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Informed hunters know scents and sensibility

Shortly after my spaniel Rosie and I sauntered into the house after a long and sweaty upland bird hunt, Jenn said, “What is that god awful smell?”

“Rosie rolled in some unidentifiable thing,” I noted.

“No, I mean the really bad smell,” she said, while plugging her nose.

“Oh, it’s probably just my hunting vest,” I replied proudly.

Just to be clear, I’m not trying to brag.

The only reason I mention this to illustrate the major difference between hunters who pursue upland game and those who archery hunt for deer, moose, or bear.

The latter go to ridiculous lengths to ensure that their clothing is scent-free. We wash our outfits in baking soda or commercial scent removers. We store them outside and often hang them on a clothesline so that household odours do not contaminate them. Most of us, also place our hunting clothing in a sealed box filled with cedar or some other natural smell, so that they take on that aroma. After all that, we will only put them on when we get to our hunting grounds. And even then, we will spray them with a scent remover or cover scent before we slip with the wind in our face into our stand. The idea is not to offend or alert the highly sensitive noses of our quarry.

An upland bird hunter, on the other hand, washes his hunting vest and pants every three to four years.

Between those miraculous events, we will have placed many dead birds in the game pouch of our vest so that it is lined with old feathers and dried blood. There might also be an old soggy dog treat or forgotten apple or sandwich one or more of the pockets. We will also have gotten our brush pants splattered in mud, covered in burrs and dog slobber. And the smell emanating from your boots would cause any predatory bear to think twice.

So, yes, our gear smells a bit but, rest assured, it is for good reason. First, no one will ever go near or think to steal your upland vest or pants. On the contrary, if you bring them out enough, people who care about you will buy you a new set and offer to dispose of the old one. That way, it saves you from ever doing laundry.

More importantly, as long as your upland vest smells that way, you will never worry about losing your upland dog.

Not if it has any sense of smell.

The unwritten rule among upland hunters, I believe, is that you should develop a funk so bad in your upland hunting clothes and boots that your dog would rather gravitate to that than any skunk in the neighbourhood.

Clearly, on that day, I failed. For Rosie decided that rolling in the carcass of a dead rodent of some sort was preferable to being downwind of my vest. Hey, I’m not perfect. In my defense, the vest is relatively new and I have not worked it in for more than two seasons.

All that will change in the week between moose and deer season, I hope. That’s when I plan on going out to visit a few of my better upland covers to really build up a stank. I won’t build up an appetite, however. The last thing I want is to be tempted by that old sandwich in the right, front pocket.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

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