Looking back over what we’ve learned in the five years we’ve been here, I think it’s instructive to compare our fishing and hunting experiences.
Fishing, we’ve been reasonably successful. Over the season, we catch enough fish to feed us one or twice a week all year, with extra to barter. Our bluefish and striped bass records are pretty good, and we supplement with fluke and sea bass. Although we didn’t get our tuna this year, it was a bad year for tuna. Very few of them showed inshore, where we’d planned to go find them.
Hunting, though, has been a complete bust. Four years, no deer. Why the difference?
Part of the problem is that it’s all but impossible to read anything helpful about hunting deer. Most “How to Hunt Deer” articles are along the lines of one I read recently in Mother Earth News, which essentially tells you to find an area where there are deer, and go there and wait. Oh, and be quiet and don’t smell.
And that’s the real problem. Being quiet and not smelling are not in my wheelhouse.
For illustration, take this incident from my childhood. I’m not sure how old I was – maybe ten, maybe twelve – when my mother told me that you can cut onions without crying if you keep your mouth closed the entire time. I’ve tried this about a zillion times, and I’m here to tell you that it DOES NOT WORK. My mother, though, to this day, claims that it doesn’t work for me because I can’t keep my mouth closed that long.
I make noise in plenty of other ways, too. I step heavy, I drop things, I fidget. Sitting still and being silent is very difficult for me. Doing it in a treestand, with very little in the way of luxurious amenities, is even harder. And then, just for fun, make it twenty-five degrees. And windy. I might as well stay home.
Silent, though, is a walk in the park compared to scent-free. Although I have many fine qualities – I am cheerful and entertaining, steadfast and true – I am undeniably smelly. Some of this is clearly genetic. I know people whose bodies don’t smell, even under duress. I’m married to one of them. Even after an entire afternoon’s worth of sweaty, heavy work, Kevin’s body odor is undetectable. Me, though!
When we lived in New York, I used to go to spin class at the West Side YMCA, on 63rd Street. New York real estate being what it is, the spin room crammed about 25 bikes in a room the size of your average prison cell. Despite fans and air conditioning, the room got hot, and I’d leave class drenched, hoping that, in a crowded, breezy room, nobody could peg that awful smell back to me.
Evidence for a familial component in smelliness comes from my brother’s decision, decades ago, that deodorant was a scam perpetrated by consumer products companies on a gullible and germ-obsessed public. When I told him that, ahem, I didn’t think that was the case, he took it well. Being cheerful and entertaining also runs in the family.
I give my genes an assist, though, with my onion- and garlic-heavy diet. And, of course, my habits. I believe the daily shower is a scam perpetrated by consumer products companies on a gullible and germ-obsessed public, and shower accordingly. Also, deer season comes at a time of year when my house is often cold, and it takes some fortitude to remove your base layer. I see the merit of the pioneer practice of putting your underwear on in October and taking it off in April.
In short, scentlessness is not my long suit. I am trying to compensate for that with a bunch of products that are designed to deoderize.
In general, the process of deoderization is mysterious to me. I read about the development of Febreze in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. Until then, I’d believed that odor eliminators were a scam perpetrated by consumer products companies on a gullible and germ-obsessed public, but then I read about the wildlife worker who was grateful to Procter & Gamble, to the point of tears, for getting the skunk smell out of her house. Okay, that’s convincing. But how does it work? It doesn’t cover up the smell, it actually makes the smell go away. How is that even possible?
And do Scent-A-Way laundry detergent, boot spray, and soap work the same way? I sure hope so, because that’s what I’ve been using. I washed our camo suits, base layers, and hats. I sprayed our boots. I showered. But our lifestyle is inherently odiferous. We put the suits and boots on the porch so they wouldn’t pick up house smells, but then I put a big pot of turkey stock on to simmer. When Kevin came in from splitting wood, he opened the porch door and got hit with the overwhelming smell of simmering turkey. He put the suits in the truck, but god knows what the truck smells like. I’ll have to wash them again.
It makes me wonder how deer got hunted before the days of Scent-Away. How did a pioneer, a good two months into his base layer, not reek of humanness? Besides, any pioneer worth his salt also smells of wood smoke, and domestic animals, and maybe even turkey stock. How does he get within shouting distance of a creature that can smell a human from a mile away?
Probably by being very very quiet.