Sometimes, when Delton Roe is restless and wakes up in the middle of the night, he ponders what could have been.

He lies in bed and thinks back on many of the fruitless deer hunts that were commonplace in his younger years.

"I was just hunting dumb back then," Roe said. "I knew that there were plenty of deer in the areas I was hunting, but I wasn't seeing or killing many of them.

"Deer kept blowing at me and taking off. When they do that, they know you're there."

Suffice it to say that deer seldom know where Roe is now. He has long since purged himself of his "dumb" hunting ways and has been hunting "smart" for the past 25 or so years.

Roe, 65, has cleaned up his act, quite literally, after coming to the conclusion that being a conscientious, scent-free hunter often translates into becoming a successful hunter.

And Roe may very well be the cleanest hunter in South Carolina.

Roe is a stickler for unscented soaps and detergents, scent-killing sprays, and a variety of other tacks and tactics that enable him to make unobtrusive forays into the woods. It's difficult to argue with Roe's results.

Three years ago, he enjoyed a deer season for the ages. In the span of 17 days, Roe bagged four bucks with a cumulative 43 antler points and a total weight of 785 pounds.

Included in the mix was a 215-pound trophy with a 19-point, non-typical rack that ranks No. 4 on South Carolina's all-time record list. The rack, which scored 187-4/8 Boone and Crockett points, had an inside spread of 23-5/8 inches and featured a large drop tine on each side.

Roe attributes his buck of a lifetime and its cohorts from that season to his "clean" methodology - his only regret being that he didn't discover that approach years earlier.

"It was a slow learning process for me," said Roe, a retired electrical repairman who often hunts seven days a week. "I didn't have a mentor, somebody to tell me the right way to do things. I was probably 40 years old before I realized some of the dumb things I was doing. Oh, I'd get lucky and kill a deer occasionally, but once I realized what I could do to improve my success, I went in head over heels and changed everything.

"Now, I wish I could teach young hunters everything that us older hunters know when they first get started. Then they'd be really good when they got older. Unfortunately, young folks seem to have to learn things the hard way."

Such was the case for Roe, who shot his first deer on his first-ever hunt 45 years ago near Appomatox, Va., while serving in the Navy. That 9-point, 193-pound buck was inspiring for a young man who'd only dabbled in rabbit and squirrel hunting growing up in Anderson County, but Roe didn't begin hitting the deer woods in earnest until he'd been out of the service for a few years.

He managed to take a few decent deer over the ensuing 20 years, but he readily admits that they were primarily the result of good fortune rather than good strategy. That may explain why today Roe is more than willing to share some of the advice he's gleaned through trial and error since coming to the realization that he could be a more efficient deer hunter.

The basis of Roe's philosophy is that one must first and foremost fool a deer's nose. The importance of that quest can't be overstated.

"That's job No. 1. To get a deer, you've got to beat his nose - end of story," said Charles Ruth, a wildlife biologist who serves as deer-project supervisor for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. "You can monkey around and be somewhat successful, but to be consistently successful, particularly with adult deer - be they bucks or does - you've got to beat the nose."

Ruth says that a deer's acute sense of smell is difficult to quantify, labeling it only as "indescribable."

"We have no idea of the olfactory capacity of deer, but we know it's tremendous," Ruth said. "The key for hunters is scent control on the person and obeying the wind."

Roe has become adept at both.

"The things I do are common-sense things, really," Roe said. "The bottom line is that you don't want to leave any evidence that you've been there (in the woods). I've probably become more scent-conscious than anybody, and I think that has helped me to be successful."

Some hunters may not have the gumption or desire to mimic all of Roe's diligent practices, but many could benefit by adopting at least a few of his ideas.

Using unscented body soap, Roe showers before the hunt - and again later in the day if he's returning for an evening hunt. He keeps a bottle of "scent killer" in his pocket, making sure to spray his hands when he gets out of his vehicle. "If I've pumped gas or eaten a sandwich, that scent is on the steering wheel," Roe said. "If I can smell it, you know a deer can smell it. Then, when I get out of the truck, I spray my clothing."

Ah, the clothing. Roe stores all of his hunting clothes together in a single closet, apart from the rest of his wardrobe. He washes his camouflage in "Scent Away" detergent after each hunt and before each hunting season.

When walking to his stand, Roe often carries his cap to avoid sweating on the inside of his headgear.

"I'd rather walk in and be cold than be sweating when I get there," he said.

Rubber boots are another staple for Roe, who contends that the rubber absorbs and carries less scent than leather. He also sprays off his boots after each and every hunt, because "You never know what you've stepped in."

On the way to his hunt, Roe has been known to stow his camouflage clothing and boots in a sack filled with rabbit tobacco, an indigenous plant that he contends can serve effectively as a natural cover scent because it is a smell to which deer are accustomed.

When it comes to eating before or during a hunt, Roe once again is a stickler. Save for a single bottle of water, Roe never packs anything to eat or drink afield. He won't even take an apple.

"In my early days of hunting, we always had to stop at a breakfast place, and we'd go into the woods smelling like bacon and sausage and cigarette smoke," Roe said.

But Roe gave up cigarettes 33 years ago and also put an end to his morning-of-the-hunt breakfasts. The only "extra" he takes into the woods is a Gatorade bottle wrapped in green duct tape, which serves as a suitable container for packing out his own urine and avoiding spreading that scent.

Armed with the reasoning that, "You can't shoot before daylight anyway," Roe waits until daylight before making the final moves toward his stand. He'll leave his truck and begin his trek in darkness, but he is careful to follow only roads, gas lines, power lines or wide trails, where he can navigate easily without needing the aid of a flashlight that could potentially spook deer.

"And I don't want to touch a lot of brush when I'm walking in," Roe said. "When I get to where I need to be, then I'll pick my way to my stand very carefully, also without a flashlight."

He presets his stands well in advance in order to avoid making noise on the morning of his hunt, and he takes extreme care not to leave anything behind during his treks to and from his stands.

"You definitely don't want to drop a glove and not be able to find it - that's just like leaving a flashing light out there," Roe said.

Abiding by such stringent rules isn't a guarantee that a hunter suddenly will be inundated by big bucks, but Roe believes that such strategies often pay off in the long run -and perhaps result in an increase in the number of short-range shooting opportunities.

"A person who doesn't 'clean up' can hunt deer from afar, say 200 yards, but they'd do a whole lot better if they cleaned themselves up," Roe said.

Because he is able to position himself with minimal disturbance to his surroundings, Roe often finds himself surrounded by deer, and he seldom finds it necessary to take a shot longer than 70 yards.

"You want the deer to just be walking around and browsing - that's the relaxed mood you want them in," Roe said. "You don't want them running by you like Haley's Comet.

"I've had deer come so close to my stand that I could spit on 'em. They never detect me at all, and that's fun even if you don't kill anything."

Roe says it also pays to keep your eyes and ears on some of the woods' smaller creatures.

"You can learn a lot from watching little old squirrels," Roe said. "You don't want them to start barking at you and giving you away to every animal in the woods, but they can also be helpful in that manner. "Squirrels and (blue) jays will call when a deer is passing through, so a lot of times I hunt with my ears as much as I do my eyes."

Further enhancing Roe's success is that he and his fellow hunt-club members abide by a self-imposed rule banning the harvest of any buck with antlers that don't reach beyond the ears.

"A lot of people think that it doesn't work to let smaller bucks walk on smaller pieces of property because people on neighboring properties will take them, but I don't believe that to be true," Roe said. "I've seen the same bucks over and over again. If they don't feel endangered and don't smell you all the time, they're going to hang around. They're just looking for a safe place to feed and hang out, and we give that to 'em by not shooting many of them.

"I like to shoot a good buck as much as anyone, but if it's not a good one, it doesn't do a whole lot for me. There's no point in killing the little ones."

Indeed, Roe never does. In fact, he's been jokingly accused by friends that he likes "to just watch the deer."

But on those special occasions when watching leads to shooting, Roe is content in the knowledge that he's taken all precautions possible. With his knack for being a "clean" hunter, Roe likes his chances.

"Their nose is what you've got to protect against," Roe said. "They have great hearing, and I give deer credit for seeing better than most people think, but it's their nose that'll get you most of the time. That's why I think what I do is so important."