In sports if a team is “skunked” it usually means they failed to score or their athletic performance generally “stunk up the place.” When it’s said you have “a skunk in your mouth,” then buddy…you have a noticeable case of bad breath. In the drinking world if you have some “skunky” beer it usually means it has either gone flat or is of very poor, undesirable quality in the first place. But when you or your dog gets “skunked” in the outdoors…you better be prepared to deal with the consequences.
I’ve always been a bit fascinated by the world of skunks—provided it was done at a distance, mind you. But when you spend any amount of time in the outdoors…sooner or later you are likely to have an encounter.
Perhaps the most memorable encounter I ever had with a skunk occurred in the fall of 1995 when I was elk hunting out in Colorado. We had set up camp with our wall tent and gear just off the mountain road and things were looking pretty calm and peaceful…well, at least for awhile. I had brought with a bag of salted in-the-shell peanuts and was indiscriminately discarding the empty hulls around camp. BIG MISTAKE!!
At the end of a long day’s hunt we arrived back in camp and were settling in to cook supper when I happened to look down to see a skunk walking right towards me at a distance of about 10 feet. I let out a shriek and told my hunting partner, Mitch, to “grab the gun!!!” This seemingly fearless little creature began to chew on the pile of empty peanut shells…and that is when I realized my mistake.
Believe me, there are few happenings in life that can get you so quickly excited as having a skunk in hunting camp. The experience only has to happen once and your awareness of it happening again is somehow easily heightened. Several years later we had camp in Montana during an antelope hunt when someone sitting around the campfire hollered “skunk…grab the gun!” One of the hunters was just about to lay a bead on the critter when another hunter wisely shined a flashlight to determine it wasn’t a skunk…but just the rancher’s small black dog nosing around our campsite.
Of course, we all know why the mere mention of “skunk” sends a shiver up our sportsman’s spines. Aside from the fact many are rabid…the potential odor factor is often of greater concern to most of us.
Take the skunk, for instance, we shot in Colorado who invaded our camp. Even though we shot it 300 feet away from camp…the obnoxious stench lingered on the mountainside the whole time we were there hunting. Another group of hunters, in fact, ended up moving their camp location because the prevailing winds made their camp life simply unbearable.
Skunk essence is an interesting substance. The chemical called "butylmercaptan" has been documented to be detectable at a distance of over 20 miles away from the point source. Think back to the times you are driving along in your car and you smell skunk. Given the right conditions, it can be a mile or two down the road before you visually detect the road kill.
Skunk essence comes from the same family of chemicals added to natural gas. Natural gas in its pure form is odorless…so a chemical is added to help alert folks to a potential leak. Indeed, skunk essence can be detected even at such low levels as 20 parts per billion making the task of cleaning up the smell almost impossible. That’s why even six months to a year after the spray it’s still usually possible to detect a hint of this undesired odor.
On the market there are several concoctions used by dog owners and sportsmen to deal with the “skunky” smell…but there is also one very common recipe used to effectively neutralize the smell. Forget bathing Fido in tomato juice or vinegar…for best results consider this:
- Mix 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide; into
- ¼ cup of baking soda; combine with
- 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap.
Combine the contents of this solution into a spray bottle or the mixture can be added to a load of laundry. DO NOT bottle the solution for later use…pressure from the hydrogen peroxide and the baking soda can build up and rupture the container.
The fear of getting “skunked” doesn’t have to keep you indoors if you know how to properly handle the situation if it occurs. Remember, a skunk emits the spray out a gland near its anus to a distance of about 10 to 15 feet. Yet, even though the fear of getting sprayed is obviously of big concern…the paramount concern with skunks should be the incidence of rabies as they are one of the main carries of that nasty disease in the country.
The next time you head out in the field pheasant hunting just remember that it’s a whole lot better to get "skunked" by not shooting any birds…than getting "skunked" by having to deal with the odor. Dealing with the latter lingers far longer than dealing with the bitterness of the former.
© 2005 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction Without Prior Permission.