What is this gas known as ozone, and why are so many deer hunters talking about it these days?
Let's start with what even is ozone?
I am betting you have likely already smelled ozone before. Talking with many hunters, they often refer to it as the crisp, fresh smell after it rains. This smell is coming from the ozone produced as a by-product of lightning. Even if you don't actually see a strong lightning storm there will still be small, trace amounts of lightning produced ozone in the air. Ozone is also produced when ultraviolet radiation from the sun reacts with oxygen. In both scenarios it is using high energy sources to split the O2 (oxygen molecule).
"Ozone" the word itself is derived from the Greek word "ozein". Simply the verb "smell", referring to ozone's distinctive smell. Ozone is an extremely reactive gas made up of three oxygen molecules. It is Earth's natural cleaning method as well as one of the best man-made method for physically 'destroying' odor molecules and bacteria. This is what makes it a Hunter's new best friend!
Ozone is created when coupled oxygen molecules (O2) are cut in half.
The usual method for this process is called corona discharge, UVC ultraviolet light works as well. These now freshly single oxygen atoms end up pairing up with new already coupled and stable O2 molecules, making for a third wheel in this new relationship ultimately creating an ozone (O3) molecule.
We all know this doesn't last very long, so things get a little feisty in this one night stand, or more like a 30 minute stand since that's how long ozone takes to go back to breathable oxygen. In the process this super oxidizer ends up floating around until the loosely attached single 'O' ditches the trio and takes down other odor or bacteria molecules along with it. Permanently altering the molecular structure of the odor molecule, rendering it odorless. Not simply covering or masking odors with a new scent, essentially removing the odor from existence. One night stand over. And better yet, the deer will not be spooked.
Don't get me wrong, there is a stronger method of breaking the molecular odor chain apart to permanently destroy and eliminate its scent, but we're talking fluorine gas! No thanks. I'll stick with ozone.
So how do we know if this is even working on deer?
Well from experience for one. If you are a hunter that gets out often, maybe you have been able to glean some changes in deer patterns since you have started using ozone compared to when not.
One of the better tests I have seen so far is from Field & Stream. In this test they set up multiple test stations and relied on the nose of a highly trained K-9 police dog. An interesting read if you want to follow the link above to learn more. In summary, using ozone resulted in 3-3.5X improvement at fooling the dog's nose over not using ozone. For reference humans have about 5 million olfactory scent receptors, a dog has roughly 220 million and a deer almost 300 million, so using a dog as a case study seems to be a great way to test this.
Improving your odds 3-3.5X in the deer stand may or may not mean the difference of success in your hunt, but if you are like me, why not find out?
However, there are many more factors than just removing scent from your hunting clothes to the ultimate kill this season. For example, I grew up going to hunt camp with my uncles every year since I was 13. Their blaze orange hunting bibs were covered in grease, we would cook a big sausage and bacon breakfast in our hunting shack before the hunt, and they would sit out in their stands smoking cigarettes the entire time, yet still bring back the biggest bucks year after year!
Is extreme scent control the end all be all? Probably not, especially if you really know how to play the wind and know the patterns and travel routes of your deer. In my uncle's case they were hunting with 30-06 rifles and taking deer at about 70-100 yards mostly. Now, when I get in the bow stand and hope to close in with 30 yards or less, I'm going to give ozone a shot. I like the odds and even more I like the science.
There are best practices when using ozone as well that will help or hinder your results. Sure the science proves that ozone is very capable of literally destroying the organic bacteria molecules that produce odors. However, if you put your wet, sweaty hunting apparel in a bag and think the ozone generator is going to act like a washing machine and clean that out - think again. These are not washing machines. First, you need to keep your gear at least somewhat dry. If you sweat through, then wash them first. Ozone works MUCH better at protecting the scents that might be picked up in your environment and embedded into "porous" fabric (i.e. cloth). So wash your clothes if needed with a neutral, fragrance free detergent, THEN use ozone to keep your gear ready for the hunt. If you're like me and your schedule is busy, you have a family, work, and many other obligations during the season. Then your "hunt" window is shrunk, and you really want to make the most of it. Avoid the "eye-roll" from your significant others, ensure your deer aren't going to wind you when the wind isn't in your favor, and make this season a good one.
When using ozone to eliminate your scent is 3X better than not using it - I'm going to use it and I'm going to use it to the best of my abilities. Not only that, I'm going to spend hours and hours honing my shot, patterning the deer, timing the best times of the season to hunt and EVERYTHING else I can do to fill my freezer, but that's me. Each hunter will figure out what works best for them season after season, and that is what makes this sport so fun.
So please share what works for you in the comments section because we are all in this together in one way or another.
And remember, avoid using ozone in an occupied, breathing space. BoneView's Ozone Generator is now designed with a higher overall ozone output (50mg/hr). Although a much lower level then many commercial units on the market, it can still be irritable to humans. We work hard to maximize ozone output while efficiently extending battery life, yet still make it safe on equipment to be used in unoccupied storage spaces like totes, bags, closets, or even unoccupied vehicle cabs.