Hunting for animals began as a necessity to prevent bodily harm and to provide food and hides for clothing, shelter, and protection from the elements. While hunting is still a necessity for some cultures, it is now a popular sport for many around the world.
An animal's keen vision and sense of smell give them an advantage in the wild. According to “How Game Animals See and Smell,” a booklet by Kurt von Besser, many camouflage clothes and laundry detergents contain UV brighteners, which animals can detect, to make the clothing more appealing to our eyes. Detergents and fabric softeners also contain fragrances that are even more detectable than the normal human body scents that give animals notice that danger is near.
How to Select a Laundry Detergent for Hunting Clothes and Gear
To gain an edge in the fields and woods, all types of hunters should use detergents free of UV brighteners and perfumes. You may not look as sharp, but the prey won't mind. Many laundry detergents that are labeled as "natural" or "eco-friendly" do not contain brighteners, but some do. Take time to read labels.
Or, you can purchase detergents specifically formulated for hunters or military uniforms. Sophisticated night vision equipment can also detect optical brighteners left by detergents leaving troops in danger. Country Save is a detergent approved by the military and given to troops in their go bags that will also work well for hunters.
There are also spray-on scent eliminators for clothing, gear, and skin.
Tips for Washing Hunting Clothes
Along with the using the right type of laundry detergent, there are other laundry tips that will give you an edge in the wild:
1. Clean the washer and dryer thoroughly to remove any scented detergent, fabric softener, or dryer sheet residue before you wash your hunting gear with an appropriate detergent.
2. Consider hand washing clothes in a large utility sink or tub rather than the family washer.
3. Add one cup baking soda to the final rinse water to help eliminate odors.
4. Air dry clothing on an outdoor drying rack or clothesline. When dry, store in a sealed plastic bag or tub to prevent ambient odors in your home or vehicle from attaching to the fabric.
5. Use the same types of detergents and washing techniques for sleeping bags and other camping gear before you head to the woods.
6. Never use fabric softener or dryer sheets on hunting gear if using standard laundry appliances.
7. Wash hunting clothes often to prevent body odor from building up in the fibers.
8. Keep the hunting clothes in a sealed bag or tub until you arrive at your hunting stand or camp. Do not wear while driving, pumping gas, or eating. Wear gloves when handling outer garments to prevent transfer of scent.
How to Clean Hunting Game Bags
An important part of hunting is bringing back the game so that the meat is safe to eat. Learn how to clean game bags so that your meat is as bacteria-free as possible and so the bag can be used again.
Most hunting game bags are made from cotton or a synthetic blend. Discussions abound about which is best for protecting meat. But whichever you prefer, you must clean them religiously to protect your kill and the safety of those who will be eating the meat.
If you are on an extended hunt and plan to hang game before the hunt ends, rinse the game bags after the meat is hanging on a meat pole. Use any water available to get as much dried blood and soil off the bags. Allow them to air dry and then rebag the hanging meat. This will help preserve the bag's breathability and slow meat spoilage.
As soon as possible after the hunt, thoroughly wash the game bags with unscented heavy-duty detergent (Tide and Persil contain enough stain-removing enzymes to remove stains) and a light solution of chlorine bleach using the hottest water possible. The chlorine bleach should be fresh and added at the correct time for optimum cleaning. Allow the hunting bags to air dry. If you are concerned about discoloration from stains, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach and warm water and allow the bags to soak overnight. Then wash again as recommended.