The only thing that can drive me out of the woods quicker than being cold—biting BUGS! Looking beyond pain and discomfort, there are important health reasons behind defeating these nasty little blood suckers before they defeat you. With many of our early archery seasons open or about to open, this is not a “to-do list” item to forget or take for granted. The following will hopefully give you the upper hand when battling bugs in the early season.
Just about everyone knows that a tick bite can cause Lyme disease; however, there are actually several horrid diseases spread by these vicious parasites. With bite symptoms ranging from irritating rashes, chronic muscle and joint pain, chronic fatigue, meat allergies and even death, tick bites are a clear and present health risk. Preventing a bite is the key. An entire list of ticks and the specific diseases they each spread can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/diseases/ , and if your hunting adventures take you to far off places, you may want to do a little research in advance to determine what ticks/diseases you may encounter.
Again, everyone has heard of West Nile and Malaria, but mosquitoes can also transmit Yellow and Dengue fevers and several types of Encephalitis. Because many of these diseases are prevalent in foreign countries, U.S. hunters may not think mosquito bites are much more than an annoyance. However, several cases of Chikungunya (a virus regional to Africa and Asia) have recently been diagnosed in Florida. The most common symptoms of a Chikungunya virus infection are much like Lyme disease and include: rash, fever and joint swelling/pain, headaches and muscle pain. More information regarding Mosquito borne illnesses can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/list_mosquitoborne.htm
While the itch from Chigger bites can drive you to insanity with scratching, they are not known to carry disease. Flea bites, however, are another story. Fleas live in the fur of many different animals. While their bites can cause severe itching and skin infections, they can also spread diseases such as Cat-Scratch Fever, Typhus, and the Plague to humans. Bites from fleas infesting wild animals can be largely avoided by staying away from animal burrows where fleas breed. This means predator and small game hunters should exercise caution when handling the carcasses of coyotes, fox, and any animals which burrow.
Black flies, while particularly annoying, are not known to transmit disease to humans here in the United States. Their bite, however, can cause reactions ranging from extreme swelling at the site of the bite to a more severe reaction known as “Black Fly Fever”. Those “fever” symptoms can include headache, nausea, fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Truly an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to keeping these little vampires at bay—and fortunately, for those of us who crave adventure in the great outdoors,
there are TONS of repellent options available to us! Those options range from scent-free, chemical/synthetic solutions to more natural remedies—some whose odor does not appear to spook game and a few “smelly” options more suited to the Spring Gobbler seasons where scent control is less of a concern.
If you are talking insect control, by far the most popular and easiest to use device on the market is the ThermaCELL appliance. Utilizing butane cartridges that warm a repellent saturated mat, this unit can create a 15’ square mosquito and black fly-free zone. ThermaCELL offers both starter (36 hours of coverage) and pro (132 hours of protection) packs for hunters. The only down side to this device is that it won’t keep the ticks away. But never fear, the second most popular method of insect control is to use Permethrin on your clothes, gear, and blinds—and ticks hate it!
Permethrin is truly a remarkable product. The spray can kill more than 55 types of disease-carrying insects—including ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, mites, gnats, and tons of biting flies. The repellent is odorless when dry and bonds tightly with the treated garment’s fibers during the drying process. When used as directed a single application will last through six washings or up to 42 days. It won’t stain clothing, fabrics, plastics or finished surfaces. The only drawback to permethrin is that is can’t be used directly on your skin. Sawyer’s, Coulstons, and Duranon all sell permethrin-based repellents.
Yet another option is to buy clothing with repellent armor built right in! ElimiTick clothing from Gamehide has its long-lasting, easy to care for, odorless protection fused right into the fiber of the fabric. It is safe for everyone in the family to wear and repels ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, flies, and no-see-ums. The protection will last the life of the garment which makes this a sound investment in my book.
If you search the various hunting chat rooms, you’ll find a lot of good anecdotal information based on folks’ experience with all of the various products currently on the market. What you’ll also find are recommendations for some rather interesting natural repellents such as Eucalyptus and Geranium oils which may be fine for Spring Gobbler, but they won’t serve you well in the deer woods.
Many other suggestions were based on changing your internal chemistry. One such method is to dose yourself with a multi-B vitamin each day 2-3 weeks prior to the season and every day throughout the season. This seems to work great for some folks, yet not so well for others. The reasoning behind its effectiveness has something to do with changes the B vitamin make to your body chemistry, thereby making your blood less appealing to the mosquitoes. While some call it a wives tale, many foreign travelers have shared antidotal stories which make the remedy something worth trying, perhaps in conjunction with other
I ran across one suggestion which called for you to gather a few wild onion tops and rub them around any exposed areas of your skin. This was something one hunter used successfully, both on himself and on his hunting dogs, throughout the season. There were also the suggestions of ingesting garlic and black pepper as the bugs didn’t really fancy the taste. I myself have experienced success in camouflaging exposed skin—literally—by using activated charcoal and natural clay-based Carbomask. While the mosquitoes and gnats were not necessarily “repelled” to any great distance, they never bit me.
Whether you chose a chemical or natural approach, it is ALWAYS recommended you do your research beforehand. The type of pest(s) you find yourself up against, the type of hunting you will be doing, the duration of your season(s), and the amount of time you intend to utilize a particular repellant will determine which product or combination of products will likely be most beneficial and healthy.
If you are hunting with an outfitter, get their advice well in advance of your hunt. Ask what insects you’ll be up against and what they’ve found to be the most effective in combating them. If you decide to utilize more natural remedies internally, always check with your doctor to determine if that particular vitamin, spice, or oil will interfere with any medications you are taking or health concerns you may have.