I had just climbed into my treestand, carefully maneuvering up my sticks so I wouldn’t spook any nearby deer.
It was the first week of October, and the weather had projected a cold front, but despite the 45-degree temperature I had gotten pretty hot walking into the woods. Stripping my top layer until just before first light wouldn’t cause an issue, and would allow me to cool down fast.
The morning sit went by without much action, albeit a few does did come into range. With no time left, I pulled my stand out of the tree, packed my climbing sticks together, and left. When I got home, I was shocked to see three deer ticks crawling on me. I carefully plucked them off, checked for more, and showered as an extra step of protection.
Whether those ticks found me in that early morning cooldown session or throughout the sit, I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that I didn’t take the necessary precaution I normally do by treating my hunting clothes with permethrin or spraying down with picaridin repellent beforehand as I was late to my spot.
But, why is this step so important? The truth is, you don’t want to deal with the aftermath of a tick bite. With the chance of catching a nasty illness, preparation is key during any hunting season – but especially deer season – as you’re basically ringing the dinner bell every time you step into the woods.
The prevalence of ticks and mosquitoes during deer season
While the early season is in its twilight weeks and midseason is almost here, it should be noted that ticks and mosquitoes are becoming more prevalent due to climate change (Colarossi, 2020), meaning that the bugs will be around longer throughout the year.
According to Boston University School of Public Health Professor of Environmental Health Gregory Wellenius, “Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity over time … In the US Northeast, we worry a lot about Lyme disease. Because of the warming temperatures, the ticks that are vectors for Lyme disease survive now further north in areas that they didn’t used to be able to survive.”
In West Virginia, deer ticks are one of the main culprits for vector-borne illness, and while the medical response to the disease is as simple as taking antibiotics, if not caught soon enough it can cause serious damage. Ticks are sneaky, too, and can find a potential human host whether they’re sitting in a tree, spot-and-stalking a deer through tall grass, or when a hunter is cleaning or packing out a deer.
And when it comes to disease-carrying mosquitoes, BU Assistant Professor of Microbiology Tonya Colpitts, noted that scientists have observed Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have “caused minor outbreaks of dengue in warmer states like Florida and Texas,” and, “in recent years, they’ve also been spotted as far north as Connecticut.”
The first step of protection against ticks during deer season
So what’s the first step any hunter should take, whether they’re targeting deer, turkey, or ruffed grouse? They should treat their clothing and gear with permethrin, a synthetic insecticide that kills insects on contact.
On a recent sika deer hunt at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland, I used permethrin to treat my clothing set and it worked great. My go-to spray is Ranger Ready Repellent, which sells scent-free permethrin 0.5% and picaridin 20% sprays that, especially when combined, kept all the bugs, from biting flies to ticks, off of me.
Ranger Ready’s permethrin also lasts for 40 days or through five washes, keeping you protected for a while before you need to respray your gear.
The second step of protection against ticks during deer season
Speaking of Ranger Ready’s picaridin, this type of spray is the second step in fully protecting yourself from mosquitos, ticks, and other critters.
Picaridin, while a synthetic compound, is essentially the cousin of black pepper and certain medicines, and was developed in the 1980s by German scientists in a quest to create a safe alternative to DEET, according to Ranger Ready’s website. And although synthetic, it’s safe when applied to human skin and doesn’t damage clothing.
Further, Ranger Ready’s picaridin protects you from ticks and mosquitos for 12 hours and biting flies, chiggers, gnats, sand flies, and no-see-ums for 8 hours. Plus, not only is this a great step for protection, it will keep you from swatting away these bugs when trying to remain stealthy.
So, no matter where you are, be sure to protect yourself. Take the 10 minutes to pre-treat your clothing and gear and the few seconds to spray down with picaridin. You don’t want to be wishing you had done so when it’s too late.
Colarossi, J. (2020, June 16). Ticks and mosquitoes, infectious disease carriers, are expanding their range. Boston University. Retrieved October 11, 2021, from https://www.bu.edu/articles/2020/ticks-mosquitoes-infectious-disease-carriers-expanding-their-range/.