunting. However, I have found their huge scent-dispersing wick is excellent for putting animal odor onto the breeze. By taping the two containers onto the stabilizer, it was a simple matter to unscrew either one, or both of the caps, depending on the hunting situation, and tip my bow forward to allow the 4-inch wicks to slide out of the containers. Putting the wicks away was just as simple. Just tilting the bow backward slid the wicks back inside, and the caps were then replaced. No mess, and no smell when it wasn't needed! I saturated one wick with Bucks-n-Does HSE Autumn Elk Dominant Cow Elk Rutting Urine, and the other wick with Autumn Elk Bull Urine. With the strong breeze at my back — and the preparation I had done in camp, the only thing the animals could smell were the elk coming to them straight from the two wicks that lolled in the air in front of my bow.

In finding the bull early that morning, I was cautious as I studied his movements and carefully formulated the best plan the terrain would allow. I went back to camp and made sure that I had did everything possible to remove the most disastrous thing a hunter can carry into to the woods with him; human scent! And as evening approached I dropped down into the canyon with the intent of killing the huge bull. Although it was unfortunate to have the canyon’s evening breeze moving straight into the bull’s face, I had defeated its currents by my care. The bull kept working back to me, closer every time he returned from the direction of the feeding cows. Follow the cow, and then return to my call to bugle, rake, and huff. Right in front of me. 60 yards, 50 yards, 40… and it was dark! The game was called on account of darkness! Time ran out for the evening, but I knew he would be in that exact spot in the morning, because he hadn’t been spooked, he hadn’t smelled any human scent, and he’d be 12 hours further into the rut and ready to step right into my face the next morning and die. In taking the steps earlier that afternoon, I had done everything I needed so I could crawl down that steep canyon wall, smelling absolutely quiet. And I was!

As life tends to continually kick me in the rump at the most inopportune of times, I returned to camp to find a series of frantic messages on my cell phone voice mail. A serious emergency surgery was necessary for my mother and I was required to return home to attend to the details.

As I thought of the huge bull that was waiting for me down in that canyon, I stared at my hunting knife and considered a little surgery on my wrists. I knew, though, that he hadn’t been spooked by me, and I had found the perfect system to mask human scent. I had mastered the worst problem a hunter faces when he enters the woods. And in doing this, there was some shallow victory, and a method that would be easily reproduced next season.

For every victory we claim, there is always a price we must pay. As I headed home at 5 the following morning, my gear loaded on the trailer behind my truck, four miles from camp, a really nice 5x5 bull stepped onto the road in the glare of my headlights. I slowed, he turned to face me, and I’m sure I saw a wry smile come across his face as he stepped off into the woods. I had found a way to cover my scent, BUT THAT REALLY STINKS!


Frank Medicine Wolf Springer

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