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How to Wear—and Care for—Hunting Pants

Yes, you read that right. In this post, we’re going to tell you how to wear pants.

We realize you may be thinking, “Hold on a second there, Complete Guide to Archery. I know how to wear pants. I’m a big boy, and I’ve been wearing pants for a while.”

We’re sure you have, and we don’t want to tell you your business. But hunting pants are a bit unlike all the other pairs of pants you have, and how you wear them—and take care of them—can actually make a big difference in your hunting success.

So, without further ado, here are some pointers for preparing and wearing your pants, to increase the odds of your success on a hunt. We promise—we’ll keep it short and sweet, and if you want to find out which hunting pants we recommend, you can jump over to our post about the best hunting pants.

Know Your Hunting Environment(s)

This sounds odd to say, but we've met a few hunters who seem to care a lot more about how their hunting apparel looks "off-the-rack" than it does "on-the-hunt." Certain types of camo seem to be more popular than others—there's a weird kind of trendiness to it—but the camo you select has a single main purpose: to conceal your appearance from the game you're hunting. That's it. It's not complicated. How you feel in the camo, or how popular it is, has nothing to do with how well-suited it is to your hunt.

So consider the environment in which you'll be hunting, and select a print that well conceal you in that environment. Are you on the East Coast, in heavily wooded areas in the early fall? Classic woodland camo might be the right choice. Will you be hunting later in the season, when leaves are down and the grey/tan/brown of trees and branches will be the predominant tone in the environment? Then green may be too much, and you may want to opt for a more subdued grey/brown palette. The more you know your environment, the better you'll be able to conceal yourself.

If you hunt in an environment that will change throughout the seasons—and for many of us, the woodland hunting environment goes from greens to oranges and yellows to greys and browns—it can make sense to have multiple pairs of pants/tops/masks with different camo types, The same is true if you will be traveling to hunt in different environments in different parts of the country (you lucky duck), where you'll be in varied environments. A great pair of hunting pants may not be suited for every environment you'll encounter, so prepare accordingly.

The correct camo pattern is actually one of factors you should consider when selecting a pair of hunting pants.

Wash Those Puppies and Wash 'Em Good

Humans have a lot of the sensory advantages over the game we hunt, but one sensory tool we lack is the ability to orient ourselves via scent. We're got great eyesight, and pretty decent hearing, but a terrible sense of smell. Unless something smells pretty strongly, we tend to overlook it.

The game we hunt isn't like that. It's tremendously attuned to smell, and when you come tumbling into the hunting environment without taking the time to mask your smell, it's almost like setting off an air horn in a quiet library: it alerts and everyone and everything in the area of your presence. Not the best move when you're trying to be stealthy.

And that's why one of the most commonly-overlooked aspects of hunting preparation is scent control. We're always amazed when hunters obsess about rifles, bows, rangefinders, etc. etc., and pay no attention to their scent signature.

Before your first use of the pants (and any other garments you wear), and before every ensuing time you wear them on a hunt, it can make a lot of sense to wash your pants with a detergent specifically designed for hunting. Most of the detergents you'll find in a store are chock-full of fragrances and perfumes, and while those might be nice when you're lying around the house, they're "loud" when you're on a hunt. We like Code Blue D/Code Unscented Laundry Detergent

D/CODE by Code Blue Scent Elimination Laundry Detergent, Unscented, 32 fl oz
  • The deep-cleaning detergent works hard to scrub tough stains and Remove smells caused by sweat from your base layers, Jackets, bibs, coveralls, gloves and other Apparel
  • Clean your gear after a Day in the Woods to Remove the scent of sweat, smoke, Pets, food and exhaust without adding fragrances that could give away your position during the next day's excursion
  • Stay Concealed in a stand or blind or when stalking game, as the detergent is specially made to help prevent camouflage clothing from fading

 and Scent Killer Clothing Wash.

Both have fewer of the weird chemicals that regular detergents have, and are designed to make your clothes a little less noticeable to the game you're hunting.

As for actually washing your clothes, here are some other pointers you may want to keep in mind:

> If you launder your hunting clothes with a scent-free / hunting detergent... don't throw them in the dryer with some dryer sheets! Those things also have a lot of fragrance in them, and it'll be no use laundering your clothes with scent-free detergent if you're going to dry them with scented dryer sheets. If you're not the one doing your laundry, politely remind the person doing your laundry to be mindful of the drying process (and then thank them for doing your laundry for you!);

> Take an account of ALL your hunting apparel. And that means all of it, from socks to undies to undershirts to thermals to vests to hats to masks and beyond, and consider which items may need odor-masking. Wash what you can, and spray the rest. Really take a close look at the items that can carry or convey scent—even consider the fabric on the inside of your hunting boots. There are a lot of "overlookable" things you need that can drag your scent signature into the woods;

> Some guys wash their bedding with hunting-friendly hunting detergent. The idea is that you'll be getting the scent of your bedding on you, and when you wake up and head out to the hunting environment, you'll be carrying that scent with you. That may be a little bit of overkill, but it can't hurt;

> Some guys even store their hunting clothes in plastic bags… So that they don't pick up the scent of anything near them. That, too, may seem like overkill, but when you consider ALL the smells in a household—cooking smells, pets, and so on—it can actually be a pretty good strategy;

> Even "scent-free" pants need to be laundered. Many pairs of hunting pants have some sort of scent control mechanism worked into the fabric—either a topical coating that goes on the fabric, or a more sophisticated system of ultra-small fragments between fabrics that capture smell—but even those models may need to be washed after a hunt;

> If you're carrying hunting bags around with you, those can carry a lot of scent. There are scent-free versions available, but be mindful that they may carry a lot of scent after you've used them; and finally

> If you're in a hunting blind... Well, that gets a little more difficult, and there's a little bit of debate about whether hunting blinds create a "hotbox" environment that captures your scent. It probably does, and it's probably a good idea to mask your scent if you'll be hunting from a ground blind.

So now that we’ve discussed clothing…

Don't Forget About That You, Yourself, May Be Stinky Too

While we're here and talking about getting scent out of your clothes, we should remind you that you, yourself, carry a great deal of odor as well. The oils in your hair, the sweat on your skin, and even the food you ate for breakfast that you carry on your breath, can all get a tip-off to game in your environment. While you may not be able to mask every scent you're carrying / emanating, you can mask some of them, by:

> Using an odor-elimination body wash and shampoo. We read one time that Native Americans would go into a sweat lodge before a hunt so they could sweat off the scent they carried around, but we're not sure that's true. And, either way, if you don't have time for a sweat lodge, there are a number of odor-eliminating soaps / body washes / shampoos out there, and we like D/Code Body Wash and Shampoo.

D/CODE by Code Blue Scent Elimination Body Wash & Shampoo, 12 fl oz
  • The patented formula eliminates human scent to hide your presence in the field
  • D/CODE found to be effective in eliminating existing human scent and stops human scent from growing, so your scent will remain camouflaged
  • The body wash and shampoo has been carefully crafted to deliver a thorough cleansing for head-to-toe scent suppression, while staying gentle for everyday use

Code Blue actually specializes in odor management, and we've had positive experiences with a lot of their products; and finally

> Use an odor-elimination spray. This can be in conjunction with a wash, or on their own—and they can be a worthwhile tool if you're on a multi-day hunting trip, and won't be able to wash your apparel after you use it. Lots of folks spray their clothes (and even their gear) with this sort of thing, and we had good experiences with Scent Killer Gold.

Remember, even something that may smell neutral to you—something you may pick it up, sniff, and think is scentless—can smell very strongly to the game you're hunting.

Ever See Forrest Gump?

Remember how Captain Dan told Forest about the importance of boots? Well, we’re the Captain Dan of pants. We want you to stay safe and healthy, and enjoy your pants for years to come. Care for them, wear them right, and be safe!

Gregory Johnson

With almost 20 years of archery experience under his belt, Gregory founded the Complete Guide to Archery website in 2019. His purpose has been to spread knowledge about the hobby and sport to anyone willing to learn.