Scent Control Tactics for Early Season Bowhunting

By Paul AnnearSeptember 18, 2023

Long hikes to your early season field edge blind, or a river bottom hang-and-hunt in search of a mature buck can’t come soon enough. Until you’re halfway into a sweaty march to your tree stand or blind. Despite the heat, there are ways to mitigate early season scent in the deer woods. Hunting in the early season presents challenges that don’t always exist during the rut and late season. Those hunting in the south or mid-south might experience September and early October averages in the high 70’s to low 80’s.

High humidity holds more moisture in the air and its thought animals can smell better because of this. Sure, you can hold off and only focus on cold fronts and changing weather patterns, but you might have that rare shooter buck walking in daylight during warm temperatures. What now? You shouldn’t hold off, I say you go after him. But there are some guidelines you should follow to limit your early season scent profile.

Scent Control Tactics For Early Season Bowhunting


A clean hunt starts at home in the washing and drying machine. Unless you have a washer and drier dedicated to hunting clothes, you need to run a cycle of scent-free odor destroying detergent through your families washing machine.

After running an empty rinse cycle with odor eliminating detergent, I then wash my socks and base layers. I start with my base layers and other items beneath my outer layers because with each load of clothes the washer becomes more scent-free as I move towards my outer layers.

Scent Control Tactics For Early Season Bowhunting

To clean your dryer, spray scent elimination spray on the inside or use scent free hunting wipes to clean it. I don’t dry every article of clothing because dryers can be hard on clothing and line-drying clothes can be a great way to air your gear out. After washing and drying is completed, I utilize a Scentlok Ozone bag before heading to the field. I run a 15-minute cycle before almost every hunt to give my clothes that fresh air scent that ozone produces.

On the way to my hunting spot, I will wear a pair of shorts and t-shirts with flip flops. Once I am at my hunting location, I change outside of my vehicle and slip into my clothes. My clothes stay in my Scentlok ozone bag until I’m ready to hunt, and they go right back in before I climb into my vehicle for the drive back.

Go in Light, Walk Slow

I’m rarely at the top of my game during my first few sits of the year, so I pack in lighter and limit the amount of equipment I drag along. For the first few hunts of the year, go in light to reduce your body exertion. Ditch a few items that won’t be necessary until the rut so you can lighten the load and lessen your sweat profile.

To further reduce sweat, walk slowly and take your time. Stow away outer layers inside your pack until you’re up in your stand. It’s easy to get amped up for your first sit and hustle to your stand. Like a rookie quarterback overthrowing a wide-open receiver on the opening play, on the first sit of the year you need to simply slow down so you can limit your sweat.

Scent Control Tactics For Early Season Bowhunting

Hunt the Wind

If the wind is right, you can smell like just about anything and get away with it while hunting. Pretty simple. But the best early season tree stands aren’t always located in areas with consistent winds. Off-season scouting during shed hunting and scouting while trimming lanes is the time to ‘wind scout’ tree stands, understand likely movement and then see what winds you should be hunting your stands with.

Remember, wind will move differently through the woods with foliage on the leaves. Although we cannot see wind, it’s reasonable to think that air hitting leaves disperses the air in different directions, which in theory could make airflows and wind direction less predictable in a timber setting during early season with leaves on the trees. In short, if you hunt the wind during early season you can overcome a lot of sweat and smell that can build up on a walk in to your spot.

Don’t forget thermals. Thermals are those very light breezes you feel before sunrise and after sunset where warming air rises and cooler air falls. Be sure you thought of where your thermals will end up before hunting a stand.

Scent Control Tactics For Early Season Bowhunting

Hunt Pre-Hung Stands

One of the best ways to reduce your physical exertion and scent during the early season is to hunt a blind or a pre-hung tree stand. Hunting a pre-established hunting location makes a lot of sense when trying to limit your scent for early season hunting. I have made the mistake of trying a few hang and hunts on warmer days where I had no intel that gave me any sort of inclination that a hang and hunt would be a good idea. All I did was sweat and question myself. Live and learn.

Hang and hunts during the early season are not highly recommended unless you are forced to hunt public land, or if you have solid intel on a deer but have no means of hanging a stand ahead of time. If you want to drastically reduce your scent and sound, slip into pre-hung well thought out stand location during the early season.

Scent Control Tactics For Early Season Bowhunting

I would go so far to say that a pre-hung tree stand is the best way to kill a deer at any time of year, let alone during early season. Think about early season patterns for a second, and its obvious why a pre-hung set makes a lot of sense. Typically, it isn’t too difficult to understand general directional deer movement during September.

In other words, find the destination food sources where deer will eventually float off to after darkness and you can be in the game. In September, deer are on a bed to feed pattern for the most part. No doubt, the presence of acorns and a few other specialty food items can throw these general patterns off, but the general direction of travel can be relatively predictable if large food sources exist. Find the staging areas near food next to cover, locate the destination after-dark food and post up a quiet pre-hung tree stand to create a sweat-free early season ambush location.

Hunt Cooler Days

Here’s the easiest way to reduce sweat and scent; hunt the cold fronts! During cold fronts, the air is typically less humid and heavy which will further reduce your scent. The other obvious benefit to hunting cooler days is just that—it’s cooler and you won’t sweat as much. Your hunts will also be more enjoyable and although it’s a debated topic, you’ll likely see more deer on cooler days with clear skies that have a little chill in the air.

What are some of your scent control tactics during the early season? Comment below, and let us know. 

Paul Annear
Paul Annear is a freelance writer born and raised in the picturesque region of southwest Wisconsin's Driftless area. He currently resides in northeast Wisconsin. He is a proud father of three, willing mini-van driver, and a former 7' high jumper for the Wisconsin Badgers. 
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